Ken Curtis had an album called ''Gunsmoke's Festus Sings And Talks 'Bout Dodge City 'N Stuff''

Did you know that before he arrived at Dodge City, Curtis replaced Sinatra?

Here's a fun bit of trivia for the Ken Curtis superfan in all of us: That's not even his real name! Ken Curtis? That's a stage name. His real name was Curtis Wain Gates, and you'll never guess who urged him to change it later down the road.

Okay, so... Before he was Festus Haggen (and before he was even legally Ken Curtis), Gates was a singer. Before he tried his hand at acting, the man who would eventually join Gunsmoke was first a talented vocalist. In fact, "Gates" was such a good singer, that he replaced one of the single most famous singers of all time. 

In 1941, Curtis Gates joined Tommy Dorsey's band and succeeded Frank Sinatra as the interim lead. The following year, Dick Haymes would receive the contract to replace Sinatra full-time, but in the meantime, Gates briefly held the position.

It was Tommy Dorsey himself who suggested Gates should adopt a stage name. Dorsey offered the name "Ken Curtis," which Gates adopted on his way to joining Shep Fields and His New Music.

Soon, the newly renamed Ken Curtis would meet his wife and join the long-running country music radio program WWVA Jamboree, where he'd be a featured singer and host. Curtis then linked up with the Sons of the Pioneers, where Curtis would serve as the group's lead singer from 1949 to 1952. His tenure with the Sons, one of America's earliest Western singing groups, saw the release of hits like "Room Full of Roses" and "(Ghost) Riders in the Sky."

While under contract with Columbia Pictures, Ken Curtis appeared in a series of Western musicals as a singing cowboy-type. These movies saw Curtis alongside the Hoosier Hot Shots, another legendary cowboy music group. By luck of his second marriage, Curtis was suddenly the son-in-law of iconic Western director John Ford, for whom Curtis acted in several movies. 

So, with his profile higher than ever thanks to movies like The Searchers and Rio Grande, Curtis was an identifiable cowboy star. That's when he began appearing on Gunsmoke, first as an unrelated character, but later as the recognizable Festus Haggen. 

The world was finally ready for Ken Curtis merch in a big, big way. We are lucky enough to live in a universe where enough Ken Curtis fans exist to permit the mass production of a vinyl LP with Curtis in character as Festus.

Gunsmoke's Festus Sings And Talks 'Bout Dodge City 'N Stuff features two sides of songs and spoken-word poetry from one of the most popular Western singers in American history. Here, for posterity, we've included the album's tracklist. We hope you'll enjoy it.

SIDE A
1. Festus Talks About Gunsmoke's Dodge City
2. Dodge City
3. Festus Tells About His Grandpa Hawg Haggen
4. The Ballad Of Hawg Haggen
5. Festus Talks About Girls
6. Golly Bill
7. Festus Talks About Teenage Music And Dance
8. Corn Bread And Buttermilk

SIDE B
1. Festus Tells About His Home Town
2. My Home Town
3. Festus Writes To His Girl
4. Phooey On You Little Darlin"
5. Festus Talks About Mules
6. You're Nothin' But A "It"
7. Festus Talks About His Trip To Las Vegas
8. Las Vegas, Nevada

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6 Comments

Mike 6 months ago
Go to YouTube and Search for Ken Curtis.
Back in his Big Band Days, Ken did all kinds of songs for Tommy Dorsey and Shep Fields.
Check out one song in particular: "Breathless", with the Shep Fields Band.
It's a patter song; listen to it, and try to follow the lyrics as Ken sings them - and try to convince yourself that that's Festus belting out that love song ...
Runeshaper 6 months ago
Ken Curtis was such a talented man. It's cool that he had an album. Thanks for sharing, MeTV!
cperrynaples Runeshaper 6 months ago
Yep, but i can't picture him doing Strangers In The Night...LOL!
cperrynaples Runeshaper 6 months ago
PS I'm not sure: Were the Son Of The Pioneers backup for Roy Rogers or Gene Autry?
justjeff cperrynaples 6 months ago
Roy Rogers was once a member of the Sons of the Pioneers, and they later appeared with him in many of Roy's films...
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