B-western expert Les Adams, who co-authored Shoot-Em-Ups with Buck Rainey, provides the following perspective on these bands and singing groups, as well as many of the individual performers:
The B-Western band combinations is a circular object that has no beginning or end or consistency ... who was part of the mix in one film may not be there in the next entry, but you can be sure they are part of another group toiling elsewhere in the B-Western fields. It's somewhat akin to Joe Bob's definition of a good Slasher movie ... Anybody, including the star, can die at any time.
In the case of B western bands and singing groups, it means that
Anybody can show up at anytime playing for anybody!
I might as well start with Andy Parker and the Plainsmen. Pretty much the same under that heading --- Andy Parker, Paul Smith, Charles Morgan and George Bamby. The latter can lead you to a Riders of the Purple Sage combination in TRAIL OF ROBIN HOOD that has Bamby, Foy Willing, Al Sloey and Darol Rice (whose first name was usually misspelled as some combination of Darrell or Dorrell). Wakely's SADDLE SERENADE finds Al Duncan, Jimmie Dean and Johnny Paul as part of Foy and the Riders. Scotty Harrell and Al Sloey also slipped in and out of the various combinations at Republic.
Scotty Harrell can lead you to several Jimmy Wakely trios over the years but not as part of the Arthur Smith Trio. That one had combinations such as Smith, Louis Armstrong* and Don Weston in COWBOY CAVALIER, OKLAHOMA BLUES AND COURTIN' TROUBLE while PARTNERS OF THE SUNSET has Smith, Weston and Jack Rivers. I'm not going to attempt to follow this maze other than say that rather as the Art Smith Trio, the Saddle Pals or The Texas Stars (and what they were called doesn't matter) various combinations , including all listed above plus Wesley Tuttle, Stanley Ellison, Dick Rinehart, Cliff (Cliffie) Stone, Jesse Ashlock and Art Wenzel just in Wakely's Monogram films.
* I shouldn't have to add this Louis Armstrong isn't Louis Satchmo Armstrong, but I've learned over the years you can't footnote enough especially for those Robert Walker (M-G-M) and James Mason (the Englishman) fans who took umbrage at seeing those names as part of B-Western cast lists in Yesterday's Saturdays and Shoot-em-Ups. But that's another story.
So far, if you're able to keep up (which is more than I can do in this category), The Plainsmen, Riders, Trio, Saddle Pals and Texas Stars (don't even think about the Wakely combos prior to Monogram) all have "Anybody can show up at anytime playing for anybody links".
Besides the Wakely combos, Don Weston and Art Wenzel have links back to various Walt and/or Cal Shrum and/or together groups which have links someway or another all the way through and back to Johnny Luther.
Just on the way back to Luther, one encounters Charles Starrett's 1944 COWBOY FROM LONESOME RIVER with Jimmy Wakely backed up by Shelby Atchison, Arthur (Art) Wenzel, Foy Willingham (Willing) and Al Sloey. The stand-alone single by Ozie Waters in this film doesn't count as part of the maze ... unless one chooses to go further out and check on who was backing up Waters in other Columbia's.
In 1944's RIDING WEST, Ernest Tubb, the old Texas Troubador, played second gun and lead singer for Charles Starrett. But Columbia chose not to pay the fare to get The Texas Troubadors to back up Tubb. He still got good help, tho ... Johnny Bond, Cal Shrum, Wesley Tuttle and Art Wenzel.
Also getting all the way back to Johnny Luther in the early Maynards you can get trapped in sorting out The Arizona Wranglers from 1935's STORMY with John 'Arkansas Johnny' Luther, 'Pee Wee' (Glenn) Strange, Curtis McPeters (Cactus Mack), L. F. 'Slicker' Costello, Cal 'Sleepy' Shores and John 'Stoney' Jackson. Over in Maynard's HEROES OF THE RANGE (same year), The Arizona Wranglers were Johnny Luther, Oscar Gahan and Tim Spencer. The latter as well as Bob Nolan and Lloyd Perryman and the Farrs were all scattered in various mid 1930's work in B-westerns.
Oscar Gahan (whom I can identify even when his back is turned as he always wore the same weird hat) played about as many musician bits as he did townsmen and first-to-die Henchmen. He and Rudy Sooter and Al Haskell played music for Roy Rogers in FRONTIER PONY EXPRESS while also-cast and better-known musicians Cactus Mack, Spade Cooley and Frankie Marvin never hit a music lick in the same film. I'm sorry I mentioned them ... they also have links back to Ray Whitley who also employed ... see what I mean about a never-ending circle.
Being part of a name-identified group was something that seldom happened to Gahan, as a musician, but an exception was 1937's SANTA FE RIDES (Bob Custer) where he was part of THE SINGING COWBOYS along with Lloyd Perryman, Rudy Sooter and Robert 'Curly' Hoag. Perryman takes us to the Sons of the Pioneers, Sooter links to everybody and Curly Hoag takes us back to Cal Shrum which will eventually take us back to The Riders of the Purple Sage if we pick up Don Weston and the Wakely stuff on the way.
In RIDIN' THE CHEROKEE TRAIL, the Tennessee Ramblers were Harry Blair, Jack Gillette, 'Happy Tex' Martin (who could be confused with 'Happy Tex' Morris in Ritter's GOLDEN TRAIL), Cecil Campbell and Kid Clark. The same group --- make that a group called the same --- was in Autry's RIDE, RANGER, RIDE but this time out they were W. J. Blair (kin to Harry Blair, I presume), Dick Hartman, Kenneth L. Wolfe, Fred 'Happy' Morris (who could have stolen 'Happy Tex' from Martin and became his own 'Happy Tex' later on, or vice versa), Elmer Warren and Cecil 'Curly' Campbell. The only way I could tell who was who in this group would be to watch both films and I might eventually figure out which one is Cecil Campbell. I can usually peg most of the ones mentioned above, especially if one of them is nicknamed Curly. He will be bald --- I mean the ones I've mentioned (and many others not mentioned) in the rambling narrative.
I could always do the Hoosier Hotshots. Ken was Ken Trietsch who said 'Take it away, Hezzie' to Paul Trietsch who would always tell Gabe (Charles Ward) to do something and call him by name which left Gil Taylor to be Gil.
Good tribute to a lot of the uncredited, unrecognized and under-valued musicians of the genre. Even if they weren't sure what the name of the band they were playing for that day.