I am a huge fan of Ken Curtis and I have some nice pictures of him. I thought you would enjoy seeing a picture of the poster that Ken's father, Dan Gates, used in his campaign for sheriff.
Text: "Three Reasons why Dan Gates will make and keep Bent County a clean place in which to live. Dan and his Three Boys: Carl, age 17; Chester, age 14; Curtis, age 10. Dan Gates pledges you strict law enforcement without fear and without favor. Vote for Dan Gates for Sheriff.
I also have some pictures of him with his wife Torrie, and I have three Christmas songs that he recorded but never released.
Ken Curtis and his wife, Torrie.
It all started with Gunsmoke - I wrote some stories about Festus, and even had a story and poem published for the 50th anniversary, so people got to know me as a fan. Who am I? I'm a teacher in San Diego who discovered Gunsmoke and wrote a lot of fan fiction about Festus. I guess you could say I am a very very small celebrity in the world of Gunsmoke fans - many of them have read my stories about Festus.
I also have been fortunate enough to get to know some of Ken's friends like Jimmy Don Cox, and the lady who did the Festus statue. She didn't know Ken, but she became a good friend of his wife after his death and she's told me some funny stories about them.
Anyway, because people knew me through the Festus stories as a big fan of Ken's, from time to time I hear from people who knew him and they send me things. I never got to meet him, but he really was a very special person and I'll be so pleased if those songs can be preserved. Ken really does deserve a lot more attention than he gets - all the Sons of the Pioneers do. What a wonderful group they were. I especially loved them in Rio Grande, where Ken did that marvelous solo, and I enjoyed watching them in the old Roy Rogers movies too.
I pasted in the poem about Festus below - I wrote that myself, and I thought you might enjoy it. Ken and Millburn Stone were great friends off-screen as well as in front of the camera, and they really did love to go fishing together.
by Pandra Selivanov
Doc Adams and Festus went fishing one morning.
Doc had his new pole but Festus had none.
They got to the river and finding a good spot,
They settled right in for a slow day of fun.
Now Doc had some lures that he got from old Jonas,
He baited his hook and cast out far and wide.
His keen eyes scanned every inch of the river,
His mustache positively bristled with pride.
Festus just cut off a wand from a willow,
And spit on a chunk of moldy old bread,
Then threw out his line and lay back by the river,
And covered his eyes with the hat from his head.
The first fish came biting and Festus stopped snoring.
He sat up and pulled in the end of his line.
He added the fish-a good foot-to his basket,
And cast out again without baiting his line.
That night everybody had fried fish for dinner,
Which Festus prepared and served to one and all,
But Doc was a little bit late for the banquet,
Because he was making an important call.
He went to the storekeeper Jonas and asked him,
Why all his new lures didn't catch any fish.
Jonas was clueless but Festus could tell him-
Them store bought hooks never did fill up a dish.
Here's one other poem - it's a Christmas poem, so I think it goes along with the songs.
‘Twas the Night Before Christmas in Dodge
by Pandra Selivanov
'Twas the night before Christmas and Festus was blue.
No money for presents. What was he to do?
It did not take too long for him to decide
To saddle up Ruth and go out for a ride.
He rode to the edge of the town and beyond,
Out onto the prairie and it wasn't long
Before he saw somebody stuck in the snow,
So Festus went over to help, don'tcha know?
The vehicle stuck in the snow was a sleigh.
The driver said, "I'm just not used to this way."
The fellow was chubby and dressed all in red,
A stocking cap jauntily perched on his head.
His face was real jolly, his smile was bright,
He chuckled a lot though it was a cold night.
He said, "I'm called Kris. May I ask you your name?"
The deputy said, "Festus Haggen, and say,
It seems yo're in trouble. Now what can I do
To help you get to where you wuz goin' to?"
Kris said, "Well, it seems that my harness is broke
And if you repair it I'll fill up your poke.
Ask your own price...I'll be happy to pay
If only you'll help me get back on my way."
Festus looked at the harness and it wasn't clear
To him why a sleigh would be pulled by reindeer,
But city folks often do things that is strange
To Haggens that like to roam free on the range.
He fixed up the harness and then tipped his hat
And said, "Now you don't got to pay me for that.
It wuz a pure pleasure to help you, you see,
And this ain't no night to be askin' a fee."
Kris smiled and said, "Festus, you're a good man
And I want to help you, if only I can.
Allow me to give you a sack from the sleigh,
And now I must really dash off on my way."
He called to the reindeer, "Now show what you do!"
And they ran so fast that it seemed that they flew.
Festus was left in the snow all alone
But his heart was light as he headed for home.
He went to the Longbranch to get a free beer
And found it all glowing with holiday cheer.
Miss Kitty and Doc decorated a tree
While Sam poured the drinks with a face full of glee.
Louie was helping to hang mistletoe
And Matt came in, too, brushing off all the snow.
The deputy went to the bar with his sack-
Sam gave him a whiskey and he knocked it back.
Then Doc asked, "Just where in tarnation were you?"
And Festus said, "Out on the prairie and you
Don't got to be such a mean cranky old cuss.
Just look at what I brought back home here for us."
He opened the sack and he showed it to Doc -
Brightly wrapped gifts peeking out of the top.
Everyone took out a package and when unwrapped
It was just what they had wanted then.
Kitty received a real fancy new hat
And there was a silver belt buckle for Matt.
Sam got a silk shirt and Doc a wool coat
And Louie had something to warm up his throat.
Festus passed out presents all through the night
Until the next day with the first morning's light.
Everyone got something special that day
But when he was done Doc came over to say,
"Festus, there wasn't a gift there for you."
Festus said, "Doc, now you know that ain't true.
The gift that I wanted wuz here in this sack
And this wuz a night I would never take back.
I gave somethin' to all my friends and I say
Merry Christmas to all in Dodge City this day!"
I think you might be especially interested in the magazine article-it talks about Ken as a very young man, with his first wife. Most people know he was married to Barbara Ford before he married Torrie Connelly, but he also had another wife, Lorraine Page. I haven't been able to find out much about her - just that they were married for a few years, and then they were divorced.
I did have high hopes once of publishing the Festus stories and donating the proceeds to the American Cancer Society, but I haven't been able to find out who holds the copyright to Gunsmoke, let alone get permission to use the characters.
That reminds me - funny story about Ken's dog, which I believe was named Rambler. Ken smoked, and Torrie smoked, and when one or the other said, "Cigarettes," the dog would fetch their cigarettes. He would even get a guest's cigarettes. Smart dog, huh?
The Christmas Songs sung by Ken Curtis courtesy of Steve Howard and Pandra Selivanov.