Tex Ritter

Woodward Maurice "Tex" Ritter (January 12, 1905 – January 2, 1974) was an American country music singer and actor popular from the mid 1930s into the 1960s, and the patriarch of the Ritter acting family (son John, grandsons Jason and Tyler, and granddaughter Carly). He is a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Tex Ritter
Ritter in May 1966
Background information
Birth nameWoodward Maurice Ritter
Born(1905-01-12)January 12, 1905
Murvaul, Texas, U.S.
DiedJanuary 2, 1974(1974-01-02) (aged 68)
Nashville, Tennessee, U.S.
Occupation(s)Singer, actor
Instrumentsvocals, guitar
Years active1928–1973
LabelsColumbia, Decca, Capitol

Early life

Tex Ritter was born Woodward Maurice Ritter on January 12, 1905, in Murvaul, Texas,[1] the son of Martha Elizabeth (née Matthews) and James Everett Ritter. He grew up on his family's farm in Panola County, Texas, and attended grade school in Carthage, Texas. He attended South Park High School in Beaumont, Texas. After graduating with honors, he entered the University of Texas at Austin in 1922[2] to study pre-law and major in government, political science, and economics. After traveling to Chicago with a musical troupe, he entered Northwestern Law School.[1]


Radio and Broadway

An early pioneer of country music, Ritter soon became interested in show business. In 1928, he sang on KPRC-AM in Houston, Texas,[3] a 30-minute program of mostly cowboy songs. That same year, he moved to New York City and landed a job in the men's chorus of the Broadway show The New Moon (1928). He appeared as cowboy Cord Elam in the Broadway production Green Grow the Lilacs (1931),[2] the basis for the musical Oklahoma! He also played the part of Sagebrush Charlie in The Round Up (1932)[4] and Mother Lode (1934).

In 1932, he starred in New York City's first broadcast Western, The Lone Star Rangers on WOR-AM, where he sang and told tales of the Old West. Ritter wrote and starred in Cowboy Tom's Roundup on WINS-AM in 1933, a daily children's cowboy program aired over two other East Coast stations for three years. He also performed on the radio show WHN Barndance and sang on NBC Radio shows; and appeared in several radio dramas, including CBS's Bobby Benson's Adventures.[5]


In 1936, Ritter moved to Los Angeles. His motion picture debut was in Song of the Gringo (1936) for Grand National Pictures.[2] He went on to appear in 70 movies as an actor, and 76 on movie soundtracks. He attracted special attention in 1952 for his rendition of "The Ballad of High Noon" over the opening credits of the celebrated film High Noon, and later sang it at that year's Academy Awards ceremony, where it won Best Original Song.

Poster from 1942 film


Ritter's recording career was his most successful period. He was the first artist signed with the newly formed Capitol Records.[1]

In 1944, he scored a hit with "I'm Wastin' My Tears on You", which hit number one on the country chart and number 11 on the pop chart. An article in the trade publication Billboard noted 14 years later that with that song, he "reached the style of rhythmic tune that would assure his musical stature".[6]

In 1952 Ritter recorded "The Ballad of High Noon" for the film High Noon. He performed the track at the first televised Academy Awards ceremony in 1953, and it received an Oscar for Best Song that year.[7]


When television began to compete with movies for American audiences Ritter began to make appearances on the new medium. His first was in 1955, following 71 straight movie appearances, and his last in 1965, followed by five final film roles. He also appeared on 12 television soundtracks.

Later work

Ritter became one of the founding members of the Country Music Association in Nashville, Tennessee, and spearheaded the effort to build the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum into which he was inducted in 1964.[2]

He moved to Nashville in 1965 and began working for WSM Radio and the Grand Ole Opry, earning a lifetime membership in the latter in 1970.[2]

Personal life

Ritter's grave marker in Port Neches in Jefferson County, Texas

Ritter had a heart attack and died in Nashville in 1974, 10 days before his 69th birthday. He was survived by his wife and two sons, one a popular actor John. Following the death of his son John at the age of 54 from an aortic dissection in 2003, the family now believes that Tex died of it as well, as the condition appears to run in the family.[8]


For his contribution to the recording industry, Ritter has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6631 Hollywood Boulevard.[9] In 1980, he was inducted into the Western Performers Hall of Fame[10] at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. He was a member of the charter group of inductees into the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame in Carthage, in 1998.[11]

