Western singer and eventual Newhall resident Tex Williams stars in the 1949 musical short feature from Universal Pictures, "South of Santa Fe."
... Not to be confused with the 1932 full-length feature of the same name starring Bob Steele, or the 1942 version starring Roy Rogers — both of which
were filmed in Placerita Canyon. "South of Santa Fe" seems to have been a popular name for movies with an SCV connection.
This 8x10-inch glossy print, a publicity photo, was in the Neil Summers Collection. Summers, an actor-stuntman from Utah ("The Shawshank Redemption," "Glory," "Mars Attacks!")
owns one of the world's largest collections of Western movie memorabilia.
In this photo, Tex Williams is leaning against the tree at left. We don't know where this picture was filmed; many of Williams' 1949-1950 musical shorts for Universal were shot
elswewhere in the L.A. area. Produced and directed by Will Cowan, the picture features a cast of
Eugene "Smokey" Rogers,
Ethan Laidlaw and Harry Calkin.
Williams, Smokey Rogers (from Spade Cooley's band), Deuce Spriggins (Sons of the Pioneers) and others performed as The Western Caravan.
Born Aug. 23, 1917, in Ramsey, Ill., Sollie Paul "Tex" Williams was Spade Cooley's lead singer and guitarist in the 1940s when Western swing was at its zenith. Tex struck out on his own as "Tex Williams and His Western Caravan" and recorded his biggest hit, "Smoke! Smoke! Smoke! (That Cigarette)," in 1947.
Written for him by Merle Travis, the song stayed at No. 1 on the Billboard charts for six weeks and became Capitol Records' first million-selling issue.
Tex made his motion picture debut in 1943; Universal Studios (as Universal-International) put him under contract in 1948, just as the era of the "B" Western was drawing to a close. Tex starred in a couple of dozen short musical features (approx. 25-minute runtime) through 1950.
Tex Williams and His Western Caravan remained popular touring and radio stars in the 1950s. In the 1960s, Tex and wife Dallas (1916-2001) moved to the Happy Valley section of Newhall after their house in Bel Air burned down, and Tex bought the old French Village nightclub on San Fernando Road (later called Newhall Avenue).
Inducted into the Downtown Newhall Walk of Western Stars in 1983, Mr. "Smoke! Smoke! Smoke!" had a running battle with cancer and ultimately succumbed to kidney failure at Newhall Community Hospital on Oct. 11, 1985. Both Tex and Dallas are buried in the Zane Grey Garden at Eternal Valley Cemetery in Newhall.
Further reading: Recollecting My Neighbor, Tex Williams by Patti Rasmussen.
LW3000: 9600 dpi jpeg from original photograph purchased 2017 by Leon Worden, ex-Neil Summers Collection.