Cowboy Rex Allen performed as a narrator, singer, and actor in more than 40 Disney westerns, primarily for the Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color television series. Among his film and television credits are Pancho, the Fastest Paw in the West, The Legend of Lobo, and Charlie, the Lonesome Cougar.
Fans remember Rex as the honey-voiced baritone who, guitar in hand and astride his horse Koko, epitomized the spirit of the West.
A true cowboy, Rex owned no other clothes but western togs and boots. He once recalled Walt’s reaction when he arrived at the Studio wearing a borrowed suit. Rex said, “Walt came up to me and said, ‘Hardly recognized you incognito.’”
Born December 31, 1922, in Willcox, Arizona, Rex started his life on a remote ranch. There, he quickly learned to ride, rope, and shoot, as well as haul water, split wood, and hoe weeds. As a boy, he loved to sing in the church choir. His high school music teacher, who recognized his talent, encouraged him to study music. Despite winning a scholarship to Eastern Arizona Junior College for his solo of “Lost in London Town,” Rex decided instead to hit the dusty trail, performing in rodeos, night clubs, and on the radio.
In 1944, he won a singing gig on WLS in Chicago that lasted more than four years until he earned his very own Rex Allen Radio Show for CBS. He then lassoed a contract with Republic Pictures to make his first movie, The Arizona Cowboy. Rex went on to appear in more than 30 Republic Westerns, including Under Mexicali Stars, Thunder in God’s Country, and The Old Overland Trail.
A talented composer, Rex also penned more than 300 compositions. His records ranked among the nation’s top sellers, including the single “Crying in the Chapel” and his album Under Western Skies.
It wasn’t long before the “Voice of the West” moved into television, appearing in such popular series as Frontier Doctor. In 1956, he began his association with The Walt Disney Studios when he narrated Cow Dog, which was nominated for an Academy Award®. His other Disney credits include The Incredible Journey, A Country Coyote Goes Hollywood, Ringo, the Refugee Raccoon, Horse of the West, The Feather Farm, The Wahoo Bobcat, and My Family Is a Menagerie, among others.
Rex also lent his voice to Disney theme parks, performing live at Disneyland on numerous occasions. He might best be remembered for providing the voice of “Father” in General Electric’s Carousel of Progress, which debuted at the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair and subsequently appeared at Disneyland and Walt Disney World. An updated version of the show, which debuted in 1993, features Rex in the role of Grandfather.
Rex Allen passed away on December 17, 1999, in Tucson, Arizona.