In 1986, Ritter was honored posthumously with a Golden Boot Award for his work in Western films.[12]

Selected filmography

  • Song of the Gringo (1936) – Tex
  • Headin' for the Rio Grande (1936) – Tex Saunders
  • Arizona Days (1937) – Tex Malinson
  • Trouble in Texas (1937) – Tex Masters
  • Hittin' the Trail (1937) – Tex Randall
  • Sing, Cowboy, Sing (1937) – Tex Archer
  • Riders of the Rockies (1937) – Tex Rand
  • The Mystery of the Hooded Horsemen (1937) – Tex Martin
  • Tex Rides with the Boy Scouts (1937) – Tex Collins
  • Frontier Town (1938) – Tex Lansing, alias Tex Rawlins
  • Rollin' Plains (1938) – Tex Lawrence
  • The Utah Trail (1938) – Tex Stewart, posing as the Pecos Kid
  • Starlight Over Texas (1938) – Tex Newman
  • Where the Buffalo Roam (1938) – Tex Houston
  • Song of the Buckaroo (1938) – Texas Dan
  • Sundown on the Prairie (1939) – Tex
  • Rollin' Westward (1939) – Tex
  • Man from Texas (1939) – Tex Allen
  • Down the Wyoming Trail (1939) – Tex Yancey
  • Riders of the Frontier (1939) – Tex Lowery
  • Westbound Stage (1939) – Tex Wallace
  • Rhythm of the Rio Grande (1940) – Tex Regan
  • Pals of the Silver Sage (1940) – Tex Wright
  • The Cowboy from Sundown (1940) – Sheriff Tex Rockett
  • The Golden Trail (1940) – Tex Roberts
  • Rainbow Over the Range (1940) – Tex Reed
  • Roll Wagons Roll (1940) – Tex Masters
  • Arizona Frontier (1940) – Tex
  • Take Me Back to Oklahoma (1940) – Tex Lawton
  • Rolling Home to Texas (1940) – Tex Reed
  • Ridin' the Cherokee Trail (1941) – Ranger Lt. Tex Ritter
  • The Pioneers (1941) – Tex
  • King of Dodge City (1941) – Tex Rawlings
  • Roaring Frontiers (1941) – Tex Martin (listed as Tex Rawlings)
  • The Lone Star Vigilantes (1942) – Tex Martin
  • Bullets for Bandits (1942) – Sheriff Tex Martin
  • North of the Rockies (1942) – Tex Martin
  • The Devil's Trail (1942) – Marshal Tex Martin
  • Prairie Gunsmoke (1942) – Tex Terrell
  • Vengeance of the West (1942) – California Ranger Captain Tex Lake
  • Deep in the Heart of Texas (1942) – Brent Gordon
  • Little Joe, the Wrangler (1942) – Sheriff Bob Brewster
  • The Old Chisholm Trail (1942) – Montana Smith
  • Tenting Tonight on the Old Camp Ground (1943) – Bob Courtney
  • Cheyenne Roundup (1943) – Steve Rawlins
  • Raiders of San Joaquin (1943) – Gil Blake
  • The Lone Star Trail (1943) – Fargo Steele
  • Frontier Badmen (1943) – Jerry Kimball (cattle buyer)
  • Arizona Trail (1943) – Johnnie Trent
  • Marshal of Gunsmoke (1944) – Marshal Ward Bailey
  • Cowboy Canteen (1944) – Tex Coulter
  • Oklahoma Raiders (1944) – Steve Nolan
  • Gangsters of the Frontier (1944) – Tex Haines
  • Dead or Alive (1944) – Tex Haines aka Idaho Kid
  • The Whispering Skull (1944) – Tex Haines
  • Marked for Murder (1945) – Tex Haines
  • Enemy of the Law (1945) – Tex Haines
  • Three in the Saddle (1945) – Tex Haines
  • Frontier Fugitives (1945) – Texas Ranger Tex Haines
  • Flaming Bullets (1945) – Texas Ranger Tex Haines
  • Holiday Rhythm (1950) – Tex Ritter
  • Buffalo Bill in Tomahawk Territory (1952) – stock footage from "Where the Buffalo Roam" (uncredited, archive footage)
  • The Marshal's Daughter (1953) – Background Singer (singing voice)
  • Wichita (1955) – Singer
  • Apache Ambush (1955) – Traeger
  • The First Bad Man (1955) – Narrator
  • Down Liberty Road (1956) – George
  • Trooper Hook (1957) – Title Song Singer (voice)
  • Ranch Party (1958, TV Series – regular)
  • Tom and Jerry (1965, TV Series) – alternate host
  • Nashville Rebel (1966) – Himself
  • The Girl from Tobacco Row (1966) – Preacher Bolton
  • What Am I Bid? (1967) – Tex Ritter
  • The Marshal of Windy Hollow (1972) – Windy Hollow mayor
  • Sing a Country Song (1973) – Ryan (final film role)



