The Life and Times of Tex Ritter (part 2)

Joe Guilbeau, Humorist
Tex Ritter

While studying law in college, Tex Ritter had his own weekly radio program, singing cowboy songs, on KPRC in Houston, Texas.

In 1928 Ritter went to New York, where he worked in a Broadway musical production. Returning to college, he entered Northwestern University in Chicago. With the Depression making money was hard to come by.

He soon returned to New York, where he worked in several more Broadway productions, including Green Grow the Lilacs (a decade later Rodgers and Hammerstein adapted the play into their enormously famous Oklahoma musical.)

After doing a variety of radio programs, in 1932 Ritter made his first recording. By mid-decade the enormous success of Gene Autry’s films led other studios to look for their own singing cowboys. One of the first producers to recognize Ritter’s potential was Edward Finney. He signed Ritter and released his first starring film, Song of the Gringo, in November 1936.

Ritter was well suited to the role of the singing cowboy. He looked and acted the part and was singing the type of songs he loved best. Unfortunately, most of his films were made for Grand National and Monogram, two of the so-called "poverty row" studios.

These studios were smaller than the majors and made their films on limited budgets. Although Ritter’s films never had the production values of films starring Gene Autry or Roy Rogers, he still enjoyed considerable success at the box office.

From 1936 to 1945. He starred in 60 Hollywood westerns.

In 1942, after a decade of limited success. Ritter became one of the first artists signed by the newly formed Capitol Records. He soon began scoring major hits with records such as “Jealous Heart,” “Rye Wiskey,” “I’m Wastin My Tears on You,” and many others. Ritter would record for Capitol for the rest of his life.

Since early country songs were cowboy songs, the phase country western music was born. As a youngster, all movies were cowboy movies. I probably saw half of Tex Ritter’s movies.

A quotation from American author Susan Sontag, whose birthdate i share: “I was not looking for my dreams to interpret my life, but rather for my life to interpret my dreams.”