June 8

Ken Maynard: Hollywood’s First Singing Cowboy

Ken Maynard: Hollywood's First Singing Cowboy 1
Ken Maynard (image from www.findagrave.com)

Do you still remember the good-looking hero who rides so well and makes extraordinary feats of horsemanship look comparatively simple? Yes, I am talking about Ken Maynard, Hollywood’s first singing cowboy. He first showcased his singing prowess on the big screen in 1930, with his movie, “Song of the Saddle.”

Brief Biography

Ken Maynard was born on July 21, 1895, from a humble family in Mission, Texas. His father, who was a building contractor, became his greatest supporter and motivator. Known as an exceptional horseback rider, he first learned his riding tricks at the age of 8, in Matador Ranch.

When he was 12, Ken got addicted to the activity that he ran away with a cheap wagon show. He stayed there for three weeks before his father came and took him home. For the love of horsemanship, he ran away from home several more times after that incident. His father finally enrolled him in the Virginia Milinary and eventually graduated as an engineer.

Ken Maynard: Hollywood's First Singing Cowboy 2
Ken Maynard (image from www.ingenweb.org)

The rise of a cowboy movie star

He joined different shows until he was enlisted in the Army in 1918. After World War I, he continued to perform on various shows. And in 1923, he entered Hollywood and was introduced to the movies. “Janice Meredith” was his first movie where he played the role as “Paul Revere”, the horseman of another era.

Among the list of his successful movies are “The Red Raiders,” “Paradise of the West,” “Branded Men,” “Strawberry Roan,” “King of the Arena,” “Fiddlin Buckaroo,” and “$50 000 Reward.” According to records, he was making up to $1,000 a week at the peak of his career.

As estimated by researchers, there were roughly 300 films Maynard had starred or casted in.

The legacy he left

Aside from his famous persona of a bashful cowboy hero who often wears a broad-brimmed white hat and spangled boots, he is also respected for not smoking or drinking on screen. In an interview, he expressed his concern about the kids who watch his shows. He thought it wasn’t right for them to see drinking and smoking on the screen.

What people can definitely remember about him is the gentle strumming of his guitar accompanied by his gentle voice as he sang soft ballads. Other than that, his skills on rodeo and riding are considered one of a kind. He flourished as one of the era’s most popular movie stars.

During his later years, Ken Maynard lived alone in a trailer court found in San Fernando Valley. He died on March 24, 1973, at the age of 77.

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Ken Maynard, Singing Cowboy

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