Year Album US Country Label
1948 "Children's Songs and Stories" (4 p's 78's in a cover with pictures) Capitol
1954 Cowboy Favorites (4 p's 78's in a cover with pictures)
1958 Songs from the Western Screen
1960 Blood on the Saddle
1961 Lincoln Hymns
Hillbilly Heaven
1962 Stan Kenton! Tex Ritter!
1963 Border Affair
1965 Friendly Voice
1966 The Best of Tex Ritter 38
1967 Sweet Land of Liberty 43
Just Beyond the Moon 18
1968 Bump Tiddil Dee Bum Bum! 38
Wild West
1969 Chuck Wagon Days
1970 Green Green Valley
1972 Super Country Legendary
1973 An American Legend 7
1974 Fall Away 44
1976 Comin' After Jinny


Year Single Chart Positions Album
US Country US
1944 "I'm Wastin' My Tears on You" 1 11 singles only
"There's a New Moon Over My Shoulder" 2 21
1945 "Jealous Heart" 2
"You Two-Timed Me One Time Too Often" 1
1946 "You Will Have To Pay" 1
"Christmas Carols by the Old Corral" 2
"Long Time Gone" 5
"When You Leave, Don't Slam the Door" 3
"Have I Told You Lately that I Love You?" 3
1948 "Rye Whiskey" 9
"The Deck of Cards" 10
"Pecos Bill" (w/ Andy Parker & The Plainsmen) 15
"Rock and Rye" 5
1950 "Daddy's Last Letter" 6
1952 "High Noon (Do Not Forsake Me)" 12
1956 "The Wayward Wind" 28
1961 "I Dreamed of a Hill-Billy Heaven" 5 20 Hillbilly Heaven
1966 "The Men in My Little Girl's Life" 50 Just Beyond the Moon
1967 "Just Beyond the Moon" 13
"A Working Man's Prayer" 59 single only
1968 "Texas" 69 Wild West
1969 "A Funny Thing Happened (On the Way to Miami)" 53 singles only
"Growin' Up" 39
1970 "Green Green Valley" 57 Green Green Valley
1971 "Fall Away" 67 Fall Away
1972 "Comin' After Jinny" 67 Comin' After Jinny
1974 "The Americans (A Canadian's Opinion)" 35 90 An American Legend


  1. "Tex Ritter: Movie Star, Recoding Artist, All-Around Talent". Billboard. February 26, 1972. p. CMHF 22. Retrieved December 26, 2016.
  2. "Tex Ritter". Country Music Hall of Fame. Retrieved December 26, 2016.
  3. Sies, Luther F. (2014). Encyclopedia of American Radio, 1920–1960, 2nd Edition. McFarland & Company, Inc. ISBN 978-0-7864-5149-4. P. 558.
  4. ""The Round Up" Cast". Playbill Vault. Retrieved December 26, 2016.
  5. Terrace, Vincent (1999). Radio Programs, 1924–1984: A Catalog of More Than 1800 Shows. McFarland & Company, Inc. ISBN 978-0-7864-4513-4. P. 48.
  6. "Golden Era of Success". Billboard. December 7, 1968. p. 46. Retrieved December 26, 2016.
  7. Archived October 30, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  8. "Actor John Ritter's wife brings message of awareness to condition that led to his death". Abc13.com. Retrieved January 25, 2020.
  9. "Tex Ritter". Hollywood Walk of Fame. Retrieved December 26, 2016.
  10. "Great Western Performers". National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. Retrieved December 26, 2016.
  11. "1998 Inductees..." Texas Country Music Hall of Fame. Retrieved December 26, 2016.
  12. "The Golden Boot Awards". B-Westerns.com. Retrieved December 27, 2016.
  13. Whitburn, Joel (2011). Top Pop Singles 1955–2010. Record Research, Inc. p. 753. ISBN 978-0-89820-188-8.
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