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Cowboy Music: Arizona Wranglers

No story of Rex Allen is complete without a chapter on the Arizona Wranglers. The Phoenix-based cowboy singing group the Arizona Wranglers helped popularize the singing western. The Wranglers were among the first groups to appear in the sound western, and the group itself featured several B-movie performers, including Glenn Strange (Rex Allen’s cousin best known for his role as bartender Sam Noonan on the CBS series Gunsmoke), Arkansas Johnny Luther, Jack Kirk, Jack Jones, Chuck Baldra and "Cactus Mack" McPeters.

Groups like the Wranglers and the Sons of the Pioneers, popular in the 1920s and 1930s, built a new genre and library of music with songs glorifying the “cowboy ethos” and stories of horses, cattle, “night herds,” tall timber, prairies and the open range.

The Wranglers started crooning on the Phoenix radio station KOY. Original member Glenn Strange joined the group after appearing at the rodeo in Prescott. By 1930, the Wranglers were singing cowboy songs in Hollywood. One such song was their 1931 hit, “The Strawberry Roan.” Originally penned by the cowboy poet Curley Fletcher, “The Strawberry Roan” captivates the imagination with the story of a bronc buster bested by spirited and unrideable horse. 

Radio groups such as the Arizona Wranglers helped popularize the singing western.