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Foy Willing

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Biography

Singer, songwriter, and actor Foy Willing was best known as the founder of the Riders of the Purple Sage, a popular cowboy band known for their harmonies and appearances in low-budget Westerns from the '40s and '50s. Born Foy Willingham in Bosque County, TX, he began as a soloist and member of a gospel group on local radio. In 1933 he began appearing on a radio show in New York City but left in 1935 to work as a radio announcer back in Texas. In 1940 Willing moved to California and had established a version of the Riders there (the band had actually been founded in 1936 by Buck Page and a few others). Willing's Riders included Patti Page on vocals, fiddler Johnny Paul, and accordionist Ken Coopern. World War II call ups caused the lineup to fluctuate during this period, but the group did have some success on the charts, including the country Top Tens "Texas Blues" (1944) and "Have I Told You Lately That I Love You" and "Detour," both from 1946. Willing and his band also appeared on radio shows and even dabbled in film. In 1944, they made their feature film debut in Cowboy From Lonesome River, a Western featuring Charles Starrett. The following year, the band began appearing regularly on the All Star Western Theater. They continued appearing in films through the decade and in 1948 became Roy Rogers' new backup band after the Sons of the Pioneers left. The Willing-led Riders disbanded in 1952, though he continued to use the name for a number of years after his semiretirement from performing. During the late '50s and early '60s, the group occasionally reunited to record and perform, and Willing went on to appear at Western festivals during the 1970s. Willing died July 24th, 1978, in Nashville, TN. He was 63.

Top Songs

Birth Name:

Foy Willingham

Born:

1915 in Bosque County, TX

Genre
Years Active:

'40s, '50s, '60s

Contemporaries