Leah Marie King

Leah Marie King by Leah Marie King @
A strange twist of fate landed me in one of the most mind-altering towns I have ever encountered...

        Amidst the craggy mountains of southeastern Arizona, approximately an hour and a quarter east of Tucson, lies Willcox, Arizona, founded in 1880.  With a population hovering around 3,500 this remote little town has been knocked down hard by the recession.  Abandoned buildings and burnt down houses cry of times when this old west town was booming.  Yet despite the weathered and abandoned feel of this poor town there is an enchanting charm.  Indeed, once you steer off Interstate 10 and head towards the town centre, it is as though you slip through a time warp.  The diners, antique shops and even the local bank look like something out of the 1950's.  The downtown strip that runs parallel to the train tracks stands proudly reminiscent of the quintessential western town - an old saloon, now for sale, begs for a hitching post out front and the rest of the town is modernized only to the extent that one imagines 1950's Fords and Chevies ambling down the street.

        A few buildings down from the saloon lies the "Willcox Cowboy Hall Of Fame" which literally stopped me in my tracks and garnered quite the chuckle out of me.  Hall of fame?  Really?  Here?  And now the true mystery of Willcox is revealed.

        Willcox was the birth place to country singer and actor Rex Allen.  Admittedly I had never even heard of Rex before, but it didn't take long to clue in.  Across from the Rex Allen Museum (the Willcox Cowboy Hall Of Fame) stands a larger than life statue of Mr. Allen, and upon reading the plaque I learned that he was the last of the singing cowboys, known as the Arizona Cowboy.  Born in 1920, Rex moved to Hollywood in 1949 where we was signed to Mercury Records and cut a few hits and top albums.  He starred in many cowboy movies and was the last of the American singing cowboy vogue of which such greats as Gene Autry and Roy Rogers were part of.  His beloved stallion, Koko, is also honoured with a plaque in front of Mr, Allen's statue.

        Rex Allen was renowned for his beautiful, rich voice, and later in his career he became a narrator in movies, television shows and commercials.  He was the narrator for Walt Disney's The Incredible Journey and the animated Charlotte's Web.  As a kid I loved both these movies, so who would've known that this mysterious statue that I gazed at is a tribute to a fellow who had touched my life in his own way!

        I suppose in my own overly-wistful way I learned a lesson in all this.  I could have stayed in my hotel room, working on my computer and focusing on my own music career.  But by taking the time to explore this precious little town and stumbling across the museum and statue I discovered the story of the life and times of this amazing character.  From one musician to another, Mr. Allen, it was an honour to come across you.  And Willcox, forever may you stand, a relic of America's heyday!  I will see you again soon...  

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