Special thanks to A. J. (Alice) Flick, who is a music writer for the Tucson Citizen newspaper. She knew Rex Allen, wrote about him, and remembers him as a gracious, charming and unique person. On January 8, 2000, Alice attended the memorial organized by his family in Mr. Allen's hometown of Willcox, Arizona. Her story appeared in the January 10, 2000 edition of the Citizen and is used here with permission. Thanks also to Minard Coons for the great photo of Rex and Koko.
Friends, family sing their tributes to Rex Allen, 78
By A. J. FLICK
Citizen Country Music Writer
WILLCOX - The four things Rex Allen loved most - family, friends, music and laughter - came together Saturday in a fitting tribute to the legendary Western star.
"I think Dad would have loved it, don't you?" his eldest son, Rex Allen Jr., said afterward. "I could just picture him there in the front row, laughing."
Lowell Lydic of the Rex Allen Days Committee and Western Music Association estimated the crowd at about 2,000. Allen's relatives and close friends, including his secretary, Terri Stone, and Western star Dick Jones, filled the first few rows of seats.
Singer/songwriter Johnny Western presented a humor-filled biography of his mentor, who died Dec. 17 at age 78. Western ended by singing the chorus to "The Arizona Cowboy." From the sidelines, a smiling Rex Jr. softly sang along.
The legendary Sons of the Pioneers followed, wrapping up their three-song set with "Tumbling Tumbleweeds." Then Rex Jr. joined in for the Snuff Garrett tune "The Last of the Silver Screen Cowboys."
The most touching moment came when Rex Allen's second-oldest son, Curtis, performed an altered version of James Taylor's "Something in the Way She Moves." Then, head bowed, he uttered, "I miss my dad."
Other performers included Western stars Don Edwards, Les Gilliam and Belinda Gail. Sharing their memories of Allen were Hal Spencer, son of Tim Spencer, one of the founding members of the Sons of the Pioneers, and Roy "Dusty" Rogers Jr.
Allen's band, The Reinsmen, sang a heartfelt "Home on the Range" to its former lead singer.
And promising new Western group Everywhere West performed Rex Jr.'s song, "Can You Hear Those Pioneers?" which the band recorded with Rex Sr. shortly before his death. Watching from the wings, The Reinsmen and The Sons of the Pioneers spontaneously harmonized.
As many memories as were shared onstage were passed around offstage.
Mary Ellen Kay, who was Rex Allen's leading lady in six films, recalled a romantic moment in "Silver City Bonanza." "I thought he was really cute," said Kay. "And I wouldn't say he was flirting, but he was sitting pretty close, and he kept getting closer and closer to me while he was singing. And I kept looking up at him, and I'd swear he was going to kiss me, but he didn't! He got the biggest kick out of that.
"I got to present an award to him at Festival of the West in Scottsdale, and he said, 'You know, I never got to kiss my leading lady, but I'm going to now!' "
Jeff Davis, who conducted one of the last interviews with Rex Allen for Chicago radio station WLS, said Allen liked to joke about his career as singer, actor and Disney narrator, saying, "God gave me a voice, and I sold it wherever I could."
Tucsonan Jeff Pundt recalled a story Allen liked to tell about a woman who insisted Allen was Roy Rogers and demanded an autograph. Allen complied, scribbling, "I'll never be the singer Rex Allen was - Roy Rogers."
Belinda Gail, who, at the Allen family's request, sang "Amazing Grace" a cappella, said she would never forget how Allen touched her life.
"He wrote a personal note to every single person who performed at Rex Allen Days last year. That's the kind of person he was. It's sad to see him go. You don't see people like him anymore. Rex Allen was the last of an era."
The last song of the afternoon came from Rex Jr. It was, appropriately, "Streets of Laredo" - his father's biggest hit.
The WMA will hold a tribute concert starring Everywhere West at 7 p.m. Feb. 22 in the Tucson Convention Center's Leo Rich Theatre, 260 S. Church Ave. Tickets are $10. For more information, call (520) 743-9794.