Personalities | Tex Ritter | West Coast Scene | Country

Singing cowboy Tex Ritter enjoyed two distinctive careers, the first as ‘America’s most beloved cowboy’ (a title bestowed on him by a Hollywood publicist), and second as a recording artist and stage performer, albeit still making occasional film appearances. He also recorded one of the most memorable western themes of all time – ‘High Noon’.

A Screen Icon

Born Maurice Woodward Ritter in Panola County, Texas, on 12 January 1907, his musical career commenced while studying law at the University of Texas. There he created a lecture and song programme, The Texas Cowboy And His Songs, which led to touring and radio spots and, in 1931, a role in the Broadway production of Green Grow The Lilacs (later revised by Rodgers & Hammerstein as Oklahoma). With more stage work and radio performances behind him, Ritter approached Art Satherley at ARC, and the producer – obviously aware of Ritter’s fine deep voice and his penchant for cowboy songs – set up a recording session that included the traditional ‘Rye Whiskey’ (1932), which would become a tour-de-force showcase song for Ritter in subsequent years when he re-recorded it. Further sessions followed, but none created too much interest and he continued with his radio and stage work. When he returned to the recording studios – this time for Decca – his career had begun to move in a different direction, having come to the attention of Ed Finney, a publicist at the newly formed Grand National Pictures. The result was Song Of The Gringo (1936), a movie that marked the commencement of a two-year, 12-picture connection with the company. He subsequently made movies for Monogram, Columbia, Universal and PRC, notching up a staggering 58 productions in nine years – more than any other of his silver-screen compatriots – and exited from the genre with The Texas Rangers (1945).

Musical Success

On the music front, Tex Ritter formed a group in the late 1930s. He first called it The Texas Tornadoes then, later, more simply, Texans. They featured on several of his Decca recordings but, once again, the reaction was lukewarm and it wasn’t until he became one of the first artists to sign with the newly launched Capitol Records that his fortunes changed. He debuted with ‘(I’ve Got Spurs That) Jingle Jangle Jingle’ in 1942, and quickly topped the charts with ‘I’m Wasting My Tears On You’ (1944). ‘You Two-Timed Me One Time Too Often’ (1945) was his biggest country hit, remaining at the top of the charts for 11 consecutive weeks, firmly strengthening the Ritter-Capitol relationship that would last until his death, over 30 years later. His many albums covered diverse material, from western and folk songs to gospel, from patriotic salutes to narrations, children’s songs and straight country yet, strangely, the theme song from the movie High Noon (1952) was never a chart success, although it became synonymous with the singer.

After the singing-cowboy movies, Tex Ritter supported his successful recording career with touring, television and the...

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Source: The Definitive Illustrated Encyclopedia of Country Music, consultant editor Bob Allen


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