The last of the singing cowboys

Published 10:45 am Thursday, June 23, 2016

Now, another look at another cowboy star and, if you can use the word ‘beloved’ in connection with that ‘occupation,’ the name of REX ALLEN would be appropriate.

His constant ‘co-star’ was Koko his, and here’s that word again, ‘beloved’ horse. The equine (no relation to Hershey) was modestly billed as, “the miracle horse of the movies.” Sorry, Trigger.

The star was born in 1920 in Mud Springs Canyon, near Willcox, Arizona. It seemed only natural that he was billed as ‘The Arizona Cowboy’. His movie name is his real name.

Rex had sort-of a distinction. He was recognized as, “the last of the singing cowboys,” and one of his movies was the last musical western. After that, it was all gun – no guitar. Whatever, one critic had this to say. “He brought to the ‘B’ western the best voice and the prettiest horse.” That voice was heard, on record, on the Mercury label. One of his hits was, “Don’t Go Near the Indians.” In spite of the title it was a love song. And, of course, there were Rex Allen comic books.

Another thing, and this is important: Rex is a REAL cowboy, born on a REAL ranch. He made 19 ‘B’ western films, all for good, ole Republic. He got his contract with that studio while he was appearing on the national barn dance radio show on WLS in Chicago.

After doing rodeo, Rex decided that singing was better than being bucked off bulls – more bucks by being on screen. Back to radio and, not surprisingly, eventually the powers-that-be began to recognize that not only was he a talented singer who wrote many of the songs he performed in the movies, but he was also a versatile actor.

Speaking of that, moviegoers agreed that his fighting scenes were very well done – realistic. ‘Villain’ Roy Barcroft was, several times, at the receiving end of the Allen fists. The end result: Some of western movies’ best fights.

And, of course, it was a rule of cowboy flicks – there has to be a sidekick. Allen had two of them who worked with him on a fairly regular basis. And, they were two of the best. Check these names: Buddy Ebsen and Slim Pickens. It doesn’t get much better than that, podner.

In “Colorado Sundown” he was accompanied by Mary Ellen Kay and June Vincent and, for music, the studio used its own – “The Republic Rhythm Riders.” Sexy Rexy (actually Rex Harrison’s nickname) Allen had a variety of female co-stars. Another one was Penny Edwards.

Rex’s favorite film was “Rodeo King And the Senorita.” Other standouts are “Utah Wagon Train,” and “Colorado Sundown.” The latter was a re-make of a John Wayne movie.

Of course, it was inevitable – television. He starred in a series, again for Republic, called “Frontier Doctor.” In 1960 he got tied up with Walt Disney where he was often heard, but not seen. His voice was used for many shorts put out by that studio.

Also, he narrated the film about “Charlotte’s Web.” He was tagged as, “The Voice Of the West.”

Eventually, he retired and went right back to his childhood home around Willcox, Arizona.

The cause of his death was weird. He was accidentally run over by a friend.


Frank Roberts, who is 87, spent 60 years writing and talking. He and his wife, Valeria, have three children, five grandchildren, and three great-granddaughters. He loves to write.