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He was born in 1914, in Mineola (Howard County), but by 1920, the family had moved to Oklahoma City. He started life as a farmer, but his exceptional musical talent opened doors to a much different world. In 1935, he organized a trio that was good enough to gain a sponsor, Bell Clothing. The Bell Trio performed at local events, made studio recordings and was heard often on an Oklahoma City radio station.

The famous singing cowboy star Gene Autry was on tour through Oklahoma City, heard him and his trio, and asked them to be part of Autry's new "Melody Ranch Radio Show" on CBS Radio, where they appeared for two years. In 1939, he made his movie debut when he and his group, now called The Rough Riders, appeared with Roy Rogers in Republic Pictures's "Saga at Death Valley." In 1941, he signed a six-year contract with Decca Records. Then, in 1942, he appeared with Autry in a movie titled "Heart of the Rio Grande." Over the next few years, he and the trio went on to sing their way through other B-Westerns with stars such as Hopalong Cassidy, Johnny Mack Brown, Don "Red" Berry (Red Ryder) and Charles Sterritt (The Durango Kid). He appeared as himself in a movie titled "I'm From Arkansas," a comedy about a sow in the fictional town of Pitchfork, Ark., who gave birth to 18 piglets.

Monogram Pictures signed him to star in his own Westerns, patterning the success other studio were having with the likes of Gene Autry and Roy Rogers. From 1944 through 1949, he starred in 28 Westerns, usually using his own name as the lead character. Among the last of Hollywood's singing cowboys, his silky-smooth croon earned him the moniker "the Bing Crosby of C&W." In 1949, he obtained a release from his contract with Monogram to focus on his successful recording career and personal appearances.

From 1952 through 1958, he had his own program on CBS Radio. He made frequent appearances on TV variety shows and, in the 1960s, developed Shasta Records and owned two music-publishing companies. He contracted emphysema and died in 1982, at the age of 68.

Who was this famous singing cowboy, who also had his own DC Comics series?

See NOTABLE ARKANSANS — Answer

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