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Arizona Wranglers,
Range Riders,
and other name variations.


Mike Hunter, Paul Albertson, Herb Stokes, Frank Underwood, Kam Bayens: your old e-mail addresses are no longer valid. Would you please e-mail ye Old Corral webmaster.

Special thanks to Les Adams, Jack Jones, Scott Jones, Kevin Coffey, Belinda Kirkhuff, Mike Hunter, Frank Underwood, Herb Stokes, Garry & Peggy Peterson, Ed Phillips, Larry Blanchard, Jerry Clayton, Paul Albertson, Kam Bayens, and George Chastain for photos, clippings and info on the singing group(s) that called themselves the Arizona Wranglers, Range Riders, Radio Buckaroos, et al.


Most fans of the B western have fond memories of the Sons of the Pioneers, Riders of the Purple Sage, Cass County Boys, and a few others. But few recall a group of musicians and singers called the "Arizona Wranglers". So why are they - and their various iterations - important to the B-western? There's several answers ... and some conjecture for you to ponder:

The Wranglers appeared in only one film, STORMY (Universal, 1935), which starred Noah Beery Jr., Jean Rogers, and Rex, King of the Wild Horses.

But their many 1930s personal appearances and radio broadcasts helped fuel the popularity of western music. Newspaper reports indicate that the Wranglers often did shows every evening on Hollywood radio station KNX beginning Fall, 1930.

They did lots of touring and theater performances were often tied to a showing of a B western (and there's a 1934 poster and flyer below for the Wranglers on tour with Ken Maynard's STRAWBERRY ROAN (Universal, 1933)).

Prolific poet, composer, and musician Curley Fletcher occasionally performed with the Wranglers and was given top billing. Curley is best remembered for his song "The Strawberry Roan".

Most importantly, several familiar B western actors earned extra income working with the Arizona Wranglers and later variations. There were cousins Glenn Strange and Curtis 'Cactus Mack' McPeters as well as Jack Kirk, Jack Jones, Chuck Baldra, and Oscar Gahan. Other members included musician 'Arkansas Johnny' Luther and future Sons of the Pioneers regular Hugh Farr.

Yearly film quantities for Strange and McPeters shows considerable variations during the 1930s. For example - neither had many acting jobs in 1933 and 1934, indicating the bulk of their time - and income - came from tours and singing.

The Arizona Wranglers - along with western music from MANY other groups and individuals - had a significant impact on the old B oater. And by the mid 1930s, film company bosses recognized that adding tunes made theater owners happy via increased ticket sales. I can imagine their discussions on how to boost future film rentals and profits - "Let's try somethin' new - along with guys warbling in the bunkhouse or around a campfire, let's find a hero that can sing!". Think Autry, Rogers, Dick Foran, Fred Scott, more.


B western actors that were members
of the Arizona Wranglers, Range Riders, etc.

(From Old Corral collection)

Glenn Strange, one of the premier heavies of the B western, and later, 'Sam the Bartender' on TV's GUNSMOKE.



(Courtesy of Jack Jones)

L-to-R are Jack Jones, Jack 'Pappy' Kirk and Chuck Baldra and the photo is dated September 29, 1932. Les Adams adds that these three - or any combination of two of them - worked together in at least five dozen oaters.

(From Old Corral collection)

Cactus Mack McPeters



(Courtesy of Belinda Kirkhuff)

Jack Kirk



(From Old Corral collection)

Oscar Gahan




(Courtesy of Garry & Peggy Peterson)

In April, 2005, Garry and Peggy Peterson e-mailed ye Old Corral webmaster with the above poster image and info on where they found it: "We were tearing down an old shed and found this poster for Loyal Underwood and the Arizona Wranglers show at the Granada Theater in The Dalles, Oregon ... it is in pretty bad shape as it was placed between the inside wall and outside siding. It has water stains and nail holes."

In the lower right corner, the poster references Ken Maynard in STRAWBERRY ROAN (Universal, 1933). And that Monday, March 12 performance was March 12, 1934.

Note "The Original Arizona Wranglers" tag line on this poster and the flyer below - in mid 1933, there was a breakup between Loyal Underwood and the Wranglers. And Underwood formed another group at radio station KNX called the "Range Riders". By early 1934, Underwood and the Wranglers were back together ... the Range Riders were gone ... and the re-united group was now billed as "The Original Arizona Wranglers".

According to the Variety tradepaper, the brainchild behind this STRAWBERRY ROAN road show was Oregon theater operator E. M. Craybill and he booked the group for a three month tour of small town movie houses in California, Oregon and Washington. Craybill booked them for later personal appearances through his death in 1936.




(Courtesy of George Chastain)

Thanks to George Chastain for this flyer. And its another Arizona Wranglers personal appearance with Maynard's STRAWBERRY ROAN and was April 7, 1934 in Wenatchee, Washington. I added names on the left side next to the small face shots of the members. Glenn Strange was on this tour stop.



