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The Riders of the Purple Sage


(From Old Corral image collection)


Above, Foy Willing and the Riders of the Purple Sage in a lobby card from UNDER COLORADO SKIES (Republic, 1947), one of the Monte Hale series in Trucolor. The RPS members shown above are, from left to right: Scotty Harrell (Foy Woodrow Harrel), Foy Willing (Foy Willingham), Al Sloey and Johnny Paul (John Paul Girardi).

There were other members of the group, including Burton 'Bud' Sievert, Darol Rice, George Bamby, Al Duncan, Jerry Vaughn and Jimmie Dean (Eddie Dean's brother).

In the post World War II period, the RPS were the singin' helpers to Republic Pictures western heroes Roy Rogers and Monte Hale. They replaced the Sons of the Pioneers and there are two bits of scuttlebutt about why this change occurred: SOP members Bob Nolan and Tim Spencer were tired of the touring, and Spencer had a publishing business to maintain, and they both decided to exit at or around the time that the SOP contract with Republic was ending. The more often quoted story is that the Riders of the Purple Sage were less expensive than the SOP, an attribute much appreciated by the thrifty Republic Pictures.

In addition to records, movies and personal appearances, the Riders were members of Roy Rogers' radio program, THE ROY ROGERS SHOW, and they were also the background tunesters for the THE ANDREWS SISTERS DUDE RANCH program (which premiered in 1944) and the mid 1940s HOLLYWOOD BARN DANCE show. They also were the hosts of ALL-STAR WESTERN THEATER program which was transcribed in Los Angeles/Hollywood (early broadcasts mention KNX, Columbia Square, The 'Voice of Hollywood'; later broadcasts note the Mutual/Don Lee Broadcasting System). It ran from 1946-1948 and consisted of over a 100 half hour broadcasts.

The lifespan of the group was about ten years, from circa 1943 through 1952.

Foy Lopez Willingham was born in Bosque County, Texas on May 14, 1914 and passed away on July 24, 1978 in Nashville.

The official Riders of the Purple Sage website is at: http://www.ridersofthepurplesage.com/

In 1991, Willing and the Riders were inducted into the Western Music Association Hall of Fame, and western music historian O. J. Sikes authored a profile of the group: http://www.westernmusic.org/foy-willing-and-riders-of-the-purple-sage

The Handbook of Texas Online is a project of the Texas State Historical Association, and they have a biography page on Foy Lopez Willingham: http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fwivd

The Internet Archive has several of the ALL-STAR WESTERN THEATER programs which you can download: http://archive.org/details/AllStarWesternTheaterOfBWesternCowboyStars-AudioMp3



(From Old Corral image collection)

Above is another lobby card from the Monte Hale Trucolor UNDER COLORADO SKIES (Republic, 1947). That's baddie Steve Darrell centered at the bar and behind him from left to right are Riders of the Purple Sage members Al Sloey, Foy Willing, Scotty Harrell and Johnny Paul.


Right is Foy Willing (1914 - 1978) and the photo was taken at one of the 1970s film conventions.

His real name was Foy Lopez Willingham.

(Courtesy of Minard Coons)



Riders of the Purple Sage/Foy Willing (Willingham) Filmography
Filmography provided by Les Adams

Release
Date
Film Title Company Star Foy Role/
Group
9/18/41 PRAIRIE STRANGER Columbia Charles Starrett Foy Willingham
(with Lew Preston's Ranch Hands)
12/23/43 COWBOY IN THE CLOUDS Columbia Charles Starrett Foy Willingham
(with Wakely's Saddle Pals)
6/14/44 TWILIGHT ON THE PRAIRIE Universal Johnny Downs Riders of the Purple Sage
7/31/44 SWING IN THE SADDLE Columbia Jane Frazee Foy Willingham
(with Wakely's Saddle Pals)
11/9/44 CYCLONE PRAIRIE RANGERS Columbia Charles Starrett Foy Willingham
(with Wakely's Saddle Pals)
11/30/44 COWBOY FROM LONESOME RIVER Columbia Charles Starrett Musician Red (as Foy Willingham)
2/8/45 SING ME A SONG OF TEXAS Columbia Tom Tyler Riders of the Purple Sage
8/11/45 SADDLE SERENADE Monogram Jimmy Wakely Riders of the Purple Sage
3/14/46 THROW A SADDLE ON A STAR Columbia Ken Curtis Riders of the Purple Sage
12/5/46 OUT CALIFORNIA WAY Republic Monte Hale Riders of the Purple Sage
2/1/47 LAST FRONTIER UPRISING Republic Monte Hale Riders of the Purple Sage
8/30/47 ALONG THE OREGON TRAIL Republic Monte Hale Riders of the Purple Sage
12/15/47 UNDER COLORADO SKIES Republic Monte Hale Riders of the Purple Sage
4/1/48 CALIFORNIA FIREBRAND Republic Monte Hale Riders of the Purple Sage
6/15/48 TIMBER TRAIL, THE Republic Monte Hale Riders of the Purple Sage
11/3/48 GRAND CANYON TRAIL Republic Roy Rogers Riders of the Purple Sage
12/29/48 FAR FRONTIER, THE Republic Roy Rogers Riders of the Purple Sage
4/29/49 SUSANNA PASS Republic Roy Rogers Riders of the Purple Sage
9/9/49 DOWN DAKOTA WAY Republic Roy Rogers Riders of the Purple Sage
11/15/49 GOLDEN STALLION, THE Republic Roy Rogers Riders of the Purple Sage
1/8/50 BELLS OF CORONADO Republic Roy Rogers Riders of the Purple Sage
3/22/50 TWILIGHT IN THE SIERRAS Republic Roy Rogers Riders of the Purple Sage
6/30/50 TRIGGER, JR. Republic Roy Rogers Riders of the Purple Sage
9/25/50 SUNSET IN THE WEST Republic Roy Rogers Riders of the Purple Sage
11/15/50 NORTH OF THE GREAT DIVIDE Republic Roy Rogers Riders of the Purple Sage
12/15/50 TRAIL OF ROBIN HOOD Republic Roy Rogers Riders of the Purple Sage
2/5/51 SPOILERS OF THE PLAINS Republic Roy Rogers Riders of the Purple Sage
3/30/51 HEART OF THE ROCKIES Republic Roy Rogers Riders of the Purple Sage
8/25/51 DISC JOCKEY Allied Artists Ginny Simms Riders of the Purple Sage
10/18/51 TEXAS CARNIVAL M-G-M Esther Williams Riders of the Purple Sage


Sharon Lee Willing authored No One to Cry To: A Long, Hard Ride into the Sunset with Foy Willing of The Riders of the Purple Sage. Sharon is Foy's widow, and the book chronicles his rise to national popularity on radio, million-selling records, and work in B westerns with Charles Starrett, Monte Hale and Roy Rogers. It also includes his sad career decline and battle with alcohol and drugs. Published November, 2006, the 6 X 9 paperback has about 260 pages and includes a complete filmography, discography, and lots of photos.

You can order through the publisher, Wheatmark, Inc., or online at stores including amazon and Borders. The price is about $20.00 at Amazon and directly from Wheatmark: http://www.amazon.com/No-One-Cry-Sunset-Willing/dp/158736686X

More info is available at the Wheatmark website: http://www.wheatmark.com/catalog/entry/No-One-to-Cry-To



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