Congratulations to group member Christian S., the first to identify the song “We’re the Couple in the Castle” in the Tune-O contest. Christian won the opportunity to select today’s Soundie and he opted for Pistol Packin’ Papa by Red River Dave.
While some have claimed that Pistol Packin’ Papa is a follow-up to Al Dexter’s hit composition and recording, Pistol Packin’ Mama, it actually dates from 1930, written by hillbilly artists Waldo O’Neal and Jimmie Rodgers.
Dave McEnery, who performed professionally as Red River Dave, was one of the most prolific artists appearing in Soundies. Born in 1914 in San Antonio, Texas, McEnery began singing in high school and started to write songs soon thereafter, often with lyrics that were topical or political in nature. McEnery moved to New York City and in the mid–1930s was soon appearing on radio. He was also on an experimental television broadcast from the 1939 New York World’s Fair.
In the 1940s Red River Dave became a popular radio, stage, and recording artist. In addition, McEnery was seen in a small number of Western features and shorts including Swing in the Saddle (1944) in which he shared the screen with Jimmy Wakely, the Hoosier Hot Shots, and the Nat “King” Cole Trio.
For the Panoram screen Dave usually performed with his own group, billed as the Red River Boys. For his first series, however, produced in November 1943, Dave showed up with guitar in hand and would work with a studio orchestra, probably under the direction of Jack Shandling. “Handsome” and “swashbuckling” is the way the Soundies catalog describes Dave. The six unknown dancers, who perform a rather simple routine, were billed as the Cowgirl Cuties.
Pistol Packin’ Papa is pleasant, and rather straightforward. Nothing to offend city dwellers who were not into this sort of cowboy song. The lyrics, which are slightly risqué, were subtle enough to avoid the attention of state censors. Kevin Coffey, Western Swing historian, is relatively sure that the single note guitar solo, played behind the dancers, is by McHenry. (The musician who appears on screen with a guitar is unknown.)
Again, congratulations Christian. We’ll have another contact in the near future!