(Courtesy of Herb Stokes)

The group began singing together when they worked at the XXX Rootbeer Drive-in in Phoenix, Arizona in the late 1920s. Above are the members of the XXX Rootbeer Band in a 1929 photo. Herb Stokes mentioned that they may have done some broadcasts on Phoenix radio station K.O.Y.

From L-to-R in the back row (standing): unidentified man, and unidentified member with a nickname of 'Hossfly'.

In the front row (seated) are: Joe Ivins (nickname: 'Hungry'), Charles Hunter (nickname: 'Iron Tail), J. E. Patterson (nickname: 'Nubbins').




(Courtesy of Herb Stokes)

Above are the initial members of Arizona Wranglers. The photo is dated 1930 and has a Phoenix photo studio name in the lower right.

From L-to-R: unidentified member with a nickname of 'Hossfly', J. E. Patterson (nickname: 'Nubbins') and Charles Hunter (nickname: 'Iron Tail').




(Courtesy of Mike Hunter)

Above - the tour bus used by the Arizona Wranglers for their public appearances.




(Courtesy of Herb Stokes)

Above left is Charles Hunter (nickname: 'Iron Tail') and an unidentified woman in a 1931 photo. Note the tire/wheel cover with reference to Hollywood radio station K.N.X., the Arizona Wranglers, and Hunter's nickname of 'Iron Tail' (two words).



(Courtesy of Karen Darling)

Karen Darling's mother Florence and Aunt Ruth attended an Arizona Wranglers performance in the early 1930s in Medford or Jacksonville, Oregon. Above is a business card from 'Iron Tail' Hunter which he gave to Karen's Mom. Note the radio station "KNX Hollywood" in the upper left.



(Courtesy of Paul Albertson)

The Arizona Wranglers circa 1933.

From L-to-R in the back row: Laverne F. Costello (nickname: 'Slicker'), Calvin Short (or Shorts) (nickname: 'Sleepy'), J. E. Patterson (nickname: 'Nubbins').

From L-to-R in the front row: Loyal Underwood (nickname: 'The Sheriff'), Charles Hunter (nickname: 'Iron Tail'), Joe Ivins (nickname: 'Hungry'), 'Shorty' Wells.

Paul Albertson writes: "Going through my mother's photo collection, I found this one of the Arizona Wranglers. Her childhood was in Rupert, Idaho and she would have been 16 during their 1933 tour. The front is autographed as "Best Wishes Arizona Wranglers" and in the corner is an initial or ?"




(Courtesy of Herb Stokes)

The Arizona Wranglers circa early 1930s, and this photo includes the Radio K.N.X. identification. Salutation reads: "Best Regards from The Arizona Wranglers and The Sheriff".

From L-to-R in the back row: Calvin Short (or Shorts) (nickname: 'Sleepy'), Laverne F. Costello (nickname: 'Slicker'), Joe Ivins (nickname: 'Hungry'), Leonard 'Len' Dossey (nickname: 'Dynamite').

From L-to-R in the front row: J. E. Patterson (nickname: 'Nubbins'), Charles Hunter (nickname: 'Iron Tail'), Loyal Underwood (nickname: 'The Sheriff').

Kam Bayens e-mailed with confirmation on Dossey: "I can confirm that is indeed Leonard Dossey (my great-grandfather). I believe he also worked with Tex Ritter in some capacity, as I have letters from Tex to Len discussing recording some demos, as well as some sheet music that they might have worked on ..."




(Courtesy of Belinda Kirkhuff)

Mid to late 1933 ... and this is the short-lived Range Riders. Loyal Underwood formed this group after his (very brief) breakup with the Arizona Wranglers. Originally named "Underwood's Wranglers" ... then "Trail Drivers" ... and lastly, Underwood settled on "Range Riders" as the name:

From the July 11, 1933 issue of Variety "In an argument over commission for stage appearances, Arizona Wranglers have split with their organizer, Loyal Underwood, and are now on their own at KFI. Cow yippers had been a KNX act for three years. Since splitting, Underwood has organized another group of cowhand singers and stringers and goes KNX with them under title of 'Range Riders'." (KFI was a Los Angeles radio station.)

L-R in the back row - Jack Kirk, unknown (white shirt, standing, possibly Ace Spriggins), Hilo Pete McKinney (white shirt w/ guitar, sitting), Oscar Gahan (w/ fiddle), unknown, Jack Jones. (Jones' movie career ended when he suffered a severe leg injury during the filming of a wagon chase in THE DAWN RIDER (Lone Star/Monogram, 1935), which starred John Wayne.)

