Rex Allen Jr. keeping Country & Western music strong

The son of Hollywood’s last singing cowboy believes the so-called death of cowboy music has been greatly exaggerated.

The son of Hollywood’s last singing cowboy believes the so-called death of cowboy music has been greatly exaggerated.

“Western music has to reach outside of North America to remain alive,” said Rex Allen Jr. — and he believes that’s already happened. “It’s especially popular in the EU, in Japan” — even Down Under.

The singer who followed his famous father, film star Rex Allen, into performing, will sing on Aug. 13, at the Daines Country Music Pick-Nic near Innisfail.

His recent cover of the popular song Ride Cowboy Ride reached the Top 5 on country charts in New Zealand, Australia, as well as the U.K. Allen Jr. said, “They’re playing it all over Canada too …”

While Country & Western music was never mainstream, it’s fallen in popularity in parts of the U.S., where country/rock or country/pop prevail on radio.

Allen Jr. doesn’t think much of this trend, saying “Country music stinks right now.” He believes public taste are bound to swing back to more traditional country music, with its romantic and nostalgic associations.

“Western music … is about man’s ability to deal with nature,” he added. “It’s very humanistic music, about man against the world … You think of somebody being out alone on the Prairies. That image of a cowboy riding off into the sunset is not one you’ll forget …”

Allen Jr. is one of Rex Allen’s five children. His dad, who became a singing cowboy for Republic Pictures after Roy Rogers and Gene Autry, was a top Hollywood box-office draw in the early to mid-1950s. He later narrated Walt Disney’s nature shows.

Rex Allen’s big-time success didn’t keep his son from catching the performing bug from his old man.

Allen Jr. noted, “It wasn’t difficult for me (to follow in his footsteps) because in many ways, my dad was a reluctant recording artist. He only had two or three records. He was more focused on narration and films.”

In contrast, the younger Allen dived into recording. His string of 50 hits include: Goodbye (1974), I’m Gettin Good At Missing You (Solitaire) (1977), Lonely Street (1977), Two Less Lonely People (1977), With Love (1978), If I Fell in Love With You (1979), It’s Over (1980), Drink it Down, Lady (1980), and Cup of Tea (1980, a duet with Margo Smith). He’s also the singer/composer of the alternate state anthem, Arizona.

Allen Jr. was a regular on The Statler Brothers Show on The Nashville Network in the 1990s, and hosted the spin-off series, Yesteryear. He also narrated the Jim Carrey film Me, Myself and Irene. “They were looking for a Rex Allen-type voice and someone suggested me,” he recalled.

The singer, who was inducted into the Western Music Hall of Fame, is looking forward to renewing his acquaintance with Alberta by performing for the first time at the Daines Country Music Pick-Nic.

He noted his father had brought him up to Canada when he frequently hosted the Calgary Stampede. “We have a lot of history in your country.”

For tickets and more information about the festival with David Frizzell, Duane Steele, Marty Haggard and others, please contact the Black Knight Ticket Centre.

lmichelin@bprda.wpengine.com