I remember as a young boys going to the show to watch many of my Western (Cowboy) hero’s. An individual, who was a character that added a laugh in many of the shows, was Gabby Hayes.
Gabby was born in 1885 in Wellsville, New York. He did not come from a cowboy back round like many of us would think. He didn’t even learn to ride a horse until his mid forties when he was forced too. He played semi-professional baseball while still in high school. In 1902, at the age of 17 he ran away from home and joined a stock company. He also started to perform with a traveling circus. He became so financially successful in both that he was able to retire in 1928.
As it did with many people, Hayes’ life changed drastically in 1929, when the stock market crashed. His wife convinced him to move to Los Angeles and try his luck at motion pictures. Hayes had a chance meeting with producer Trem Carr. Carr liked Hayes so much that he gave him 31 spot roles over the next 6 years. Hayes played everything from heavies(bad guys) to just simple character actor parts.
In real life, Hayes was a well groomed articulate man who was very wise to the ways of the world. From 1935 to 1939, he teamed with William Boyd (Hopalong Cassidy). He left Paramount Pictures on a salary dispute and went to Republic Pictures. It is there that he was given the nickname of Gabby. The name would stay with him the rest of his life and become one of the best nicknames in Western movie history.
From 1939 to 1946, Hayes appeared in 40 different movies. He was in such demand that he could of appeared in more. However, because of budget constraints do to World War II, many movies were put on hold. However during this period, he appeared with Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, Bill Elliott, John Wayne, and Randolph Scott. Hayes must of known how great Wayne would be, because he tried to appear in as movies as he could with him. The two of them did were together a lot during the 1930’s.
In polls taken during the 30’s and early 40’s, Hayes was one of the top ten most popular actors in Hollywood.
Just about the time you thought that you had seen the last of him, Hayes started doing a children’s western show on television. The show lasted from 1950 to 1954. He then started a new version of the show in 1956. After he retired, he loaned his name out to be used at a Children’s Summer Camp in New York. He and his wife had no children themselves. However, Hayes loved to be around children.
Hayes admitted that he particularly didn’t care for Westerns. However, he realized that he did have a special talent to succeed in them. Hayes appeared as Gabby on a ten cent collectible postage stamp. He even appeared on a box of Quaker Puffed Rice.
After his wife died in 1957, Hayes owned and managed a ten unit apartment complex in North Hollywood. He died on February 9th, 1969 of cardio-vascular disease at the age of 83 and is buried at Forest Lawn in Hollywood.
Hayes appeared in Box Office Magazine for 14 years as one of the top 10 money making western stars. He has two stars in the famous Hollywood Walk of Fame. One for radio and one for television. In 2000 he was posthumously inducted into both the Western Performers Hall of Fame and the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma.
The last movie that Hayes appeared in was “Tall in the Saddle.”
For many of the “baby boomer’s”, Gabby Hayes is a character that is not long to be forgotten.