L-R in the front row - Glenn 'Pee Wee' Strange (kneeling and whittling), Curtis 'Cactus Mack' McPeters (kneeling w/ guitar), Sheriff Loyal Underwood.

Jack Jones also had a copy of the above still from his father's collection, and on the back of his photo are names of most of the faces along with the following nicknames: Jack Jones ('Pocatello Kid'), Jack Kirk ('Pecos') and Pete McKinney ('Hilo Pete').



(Courtesy of Jack Jones)

After the mid 1933 breakup of Loyal Underwood and the Arizona Wranglers, Underwood formed the Range Riders at station KNX. But the Range Riders were short-lived, and Underwood and the Wranglers got back together circa early 1934.

Jack Jones provided a newspaper article related to the above 1933 ad which lists the members of the 'Range Riders':


'Sheriff' Loyal Underwood
Cactus McPeters
J. Harvey Gahan
Jack Kirk
Jack Jones
Pete McKinney
Hugh Farr
Ace Spriggins
Glenn Strange

In the mid 1930s, Thomas Hubert 'Hugh' Farr and his brother Karl signed on with the Sons of the Pioneers.
 

(Courtesy of Jack Jones)

Above is a tannish herald/flyer announcing the September 20, 1933 performance of the Range Riders.



(Courtesy of Herb Stokes)

The Arizona Wranglers plus others in a still from STORMY (Universal, 1935), their one and only film appearance.

From L-to-R in the back row (standing) are: Johnny Luther (nickname: 'Arkansas' Johnny), unidentified man (in suit), unidentified woman, Calvin Short (or Shorts) playing harmonica (nickname: 'Sleepy'), James Burtis, and leading lady Jean Rogers.

From L-to-R in the front row (seated): Glenn Strange (nickname: 'Pee Wee'), Charles Hunter (nickname: 'Iron Tail'), John Jackson (nickname: 'Stony' or 'Stoney'), Laverne F. Costello (nickname: 'Slicker'), Curtis McPeters (nickname: 'Cactus Mack').




(Courtesy of Les Adams)



(Courtesy of Les Adams)

(Courtesy of Jack Jones)

The July 29, 1935 Call Bureau cast listing for STORMY (Universal, 1935) included the names of the Arizona Wranglers members.



(From Old Corral collection)



(Courtesy of Larry Blanchard)

Above is a circa 1937 photo of the Texas Cow Town Boys and Girls which includes Glenn 'Pee Wee' Strange (far right, sitting and wearing chaps) and 'Cactus Mack' McPeters (center, sitting).

Larry Blanchard writes: "My grandfather, William Roy (Ned) Wilemon was in several bands and had his own band in the 20's and 30's. He passed away in 1942. One of the pictures I have is of the Texas Cow Town Boys and Girls. It's from around 1937? Someone has written the names of the players on the old photo. A couple that caught my eye were Cactus Mack and Peewee Strange. My Grandfather is also in the photo - he is listed as 'Ned'. Also in the photo is 'Speck', who is my great uncle Jackie Wilemon. You will also notice that my grandfather and another gentleman are in blackface. On the bottom right corner are the words, "Murphy Poto" (probably Murphy Photo). Who Murphy is I'm not sure. I can tell you the photo was taken well before 1942, that's when my grandfather died."

I asked Kevin Coffey about the photo and he writes: (other than Glenn Strange and McPeters) "... the only guy I know is 'Panhandle Slim'. Unfortunately, that's the only name I know him by. He worked for a number of years (off and on ca. 1935-41) with Jimmie Lefevre's Saddle Pals in Los Angeles. My efforts to get his real name have so far been in vain."

The lady sitting next to Cactus Mack is listed as 'Pearl'. Glenn Strange married Minnie Pearl Thompson in 1936. Wonder if she was Glenn's wife.




(Courtesy of Jerry Clayton)

Above is another variation of the Arizona Wranglers, circa 1938. Radio station KVCV was in Redding, California.

Thanks to Jerry Clayton for the above and below photos. Jerry's grandfather was bass fiddle player Thomas Drake Wheeler (nickname: 'Barbwire).

From L-to-R above are Ray Waomack (nickname: 'Missouri' (guitar)), Joe Irwin (nickname: 'Little Joe' (Banjo)), Thomas Drake Wheeler (nickname: 'Barbwire' (Bass)) and Calvin Short (or Shorts) (nickname: 'Sleepy' (harmonica)).

Below is another Arizona Wranglers, Redding, California photo, probably also circa 1938. Includes the quartet in the photo above plus two additional musicians.

L-to-R are Joe Irwin (nickname: 'Little Joe' (banjo)), 'Shorty' Wells (with fiddle, kneeling), Thomas Drake Wheeler (nickname: Barbwire (bass)), Bob Friend (nickname: 'New York Bob' (accordion)), Calvin Short (or Shorts) (nickname: 'Sleepy' (harmonica)), and Ray Waomack (nickname: 'Missouri (guitar)).

