After all, she said, they’re both named Ken Curtis. Curtis teamed with Ford and John Wayne in Rio Grande. After his discharge in 1945 Curtis was asked to sing on a radio show. RELATED: Whatever Happened To Amanda Blake, Miss Kitty From ‘Gunsmoke’? YouTube has a video of Curtis singing with the Shep Fields band: Curtis brief time with Dorsey was mentioned in the November 26, 1941 issue of Variety: "Ken Curtis, singer, who recently made couple sides with Tommy Dorsey in place of Frank Sinatra, replaces Pat Foy with Shep Fields' band." His next appearance was Season 9, episode 2, October 5, 1963 as Kyle Kelly, in "Lover Boy". He met singer Jo Stafford while appearing with Johnny Mercer on a radio program. “Sometimes I think I got the role because I’ve got the mangiest beard in Hollywood. Never a major film star, Stone eventually became as famous and well-recognized as most of the bigger names in Hollywood. He was the son of a sheriff and worked on a jail farm as a boy. Curtis does a fine job. For a while he was a recurring character (who sometimes sang) on Have Gun Will Travel, and he even had his own show, Ripcord, but his biggest fame came as the unforgettable Festus on Gunsmoke, and he sang in a surprising number of episodes. Stone retired when "Gunsmoke" went off the air in 1975, and died five years later in San Diego. During World War II, Curtis served in the United States Army from 1943 to 1945. Curtis auditioned and was given the job as Sinatra’s replacement, but Sinatra changed his mind and remained with Dorsey. I had the opportunity to interview Stone – well, I was one of many journalists who talked to him press-conference style – in Chicago in 1964. Curtis also joined Ford, along with Henry Fonda, James Cagney, William Powell, and Jack Lemmon, in the comedy Navy classic Mister Roberts. His version of “Tumbling Tumbleweeds” attracted the attention of Columbia Studios and soon Curtis began an acting career. (“Gunsmoke” had been a radio series for many years. And it was in a 1956 Ford film, “The Searchers,” that part of the Festus Haggen character was born. This comes from Curtis’s own experience as a singer. It was while doing “Ripcord” that Curtis accepted a guest role on “Gunsmoke” in a story about the backwoods Haggen family. Curtis then joined Shep Fields and His New Music, an all-reeds band that dispensed with a brass section. Cedar Jack, who lived 15 miles south of town, made a living cutting cedar fence posts. Through his second marriage, Curtis was a son-in-law of film director John Ford. This proved rather fruitful for Curtis when, in 1941, he joined the Tommy Dorsey band. Also, in the film adaptation 'Conagher' based on a book by popular writer Louis L'Amour, he starred opposite Sam Elliott as an aging cattleman. The producers took full advantage of his experiences and had Festus sing at some pretty powerful moments. Connect with the definitive source for global and local news. Festus was patterned after "Cedar Jack" (Frederick Munden), a man from Curtis' Las Animas childhood. Some actors, even those who had been in Hollywood for many years, found their best roles in television. No, I explained, they’re both named Ken Curtis because they’re the same person. “None of our jumps was ever filmed, of course. He’s 60, if you’re interested. We did it in secret because the studio wouldn’t have allowed us to take the chance. But the role actually allowed actor Ken Curtis to show off a lot of his talent. In any event, Curtis several movies with Guinn “Big Boy” Williams as his sidekick. They were married until his death in 1991 and he had two step-children. He was 74 years old. Trouble is, we don’t always have the answer. “One day Hunter and I got to kidding,” said Curtis, “and I started talking in my dry land dialect.” (He explained that’s the way people talk in the area around Curtis’ hometown of Lamar, Colorado. This link will take you to a bunch of episodes. In 1964, Curtis appeared as muleskinner Graydon in the episode "Graydon's Charge" of the syndicated Western television series, Death Valley Days, also guest-starring Denver Pyle and Cathy Lewis. Curtis also campaigned for Ronald Reagan in 1976, during the future President's attempt to secure the Republican nomination from incumbent Gerald Ford. When Curtis quit he took a job with Shep Fields’ all-reed band. We’re going to spotlight the singing career of a guy who was better known as a Western actor. Curtis was with the Tommy Dorsey band in 1941, and succeeded Frank Sinatra as vocalist until … Besides engaging in the usual personal appearances most television stars undertake to promote their program, Curtis also traveled around the country performing a Western-themed stage show at fairs, rodeos, and other venues when Gunsmoke was not in production, and even for some years after the show was cancelled. [7], Curtis was a Republican and supported Barry Goldwater in the 1964 United States presidential election.[8]. He and his family lived below a jail and cooked meals for prisoners. Ken Curtis as Festus Haggen and James Arness as Matt Dillon, 1968 Curtis was a singer before moving into acting, and combined both careers once he entered films. A lady called the Beacon Journal a few weeks ago to ask if the man who plays bristly Festus Haggen on “Gunsmoke” is the father of the actor who plays good guy Jim Buckley on the syndicated “Ripcord” series.

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