Rex Allen: A Cross-Eyed Hero from Willcox
WILLCOX – Most fans of the old Western B movies watched Rex Allen fight the outlaws and rescue the heroines without ever realizing that he was once a cross-eyed country singer who performed at barn dances.
Fortunately for everyone involved (Allen and fans alike), he had corrective surgery shortly after his singing career took off in Chicago. But his eye problem is prominently mentioned on a bronze plaque placed next to his statue in Railroad Avenue Park in Willcox. The larger-than-life bronze sits across the street from the Rex Allen Arizona Cowboy Museum and the Willcox Cowboy Hall of Fame.
Allen was born in Willcox and got his start playing and singing with local bands before finding fame as a recording artist and movie hero. Allen portrayed a singing cowboy in 19 movies, then moved on to television once the B Westerns rode off into the sunset. After starring as Dr. Bill Baxter for 39 episodes of the TV series “Frontier Doctor,” Allen found regular work as a narrator for a wide variety of Disney productions. He was also the voice of 150 Disney cartoon characters.
After his death in 1999, his ashes were spread over the park which also contains the remains of his horse, Koko.
Rex Allen, was one of my childhood movie favorite cowboys. Also loved his horse, KoKo..On Saturdays I spent many an afternoon at the downtown theater, watching double matinee usually of western, comic, or Mystery movies. This was before TV came to my small home town. In the summer, we also enjoyed the theater’s Air Conditioner! It was only a dime for a ticket and candy bars were a nickle, popcorn was a dime, during this time in late 1940’s. Fond memories of childhood days growing up in southern AZ. I’ve visited the Rex Allen Museum in Willcox and found it interesting.
Rex Allen was one of my favorite film/TV cowboys and voices. In the 1960s, I was lucky enough to see him perform at a couple of rodeos, one being the Phoenix Jaycees’ Rodeo of Rodeos at the old rodeo grounds, before the Coliseum was finished. That was a great experience. He really doesn’t get enough credit for the voiceover work he did in Disney nature films. I do not believe that they would have had the same tremendous success if they had been voiced by any other actor.
I am a voice actor who got to meet Rex Allen Sr. In quite an embarrassing way. I was in Tucson at Porter Sound Studios in 1990, getting ready to record a TV commercial for Old Tucson Studios, where many classic westerns and TV shows such as “Rio Bravo” and “The High Chaparral” were filmed. Fred Porter, the owner and engineer of the studio, when taking my mic levels, accidentally called me “Rex”, instead of “Tex”. Joking around, I told Fred, “Well, I can be Rex if you want me to.” At that point, I started reading my lines as Rex Allen, as I did a very good impression of him. Unbeknownst to me in the booth, Rex Allen, who had the next recording session after mine, had just walked into the control room with Fred and said over the intercom, “Hey son, that’s not half bad!” At that point, I looked up from my script and saw him standing there. I came out to shake his hand and explained why I was doing his voice. Fred told me that is why he had accidentally called me Rex, as he knew Rex was waiting for our session to end. After the session, I spoke to Rex, and he was a wonderful gentleman, just as I knew that he would be. It was Fred Porter who broke the news to me a few years later that Rex was killed when his driver accidentally backed up over him in Rex’s driveway. Very tragic end for one of my heroes, but I’ll always remember that wonderful voice and kind man.