Bet you a dram you wouldn’t guess that the cowboy seeking solace on his donkey studied political science at the University of Texas and planned to be a lawyer. But that’s exactly what Tex Ritter did.
Music, like good whisky, is a passion. And passion drove Ritter to choose the music rooted in his Texas childhood over a law career. He came out of Texas in 1928 and made it big in New York as a radio star, giving country and western music street cred in a market that was engulfed in the Jazz Age, when and eighteen wheelers were a mirage in the eyes of Jimmy Hoffa. He used an airplane, not a donkey like the one he is riding in the movie clip from Song of The Gringos, to head out to Hollywood, where he became America’s first big singing cowboy star, there making over three dozen movies. For a spell even Gene Autry ate his dust. In one of his early films, Ritter played alongside young Latino actress Rita Cansino, who became Rita Hayworth.
The lyrics to the traditional folk song we know as “Rye Whiskey” aren’t much. But in a nation coming out of Prohibition, mentioning the theme in a Hollywood movie was a clear indication that it was okay for Americans to kick back and have a good time.
Ritter moved on to Nashville where he became an iconic character, helping to launch the Country Music Hall of Fame, the place where some of world’s greatest whisky lyric writers can be found. Tex is there. He’s got a star on Hollywood Boulevard too.