Festus got to show off his singing chops a few times on Gunsmoke

We answer some fan mail. Turns out, Ken Curtis was a big band singer before becoming an actor.

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Festus sang a song on Gunsmoke written by Ken Curtis himself!
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Peter Dvergsten in Minneapolis, Minnesota, wrote to us and asked, "Did Ken Curtis sing much on Gunsmoke? I know he was with the Sons of the Pioneers and I saw one snip where he sang with Slim Pickens, but I was wondering if he did any other singing."

Great question, Peter! The short answer is: yes!

While Festus provided comic relief on the long-running Western (his bickering with Doc Adams could make even the sourest sourpuss laugh), he was more than just a hillbilly with a penchant for creative metaphors. His duties as deputy sheriff entangled him in some sticky situations and allowed actor Ken Curtis to use the full range of his acting abilities.

Another skill Curtis got to show off from time to time was his lovely singing voice. More often than not, at a lively barn dance, for example, Festus' singing sounded a lot like the exaggerated drawl of his speaking voice. But sometimes, for a quiet scene like in the video above, Ken Curtis played it straight – hinting at his early days as a radio and big band singer.

After his stint as a Sinatra-esque crooner, Curtis began his shift into country music as a singing cowboy in 1940s musical Westerns like Lone Star Moonlight and Singing on the Trail. He soon joined the group Sons of the Pioneers and released hits like "Room Full of Roses" and "Riders in the Sky."

Ken Curtis sang with Slim Pickens in the Gunsmoke episode "Once a Haggen." Pickens plays a friend of Festus who has been sentenced to hang. Festus sings a somber tune as they await the deadly outcome. Curtis actually composed the song "Six Shiny Black Horses" himself. He performed two other songs in that episode as well!

Other episodes with Festus ditties include "Comanches is Soft" and "The Warden" – both of which feature songs later compiled onto the 1968 album Gunsmoke's Festus Sings 'n Talks 'bout Dodge City 'n Stuff. As the title implies, the collection features music as well as monologues performed by Ken Curtis in character.

Gunsmoke wasn't the only Western that showcased Curtis' talent. In the Have Gun, Will Travel episode "Love's Young Dream," Curtis croons a touching rendition of "Dink's Song" (commonly known as "Fare Thee Well").

Listen to a song from Gunsmoke's Festus Sings 'n Talks 'bout Dodge City 'n Stuff below!

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GaryGoltz 45 months ago
he sang on Ripcord several times along with his bandmate Shug Fisher
MrsPhilHarris GaryGoltz 45 months ago
Really? I remember watching Ripcord but I don’t remember what it was about.
Mike 45 months ago
When Ken Curtis was a big band singer, one of his stops was with The Rippling Rhythms of Shep Fields.
Go to YouTube and see and hear Ken do many songs with Shep.
Calling to your attention a "patter" song called Breathless, with an intricate melody and a tricky lyric; listen to it, and remind yourself that it's Festus singing all those words ...
texasluva 45 months ago
Ken Curtis was in some great movies in his career. 1950 Rio Grande, 1952 The Quiet Man, 1955 Mister Roberts, 1956 The Searchers (he sang some a-courting songs), fought with Jeffery Hunter (which was so funny). This boy had done been around. Even 1959 The Killer Shrews . Ripcord, Have Gun Will Travel and of course his 306 appearances in Gunsmoke. Whatever he played was such a character. He worked until he passed away in 1991. Good show sir
MrsPhilHarris texasluva 45 months ago
He sang on Have Gun, Will Travel as well.
texasluva MrsPhilHarris 45 months ago
I hope the next one I watch is Curtis on HGWT. Funny you mentioned that. 2 nights ago I watched Richard Boone on WML. It is around 17:30. He comes in full outfit he he.
texasluva texasluva 45 months ago
Oh why didn't I just put it here.
MrsPhilHarris texasluva 45 months ago
Oh that was fun! I always thought Arlene Francis was so glamorous.

Some people think Dorothy Kilgallen was murdered because she was going to blow the lid off the JFK assassination. Whatever that means.
texasluva MrsPhilHarris 45 months ago
I have read that story about Dorothy Kilgallen. All the odd things happening during that time. You never know about people in power. Then you don't know whom to believe. Oh yes that was fun with Richard Boone. It looked like they had him and then gave a bunch of funny wrong answers. I was laughing my head off. Also you find out a lot more about Richard Boone then you never knew.
TheDavBow3 45 months ago
Hey, whadayaknow, I'm the 1st to leave a comment!
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