The Cowboy in Country Music: Johnny Bond

For years, Johnny Bond served as Gene Autry’s right- hand man when it came to recording and performing. Although Autry was a good guitar player, he preferred to have Johnny Bond play guitar for him because (1) Bond was a better guitar player and (2) this allowed Autry not to have the burden of carrying a guitar around with him. Cyrus Whitfield “Johnny” Bond was born on June 1, 1915, in Enville, Oklahoma, and grew up in that region. He learned to play the guitar and sang on local radio shows.

Jimmy Wakely formed the Bell Boys in 1937; the group appeared on WKY in Oklahoma City on three 15-minute shows a week. The original trio consisted of Wakely, Scotty Harrell and Jack Cheney with staff guitarist Mel Osborne performing with the group. The group wore bellboy uniforms and pillbox caps and were sponsored by the Bell Clothing Stores. On KTOK, “Johnny Whitfield, the Lonesome Cowboy” had a 15-minute show. Wakely soon dropped Jack Cheney and Mel Osborne from his group and added Whitfield.

Whitfield (nee Bond) contributed the theme song to the group when he wrote “Cimarron” after noticing there was no song titled “Cimarron” although that had been the name of a popular western movie as well as a river in Oklahoma. The first trip to Hollywood for the Bell Boys came in 1939; that same year they changed their name to Jimmy Wakely and the Rough Riders. The group recorded some transcriptions for Standard Radio and appeared in a Roy Rogers movie, Saga of Death Valley.

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