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Red River Dave McEnery

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Red River Dave Give Name: David McEnery
Date of Birth: December 15, 1914
Place of Birth: San Antonio, Texas
Marital Status: Alberta Hayes
Musical Syle: Singing Cowboy
Talents: Vocals, Guitar, Banjo, Yodeler

One of numerous strong-voiced singing cowboys who worked in films and radio as well as records, Red River Dave is distinguished by his uncanny ability to create topical songs and modern-day "event" songs. Though he has a number of impressive firsts to his credit, modern fans probably remember him best for songs like Amelia Earhart’s Last Flight and The Ballad of Patty Hearst. Dave began his career in Texas during the Depression, singing over local San Antonio stations as well as the notorious "border" stations along the Mexican border. Unlike a lot of silver screen cowboys, Dave had a real cowboy background, and learned many of his stories and tales directly from the old trail drivers and cowboys around the ranches near his home. As a teenager, he became adept at doing rope tricks, similar to Will Rogers, and was winning Texas state championships in yodeling. By 1938, he was in New York, doing his own network radio show for Mutual and later for NBC. Along with Texas Jim Robertson, Wilf Carter, and Elton Britt, Red River Dave popularized cowboy songs for a generation of middle-class Americans. In 1939 Dave took his band to the New York World’s Fair and participated in an experiment called television - thereby becoming the first singing television star. By now he was also recording for Decca, initiating a discography that would eventually total over 200 sides - not including radio transcriptions. His warm baritone delighted thousands of fans when his theme song wafted out of radio speakers: Is the Range Still the Same?. After a stint in the service in WWII, he relocated to Hollywood, where he appeared in films with the likes of Jimmy Wakely, Rosalie Allen, and the Hoosier Hot Shots. In 1948, Universal Films featured Dave in a series of movie shorts, but he was camera shy and after three of these "movies," he was replaced by Tex Williams. Returning to Texas in the 1950’s, he enjoyed a long-running TV show and then retired for a time to sell real estate. The 1970’s, though, saw him making a comeback in Nashville, where he taught many of his yodeling tricks to a young protégé, Doug Green, of Riders in the Sky. In Texas in the 1960’s Dave found out he could record and release on his own 45 rpm labels a variety of topical songs and proceeded to do so. He did songs about WWII (I Want to Give My Dog to Uncle Sam) and about Vietnam (Viet Nam Guitar); he did songs about James Dean, Billy Graham, the Kennedy years, Emmet Till, the Bay of Pigs, the Manson murders, Watergate, Don Larson (he of the perfect game) and the deaths of Bing Crosby and Bob Wills. Some of his more bizarre songs dealt with an eccentric Texas woman who wanted to be buried in her blue Ferrari, and a Kenyan witch doctor who managed to glue together two adulterous lovers (The Clinging Lovers of Kenya). Eventually he returned to California, where he appeared at Knot’s Berry Farm and continued to write - one effort chronicling the events of the Gulf War. Sadly, none of these topical efforts on independent labels have ever been collected or offered to a general audience, but they remain Red River Dave’s most interesting contribution to the Country genre.


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