An ingredient that became prevalent in many of the B-westerns was a band or singing group that would add some musical sequences to the film or provide backup to the singing or non-singing hero. In retrospect, there are several reasons for the addition of these bands and groups:
1. Major audiences of the B-western were located in the Southern and Western portions of the U.S., and the addition of 'country' and/or 'western' music added to the saleability of the films in those areas (bigger theater audiences and more ticket sales).
2. Singin' cowboys like Roy Rogers and Gene Autry had 'mini-orchestras' which could immediately pick up their guitar/fiddle/accordion to help out during the many musical interludes (especially when the Autry and Rogers' films were increased to 60+ minutes running time).
3. Tunes could be added to the films of non-singing cowboys like Charles Starrett, Johnny Mack Brown and William 'Hoppy' Boyd (thus, increasing the saleability of those films).
4. Some of the musical performers were utilized as 'helpers', 'saddle pals' and 'sidekicks' (such as: Bob Wills helping out Tex Ritter and Russell Hayden; Ray Whitley with George O'Brien and Tim Holt; Johnny Bond assisting Jimmy Wakely at Monogram; and the Sons of the Pioneers members' Bob Nolan and Pat Brady with Roy Rogers).
5. Adding 5-10 minutes (or more) of music to a B-western was significantly cheaper than doing action sequences, exterior location shooting, etc.
6. The addition of music to the B-western brought more adults into the theater (adults who may not have purchased a ticket to see a straight western programmer without music).
An interesting tidbit is that when westerns were edited down to about 54 minutes for release to TV, some (or a lot) of the musical interludes were the first things on the cutting room floor.
Note that this is NOT a detailed history of those bands, singin' groups and individual performers ... this is simply an OVERVIEW and SALUTE to the many folks who added their musical talents to the ol' B western.
I encourage any of the Old Corral visitors who have personal knowledge, tidbits or photos of these groups or performers to e-mail me with information, and I'll try to include in this section. Click HERE to send an e-mail to Chuck Anderson, the Old Corral Webmaster.
(Courtesy of Jack Jones)
Above - Ken Maynard with his fiddle. And in the background from left to right are Johnny Luther (Arkansas Johnny Luther), Chuck Baldra, Al Haskell (accordian) and Jack Jones (banjo). Publicity still from Maynard's HONOR OF THE RANGE (Universal, 1934).
(Courtesy of Minard Coons)
Above - Max Terhune as Lullaby Joslin warms up the bunkhouse trio during the wedding sequence in COME ON, COWBOYS ! (Republic, 1937), one of the Three Mesquiteers films. Playing the fiddle is a hatless Oscar Gahan and the accordion player is Harley Luse, a regular musician in many of the Tex Ritter films for Grand National. The guitar player may be Charlie/Charley Sargent. This is one of the countless impromptu groups that are seen in the ol' B western.
(Courtesy of the Hoag Family via Kevin Coffey)
L-to-R are 'Curly' Hoag (Jack Hogg), Smiley Burnette and Rudy Sooter. Kevin Coffey adds some info on Hoag and Sooter: "Guitarist/banjo player Curly Hoag worked with the Texas Outlaws, Jimmy Lefevre's Saddle Pals, Tex Ritter, Autry, Whitley, Smiley Burnette and others. Rudy Sooter, who played guitar and bass, did tunes with just about everybody, either as a member of other groups or leading his own groups (such as "His Californians"). Future Sons of the Pioneers members Bob Nolan, Len Slye (Roy Rogers) and Tim Spencer worked with Sooter in Jack Lefevre's Texas Outlaws. Hoag and Sooter even did sidemen duties at some Gene Autry Columbia recording sessions in the late 1930s. Jack Hogg ('Curly Hoag') has often been confused with the fiddle player Robert 'Pappy' Hoag, who played with Cal and Walt Shrum. I think I've seen their names mixed up at least a dozen or so times on IMDB and other places. Two different guys."