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Tex Ritter (January 12, 1905 – January 2, 1974) was an American country singer and actor from the mid-1930s to the 1960s, father of actor John Ritter, and member of the Country Museum and Hall of Fame.
His real name was Woodward Maurice Ritter , and he was born in Murvaul, Texas. His parents were James Everett Ritter and Martha Elizabeth Matthews. He grew up on his family’s farm in Panola County, Texas, and studied in Carthage, Texas, and at South Park High School in Beaumont, Texas. After graduating with honors, he entered the University of Texas at Austin, where he studied a law school, specializing in government, political science and economics.
Radio and Broadway
Pioneer of the country, Ritter soon became interested in the world of entertainment. In 1928 he sang at the KPRC (AM) in Houston, Texas, in a 30-minute program with cowboy songs. That same year he moved to New York City where he got a job in the male choir of the Broadway show The New Moon (1928). He also acted as the Cowboy in the Broadway production Green Grow the Lilacs (1930), base for the later musical Oklahoma !. He also worked on the works The Round Up (1932) and Mother Lode (1934).
In 1932 he performed in New York in the first Western broadcast, The Lone Star Rangers, on the radio station WOR, singing and telling stories of the old west. In 1933 Ritter wrote and starred in the WINS network on the children’s program Cowboy Tom’s Roundup. He also worked on the radio show WHN Barndance, and sang on NBC Radio shows. He also performed in various radio dramas, such as Bobby Benson’s Adventures on the Columbia Broadcasting System, as well as in the television production of rebroadcast Death Valley Days.
Ritter started recording for American Record Company (Columbia Records) in 1933. His first album was “Goodbye Ole Paint.” He also recorded “Rye Whiskey” for the same label. In 1935 he signed a contract with Decca Records, the label with which he made his first original recordings, “Sam Hall” and “Get Along Little Dogie.” In total he recorded 29 songs for Decca, the last one in 1939 in Los Angeles, California, as part of Tex Ritter and His Texans.
In 1936 Ritter moved to Los Angeles. His film debut came with Song Of The Gringo (1936), for Grand National Pictures. He starred in twelve B-series westerns for Grand National, including Headin ‘For The Rio Grande (1936) and Trouble In Texas (1937), alongside Rita Hayworth (then known as Rita Cansino).
After working at Utah Trail (1938), Ritter left Grand National, as the company was experiencing financial difficulties. Between 1938 and 1945 he worked in some 40 films as “cowboy singer”. He shot four films with actress Dorothy Fay at the Monogram Pictures production company: Song of the Buckaroo (1938), Sundown on the Prairie (1939), Rollin ‘Westward (1939) and Rainbow Over the Range (1940).
Ritter later went on to Universal Pictures and worked with Johnny Mack Brown in films such as The Lone Star Trail (1943), Raiders of San Joaquin (1943), Cheyenne Roundup (1943) and The Old Chisholm Trail (1942). He also starred in Arizona Trail (1943), Marshal of Gunsmoke (1944) and Oklahoma Raiders (1944).
Having Universal financial problems, Ritter went to Producers Releasing Corporation, playing the “Texas Ranger Tex Haines” in eight feature films between 1944 and 1945. Ritter did not act again until 1950, doing cast roles or interpreting himself .
Ritter’s recording career was his most successful period. He was the first artist to sign with the newly formed Capitol Records, and his first western singer. His first recording took place on June 11, 1942.
In 1944 he highlighted his song “I’m Wastin ‘My Tears On You,” which reached No. 1 on the country charts and eleven on the pop charts. “There’s A New Moon Over My Shoulder” got the number two country and the 21 pop. In 1945 three of his songs were the most voted by the public in a survey by Billboard magazine. Between 1945 and 1946 he got seven consecutive hits that reached the top five, including “You Two Timed Me One Time Too Often,” (number one) written by Jenny Lou Carson, who stayed eleven weeks on the charts. In 1948, “Rye Whiskey” and its version of “The Deck of Cards” reached the top ten, and “Pecos Bill” was number 15. In 1950 the song “Daddy’s Last Letter (Private First Class John H. McCormick ) “.
Ritter toured Europe in 1952, performing among other shows at the Texas Western Spectacle at the Harringay Arena in London. That same year Ritter recorded the main song of the movie “High Noon”, “Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darlin”, which became a hit. He sang the song at the first televised ceremony of the Óscar Awards in 1953, receiving the same Oscar for the best original song of that year.
In 1953 he began acting on the Town Hall Party program for radio and television in Los Angeles. In 1957 he was one of the presenters of Town_Hall_Party, a version of the show. He made his national television debut on the ABC program Ozark Jubilee, and was one of five presenters at his spin-off for NBC in 1961, Five Star Jubilee.
He created Vidor Publications, Inc., a music editor, with Johnny Bond in 1955. The song “Remember the Alamo” was the first in the catalog. In 1957 he released his first album, Songs From the Western Screen. In 1961 he also released the hit “I Dreamed Of A Hill-Billy Heaven,” edited six years earlier by Eddie Dean.
Still past the peak of his career, Ritter was recognized for his contribution to country music and his artistic versatility. He was one of the founding members of the Country Music Association in Nashville, Tennessee, and spearheaded the effort to build the Country Museum and Hall of Fame. In 1964 he was the fifth person and the first cowboy singer to be admitted to the museum.
He moved to Nashville in 1965 and started working for WSM (AM) and the Grand Ole Opry program, becoming a lifetime member of the program. His family stayed temporarily in California so that John would finish high school there. During this period Ritter presented a nightly radio program with the country disc jockey Ralph Emery. In 1967 his single “Just Beyond the Moon”, with lyrics by Jeremy Slate, reached number three on the country list.
Campaign to the Senate
In 1970 Ritter surprised many people by entering the Republican Party of the United States and competing in the primaries for the United States Senate. Despite his great reputation, he lost overwhelmingly to Bill Brock, who subsequently defeated Senator Albert Gore, Sr. in the general election.
Ritter married actress Dorothy Fay on June 14, 1941. The marriage lasted until the death of the singer. They had two children, Thomas Ritter and actor John Ritter. He was Jason Ritter’s grandfather. He helped establish the United Cerebral Palsy association when he learned that Thomas was suffering from cerebral palsy. Ritter and her children devoted great efforts to raising funds and attention from the public in order to fight the disease.
Ritter made his last recording for Capitol Records in 1973. His last song, “The Americans,” was a posthumous hit. In 1974 he suffered an acute myocardial infarction and died in Nashville. He was buried at Oak Bluff Memorial Park in Port Neches, Texas.
For his contribution to the recording industry, Ritter has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, at 6631 Hollywood Boulevard. In 1980 he was included in the Western Performers Hall of Fame of the National Cowboy & amp; Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City.
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