Calvin 'Sleepy' Short (or Shorts) and 'Shorty' Wells performed with the earlier Arizona Wranglers groups.

Radio magazines at the Internet Archive indicate that the KVCV Redding, California version of the Arizona Wranglers were doing broadcasts in 1944 - 1945. However, there's no details on the members.



(Courtesy of Jerry Clayton)



More Info

Our B western actors - and former Wranglers and Range Riders vets - got together occasionally in other films - a few examples:

  • doing tunes in Ken Maynard's HONOR OF THE RANGE (Universal, 1934) are Arkansas Johnny Luther, Chuck Baldra, Al Haskell, and Jack Jones.
  • in FIVE BAD MEN (Sunset, 1935), Baldra, Jones, Jack Kirk, Glenn Strange and 'Cactus Mack' McPeters are The Radio Buckaroos.
  • in John Wayne's LAWLESS RANGE (Republic, 1935), Strange, Kirk, Baldra, and Charles (Charlie/Charley) Sargent are just plain Wranglers.
  • and doing tunes in Wayne's WESTWARD HO (Republic, 1935) are Strange, McPeters, Kirk, Baldra, and Sargent, and the opening title and credits list "the Singing Riders". See images below.



(Courtesy of Ed Phillips)

From left to right are Charlie/Charley Sargent, Jack Kirk, John Wayne, Cactus Mack McPeters, Chuck Baldra and Glenn Strange in a scene from Wayne's WESTWARD HO (Republic, 1935). On the far right is the non-singing Tex Palmer. In the film's opening titles, Glenn Strange is credited and "the Singing Riders" is listed under his name. These "guys in black shirts" did double duty as singers as well as members of the "Singing Riders" who rode white horses and assisted Wayne. Below are crops/blowups showing the faces in more detail.

Below: Charlie/Charley Sargent, Jack Kirk, John Wayne, Cactus Mack McPeters.

Above: Chuck Baldra, Glenn Strange, and non-singing Tex Palmer.


Lots of touring and personal
appearances by the Arizona Wranglers, Range Riders, etc.

Article with photos of the Arizona Wranglers in a 1930 Radio Doings magazine available at the Internet Archive. Will open in a separate window / tab: https://archive.org/details/radiodoingsthere1820unse/page/n207/mode/2up

1931 - 1934 was a busy period for the Arizona Wranglers and Range Riders who were performing on radio stations KNX and KFI as well as doing extensive personal appearances at theaters and outdoor events in the U. S. and Canada. Newspaper websites have several hundred articles and ads for the groups during those years, and I've clipped a few articles for your viewing pleasure. These will open in a separate window / tab:

December, 1932 personal appearance of Loyal Underwood and the Arizona Wranglers in Provo, Utah: https://www.newspapers.com/clip/81623488/the-daily-herald/

August, 1933 personal appearance of the Arizona Wranglers in Helena, Montana. This was during the breakup between Underwood and the Wranglers: https://www.newspapers.com/clip/81623670/the-independent-record/

Poet, author, and western music composer Curley Fletcher occasionally performed with the Wranglers - some newspaper ads from January-February, 1933 with Curley and the group:
https://www.newspapers.com/clip/89414622/the-modesto-bee/
https://www.newspapers.com/clip/89414704/arizona-daily-star/


About Loyal Underwood (1893 - 1966)

Loyal Underwood was small, roughly four feet, eleven inches tall. He acted in some silent films including several with Charlie Chaplain. In the mid 1920s, he became an announcer and program emcee at Hollywood radio station KNX. There he developed and starred in several comedy shows for the station. How the combination of KNX, Underwood, and the Arizona Wranglers came together is not clear. But Underwood became 'The Sheriff' and was their frontman on radio and personal appearances through the mid 1930s. Below are links with more on him and these will open in a separate window / tab:

  Although some of the data may be incomplete or inaccurate, the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) has information on Loyal Underwood: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0881022/

1934 newspaper photo showing the height difference between the four foot, eleven inch tall Loyal Underwood and Glenn Strange: https://www.newspapers.com/clip/89595965/la-grande-observer/

Mini biography on Loyal Underwood (1893 - 1966) in the November 19, 1959 Los Angeles Mirror News: https://www.newspapers.com/clip/89134506/mirror-news/

The Internet Archive has a 1930 Radio Doings magazine with an article on Loyal Underwood, his career, and wife Dorothy: https://archive.org/details/radiodoingsthere1820unse/page/n257/mode/2up



In the Villains & Supporting Players section on the Old Corral, you'll find more info and photos on Glenn Strange and Jack Kirk.  And under "The Henchies", there's info on Jack Jones, Chuck Baldra, Oscar Gahan and Cactus Mack McPeters.



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