|Special thanks to "guest commentator" Bobby J. Copeland for the following narrative and background info on Bob Baker.|
Bob "Tumbleweed" Baker was born Stanley Leland Weed on November 8, 1910 (not 1914 as often reported), in Forest City, Iowa. His family later moved to Colorado, and then to Arizona. Baker enlisted in the Army when he was 18 and served two consecutive hitches. He also served briefly in the early 1940s, and again during the Korean conflict.
It was during his first hitch in the army that he picked up the nickname "Tumbleweed". It was also during this time that he started learning the guitar, an event that would shape his future. In 1935 he married Evelyn McCauley. The marriage was a good one and lasted until Baker's death. The marriage produced a daughter and three sons.
Baker worked on several radio stations before landing a job on the prestigious National Barn Dance on Radio station WLS in Chicago. The station WLS was owned by Sears & Roebuck and the call letters stood for the World's Largest Store.
During the mid 1930s, Bob's mother saw an ad where Universal Studio was looking for a new singing cowboy star. She sent a picture and biography of Bob to the studio. Baker was given a try out by Universal and won the job over seven other candidates --- one of the candidates was Roy Rogers. One prerequisite for Baker's signing was for him to get a $25 hairpiece for his thinning hair. He had to borrow the money from his mother for the hairpiece.
Baker's first film, and one of his best, was COURAGE OF THE WEST released in 1937. The next year he made a total of nine features and was listed in the Top Ten Moneymaking Western Star poll. In his pictures he rode a beautiful paint horse called Apache.
(Courtesy of Minard Coons)
Above, a quiet moment for Bob Baker and a substitute for his regular mount, Apache. Compare the horse in this photo with the image of the real Apache at the top of this page. Walt Weed (Bob Baker's son) and ye Old Corral webmaster communicated during December 1999, and Walt confirmed that his dad sold Apache to Montie Montana.
Shortly after making his twelfth feature (PHANTOM STAGE), Universal hired Johnny Mack Brown. The studio then formed a trio of Brown, Baker and Fuzzy Knight, and their first movie was DESPERATE TRAILS (1939). Baker made six features with Brown, but his role was never equal to Brown's. In fact, in OKLAHOMA RAIDERS, Baker was killed off about half way through the picture.
Baker's career continued downhill. He had a small part in the serial OVERLAND MAIL, and in the Abbott and Costello feature RIDE 'EM COWBOY, Baker had a tiny role as a bus driver.
He later played bit parts in films with the Trail Blazers, the Rough Riders, Hopalong Cassidy, Tim Holt and Tex Ritter. He left Hollywood and returned only briefly to work as a stuntman.
He claimed his career was mishandled, and many agree with his assessment. Baker went back home to Arizona and worked for a while as a policeman. He was quite a handyman, particularly adept in leather work, and owned a saddle shop where he made saddles and various leather items. Baker claimed he was contacted by Dick Powell about the part of the wagon master on TV's WAGON TRAIN after Ward Bond's death, but said nothing ever came of it. Film historians have been puzzled by this claim since Powell had nothing to do with the WAGON TRAIN series. During his last years, Baker was in poor health; he had four heart attacks, a stroke and then cancer.
Bob "Tumbleweed" Baker passed away at the Veterans Hospital in Prescott, Arizona, on August 30, 1975.
The Motion Picture Herald and Boxoffice polls were conducted from about the mid 1930s through the mid 1950s. With a few exceptions, the annual results would list the 'Top Ten' (or 'Top Five') cowboy film stars. In most cases, the winners were what you would expect --- Autry, Rogers, Holt, Starrett, Hoppy, etc. Bob Baker was ranked in the Motion Picture Herald poll during his brief starring career.
|Popularity Rankings of Bob Baker|
|Year||Motion Picture Herald
Although some of the data is incomplete or inaccurate, the Internet Movie Database (IMDB) has information on Bob Baker: http://us.imdb.com/name/nm0048275/
Jim Tipton's Find A Grave website has a photo of the grave marker for Bob Baker at the Clear Creek Cemetery, Yavapai County, Arizona. The marker reads Stanley L. Weed and includes the notation U S Army and Korea: http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=6296548
There's a genealogy page on the Weed Family: http://familytreemaker.genealogy.com/users/n/e/w/Owen-Newcomer/GENE3-0006.html
There's an obituary/death notice at (scroll down to Stanley Leland (Tumble) WEED): http://webpages.charter.net/newcomerok/b75.htm
Author Joe McNeill has an August, 2010 article about Marge Champion who, as Marjorie Bell, had her first film role as the heroine in Baker's HONOR OF THE WEST: http://arizonaslittlehollywood.blogspot.com/2010_08_01_archive.html
You also may want to go to the In Search Of ... webpage on the Old Corral. Then go to the Social Security Death Index and you should find a record for: Leland Weed, born November 8, 1910, passed away in August, 1975, and last residence was Camp Verde, Arizona 86322.
(Courtesy of Les Adams)
Above, Bob Baker and Apache in WESTERN TRAILS (Universal, 1938).
(Courtesy of Ed Phillips)
Above from L-to-R are William Malcolm 'Bill' Hazlett (Chief Many Treaties), Bob Baker and Forrest Taylor in a scene from Baker's OUTLAW EXPRESS (Universal, 1938).
Bob Baker's Westerns as a solo hero
COURAGE OF THE WEST (Universal, 1937) (Heroine: Lois January)
Bob Baker's Westerns as second lead to Johnny Mack Brown
DESPERATE TRAILS (Universal, 1939)
Baker sometimes carried a single Colt and sometimes a pair. And he used several gunbelt variations, but finally settled on the holster and belt shown on the right.