‘Festus’ Or Ken Curtis Was A Singer
Ken Curtis was an American actor best known for his role as Festus Haggen on the long-running CBS western television series Gunsmoke.
But he was more than an actor. He was a singer as well. And I don’t mean that he was an actor that could sing, but he was a professional singer that went into acting.
Curtis was a singer before moving into acting and combined both careers once he entered films, performing with the popular Sons of the Pioneers from 1949 to 1953 as well as singing with the Tommy Dorsey band.
Curtis replaced Frank Sinatra as vocalist for the Dorsey band.
As far as acting, what a story. Through his first marriage, Curtis was a son-in-law of director John Ford. Curtis teamed with Ford and John Wayne in Rio Grande and six other films.
Curtis guest starred twice on the TV Series Western Have Gun Will Travel. He also guest starred as circus performer Tim Durant on an episode of Perry Mason, ‘The Case of the Clumsy Clown’.
Curtis remains best known for his role as Festus, the scruffy, illiterate deputy in Gunsmoke. While Marshal Matt Dillon had a total of five helpers over two decades, Festus held the role the longest (11 years), in 239 episodes, and was the most colorful.
In 1981, Curtis was inducted into the Western Performers Hall of Fame at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
A statue of Ken Curtis as Festus can be found at 430 Pollasky Avenue in Clovis, California in Fresno County in front of the Educational Employees Credit Union. In his later years, Curtis resided in Clovis.
Curtis died in his sleep of natural causes in Fresno, California. He was cremated, and his ashes were scattered in the Colorado flat lands where he was born.
His father was the Bent County sheriff. The family lived above the jail and his mother cooked for the prisoners.