Cowboy Jack Patton grew up in Amerstdam, NY and his name back then
was Frank ALoysius Piecuch, where his father worked at the local
Mowhawk Carpet Mills. Interestingly enough, Jack's father decided
to change the family name to Patton because there were too
many other employees at the carpet mills with the name of Piecuch.
If you want more trivia, one of Jack's boyhood friends was a fellow
by the name of Issur Danielovitch, who later changed his name, too
and gamed a fair measure of fame himself, Kirk Douglas.
Jack honed his musical background working at traditional Polish weddings,
dance halls and roller skating rinks of the day, learning to play
the violin, accordion.
From what we can tell, Jack had a Cowboy Swing band called the "Pals O'
The Range" from 1937 to 1939.
He also became a songwriter and in 1939 he moved to Hollywood because
Columbia Pictures was going to use one of his tunes in a Western
musical. His musical career was interrupted in 1940 when he was drafted.
Due to his impaired vision, he saw limited duty and spent some time
repairing damaged planes in Biloxi, MS.
Along about 1941-42, Columbia Pictures included Jack's song, "Cowboy's
Polka" in the movie "Swing In The Saddle". The movie starred Jimmy
Wakely, Collen Summers (later known as Mary Ford) and Nat King Cole.
Then Jack opened up a health food store and included an office in the
back for his music.
In 1944, he began hosting a local radio show where he met Eden Ahbez,
whom Jack described as the first hippy as he was long-haired, barefoot.
He was working as a dishwasher at a vegetarian restuarant that Jack
frequented for its salads. In fact, Eden played piano there once a week.
Jack was so impressed with Eden's talents, he became a mentor of sorts,
providing financial support and business advice. He recommended that
Eden take his song "Nature Boy" to Capitol records.
At Capitol, Nat King Cole liked the song, but wanted to test audience
reactions before recording it. At first, he would humorously refer to
it as the 'nut and seed' song and nobody seemed to take it seriously.
But, the song must have got someone's ear. Irving Berlin offered to
buy it. Instead of selling it, Nat finally recorded it and released
it in 1948. "Nature Boy" made it to Number One and stayed there for eight
Jack seemed to have a knack with finding songs. Jack and Eden got
written up in LIFE magazine and elsewhere and other songwriters
began to contact him for advice or help in promoting their songs.
One was Stan Jones. Stan had been reciting a poem on the radio called
"Rangers In The Sky" on Jack's radio show. This poem was said to be
written by an old Texas Ranger way back when and was no longer living.
Jack advised him to turn it into a song, using public domain music.
He played around with and a few years later, came back with the song
"Riders In The Sky". Jack then had another idea for Stan - add the word
"Ghost" to the song title. The three of them - Stan, Jack and Eden -
agreed to handshake agreement of a three way split on the song. Jack
and Eden pitched the song to a singer by the name of Burl Ives. His
recording of it reached Number 14 on the musical charts. Not to be
deterred, the boys pitched it again, after getting it signed to B.H. Morris
Publishing Co. and in 1949, a recording by Vaughn Monroe was released.
This one rocketed to the top of the charts and stayed at the top
for 11 weeks.
By now, the song is a timeless hillbilly / country music classic. We've
read where it was released in over 80 versions and at one point had
sold over 208 million copies and still going strong. Johnny Cash had
a hit of it at one point, too. Others such as Peggy Lee, Bing Crosby
and Roy Clark have recorded it, too.
We're still not done with the stories about Jack and hit songs.
He found a song called "Vaya Con Dios", which he had sung on radio and
TV before it got discovered by Les Paul and Mary Ford, who had a big
hit with it in the summer of 1953.
Later on in his career, he managed a pop singer by the name of
Bobby Vinton off and on for about 14 years. One of the songs that came
out of Jack's efforts was a big seller called "Melody of Love" which
included portions of the verses sung in Polish.
Remember "You Light Up My Life" by Debby Boone? Jack was part of that
hit making song by contributing promotional funding.
Jack had a variety of interests outside of music. At one point, he
had expanded his health food business to the point where he had six
stores. From 1949 to 1965, he operated a dude ranch in the Adirondacks
of New York. He also owned a hotel from 1964 to 1973. At his Palm Springs, CA
hotel, he blazed the trail into the health spa market, offering various
fitness, weight-loss and quit-smoking programs to the aspiring actors