By Martin Grams
While he may not have received the honor of gracing a U.S. postage stamp like Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, William S. Hart and Tom Mix, Tex Fletcher deserves recognition for his efforts to entertain theater and radio audiences. There are hundreds of screen cowboy stars that never became iconic simply because the movie studios never gave them the opportunity.
For Fletcher, that opportunity came in late 1938 when the Arcadia Pictures Corporation approached the singing cowboy about the potential of doing his own series of cowboy movies - six, to be exact. Released through Grand National Pictures, the advertisements hailed "Radio's Number One Singer of Western Songs is Now The Screen's Latest
Gun-Throwin', Fist-Slingin' Star!" The movie was Six-Gun Rhythm and was designed to capitalize on the growing popularity of the WOR radio personality.
Six-Gun Rhythm was released theatrically in the summer of 1939 (some theaters offered the movie as early as May) and was often paired up with Republic Pictures' cliffhanger serial chapter plays such as Dick Tracy Returns,which is a bit of a rarity at that time because it wasn't often that theaters were offering two films in one showing, from separate studios. In the movie, Fletcher plays the role of a professional football player who deserts his post and returns
to his Texas home, after learning that his father was murdered. After a few encounters with outlaws whom the law cannot seem to control, Fletcher temporarily substitutes his guitar for a six-shooter and rounds the baddies up.
Fletcher's opportunity was short-lived. Weeks after the movie's release, Grand National filedbankruptcy and Fletcher's screen career was pre-maturely cut. The singing cowboy did what any enterprising young man would do: he snatched up a couple prints of the movie and went on a personal tour across the country in his car. Screening the movie, performing onstage and signing autographs for fans, he made a nice living during his brief tour, before making a comeback to radio.
I guess this is a great time to point out that there are generally two kinds of cowboy westerns. Those like Six-Gun Rhythm feature contemporary American settings, utilizing Old West themes and motifs. For the most part, they still take place in the American West and reveal the progression of the Old West into the 20th Century. The other type of western is that which takes place during the latter half of the 19th century, often revealing ranchers and farmers trying to settle down in a desolate and hard life, also set in American Old West.
Texfletcher.com gratefully acknowledges noted author and researcher Martin Grams for his invaluable assistance in providing information and insight relating to Tex Fletcher's career.