|As a docent at Valley Relics Museum, I often speak of the making of the Westerns both in movies and on TV, and will share that story in the next issue. This issue will share a quick synopsis of my family of 3 very famous ‘Hollywood Cowboys’; my grandfather Taylor ‘Cactus Mack’ McPeters, and his 2 first cousins, Glenn Strange & Rex Allen.
Cactus and Glenn were born 1 week apart to sisters in Weed, New Mexico, and they were as close as any 2 brothers would be. Wherever you saw 1, you saw the other. They were also cowboys. They were REAL cowboys, in every sense of the word. And, they were natural performers. Singers, songwriters, actors & stuntmen; pioneers of it all.
There’s much people DO know about Cactus, Rex & Glenn, like the fact that Glenn portrayed ‘Sam’ the bartender in TV’s Gunsmoke, ‘Butch Cavendish’ in The Lone Ranger, and was Universal’s Frankenstein Monster. And that Cactus worked as the announcer of the Hoot Gibson Rodeo in Saugus, CA, and Rex was billed as the ‘Arizona Cowboy’.
Here, I hope to tell you all some things you may not already know. Together, and apart they appeared in over 350 films and TV shows, and all were songwriters. Glenn, along with Eddie Dean wrote the soundtrack for 1945’s ‘Wildfire’ which included the hit song ‘On the Banks of the Sunny San Juan’. And Cactus penned Ernest Tubb’s #1 hit ‘Mississippi Gal’ in 1957. Cactus and Glenn were both cast in the first Western Republic Pictures ever filmed, 1935’s ‘Westward Ho’ with John Wayne. And Rex made their last. Cactus and Rex were both narrators for Disney. Cactus for the Pluto and Goofy cartoons in the 40’s and 50’s, and Rex narrated their nature films in the 60’s. Rex was also the voice of the ‘Carousel of Progress’ ride at Disneyland.
And speaking of pioneers, Cactus headed up many bands, but it’s his ‘O Bar O Cowboys’ that’s talked about most due to the fact that the last member he brought into his band was a young Leonard Slye. Len, who eventually settled on the name Roy Rogers, first went out onstage under Cactus’ name when Cactus gave him the band in Willcox, Arizona during a tour of the Southwest. The band included Tim Spencer, and was named for the Ranch that Cactus worked for
there in Willcox. Under Roy’s leadership, and some good management, the band eventually became the Pioneer Trio and then the Sons of the Pioneers.
Cactus also made a profound mark in stunt work, and appeared in the 1939 film ‘Stagecoach’, which just celebrated its 80th anniversary. More about that film and his connection with Yakima Canutt can be seen inside the museum. My film presentation ‘History meets Hollywood’ has been covering the films anniversary
all year! There is so much more that can be said about these men, and this was just a brief synopsis of these talented pioneers. And I’m proud to say that the Reel Cowboys has honored all 3 with their coveted Silver Spur Award! And I’m proud to co-produce the show with Reel Cowboys President, Robert Lanthier.
For more info, visit www.JulieAnnReam.com or at:
Valley Relics Museum
7900 Balboa Blvd.
Hangars Charlie 3 & 4
Lake Balboa, CA. 91406