The featured star of this year's Days of '47 Rodeo - aside from the broncos and rodeo stock - is Rex Allen Jr., who was here five years ago in the same capacity.
(The rodeo continues this week with performances tonight and Saturday at 7:30, then concludes with shows at 2:30 and 7:30 p.m. on Monday. No performances on Sunday.)When maestro/impressario Eugene Jelesnik, who books entertainment for the rodeo, brought Rex Jr. into the office a few weeks ago, Allen brought us up to date on what he's been doing since his previous Salt Lake visit.
For one thing, his family has expanded. On March 8 of this year, Rex's wife, Judy, gave birth to a pair of premature twin boys - Cody Clark Allen, who was born at 8:16 p.m. and weighed 5 pounds, 8 ounces, and Logan Martin Allen, who followed at 8:24 p.m., weighing 5 ounces less than his older brother.
The boys' middle names have genealogical roots. Rex's mother's maiden name was Clark and Judy's mother's maiden name was Martin.
Wyatt, the Allens' 8-year-old, had requested a boy and a girl, instead of twin brothers.
(Wyatt, who traveled to Salt Lake back in '83 with both his mom and dad, is the No. 3-ranked swimmer in Tennessee in his age group. I'm not surprised. When he was here before, he probably spent more time in the Marriott Hotel swimming pool than he did in his folks' suite. Wyatt is also a black belt in karate and enjoys tennis and baseball.)
Judy and the boys are staying home in Tennessee this year, although Wyatt might travel out to spend one weekend in Salt Lake City with his dad.
Rex's own father, who also appeared many times during his long career in Salt Lake City - and who frequently brought Rex Jr. to the local rodeos - no longer makes personal appearances. Rex Jr. and his father worked some dates together a couple of years ago in the Midwest. Rex Sr. is 67 now and has lost the vision in one eye. However, implant surgery has been successful in the other eye and he can see enough to drive and get around.
Rex Sr. lives in the Tucson area in the rugged Southwest high country reminiscent of the cowboys-and-Indians movies he used to film.
The elder Rex, of course, was one of the most famous of the Hollywood "singing cowboys."
Although Rex Jr. and his family still live in Nashville, they're contemplating eventually moving to Arizona, too. (He's very welcome there. His recording of "Arizona" is the official state song - a fact Allen points to with considerable and well-earned pride. And "Arizona" is also the name of his backup band.)
Some of Allen's Top-40 singles include such country-western hits as "Running Down Memory Lane," "Dream On Texas Ladies" and "Cowboy in a Three-Piece Business Suit."
One of Rex's big hits in the early 1980s was "Last of the Silver Screen Cowboys," and when we interviewed him five years ago, there were plans afoot to film a new western, "Ride, Cowboy, Ride."
But, as frequently happens with Hollywood deals, the financing fell through and the project went awry.
"I'm not sure if the guy (the would-be producer) was fraudulent or not. If he was, he fooled Paul Williams (who was going to co-star) and a lot of other people, along with their management and record companies. He simply couldn't get the financing put together. When that movie went down the tubes, my agent called from California about doing a possible singing cowboy movie, but after reading the script, I turned it down. I'd have to spend the rest of my life apologizing for my father's image. It was in very poor taste," Allen said.
The producer also sent scripts to Allen's dad and to Roy Rogers - and both came very close to suing the company.
A few months later Rex Jr. discovered just how shoddy some of Hollywood's methods are. He got a call from someone working for Warner Bros. Records, explaining that the producers of "Rustlers' Rhapsody" wanted to use his recording of Steve Dorff's "Last of the Silver Screen Cowboys" as part of that film.
After two months of legal wrangling, it ended up that the record company could do anything it wanted to, since it owned the rights.
"If they wanted to use my songs as part of `Deep Throat IV,' they could," Allen said.
I told Rex that my family and I were quite surprised to hear "Silver Screen Cowboys" over the closing credits of "Rustlers' Rhapsody," because we had been anticipating his own feature-length film.
Allen commented that, for those who notice such things, the recording utilized for the film fades out and turns into an instrumental piece at the point where his dad and Roy Rogers had done some narration on the original record. Roy and Rex Sr. weren't contracted to Warner Bros. Records, so they simply ended the vocal portion of the song there rather than renegotiate a price for their services.
But, regardless of Rex Jr.'s disenchantment over the way his "Ride, Cowboy, Ride" project turned out, he hopes eventually that kind of gentle western film will make a comeback.
When Rex visits a town to perform in concert or star in a rodeo, he likes to get involved with the community. He noted that one Midwestern city he visited recently had done absolutely no public relations work when he appeared there for a rodeo, so - on his own - he set up visits to children's hospitals and made other public appearances.
He said the Days of '47 Rodeo is one of the three best rodeos in the United States.
Others that are outstanding include the renowned Pendleton Roundup and rodeos in Nampa, Idaho, and San Antonio and Houston, Texas.
Commenting on his career, Allen noted that his father "always said if you do a good job, they'll ask you back."
Allen must be doing a good job. Eighty-five percent of his work is repeat business.