About The Artist
Bob Baker was a stage name for Stanley Leland Weed who had a brief career as a radio cowboy singer and a somewhat longer career as a Hollywood Singing Cowboy for Universal Pictures.
Originally a product of small town Iowa, Weed, who had acquired the nickname "Tumble," moved with his family to Colorado in 1924 and to Arizona in 1926 because of his mother's health problems. After some work as a hand on a real ranch, rodeo rider and dude ranch employee, he enlisted for five years in the U. S. Cavalry.
Leland Weed spent most of his army hitch at Fort Bliss, Texas where learned more about horses. He also learned to play the guitar and sing songs with western themes. The days of Indian warfare and chasing bandits like Pancho Villa were long past by this time and the soldier managed to gain a radio program at KTSM in El Paso.
After his military discharge he worked as a guide at Grand Canyon National Park. He married Evelyn McCauly in September 1935 and the couple subsequently had three sons and a daughter.
Not long after his marriage, Weed (probably inspired by the success of Gene Autry), became more serious about a singing career and auditioned for WLS radio in Chicago which had been the Autry path to fame. He succeeded and spent a year working at the National Barn Dance as well as on daytime programs. Failing to get the call to Hollywood, he returned to his old job at the Canyon.
But then hearing that Universal wanted a "singing cowboy," he auditioned and beat out some other contenders including Leonard Slye (aka Roy Rogers). As part of the publicity surrounding his first movie, one aspect was that he had supposedly sent a small 10-cent photo of himself that led to the audition and newspapers carried photos of him with that small photo. One photo included him posing with actress Jean Rogers.
The studio changed his name to Bob Baker and his first starring role, Courage of the West, hit the theaters late in 1937.
Bob was featured in an article by Paul Harrison in 1938 that was about the 'horse opera' movies. He pointed out the popularity of the singing cowboys. But he also noted that Bob was unique among the cowboy crooners. Bob was an ex-cowpuncher and former rodeo star. In July of 1937, a short blurb in the LA Times provided more details about Bob's initial visit to Hollywood. Universal Studios was getting ready to deal with the departure of Buck Jones. After Universal got the photograph, Baker interviewed with Charles R. Rogers, then head of Universal. Mr. Rogers then asked Bob to make an appearance before the Uplifters' Club. Bob made sucn an impression that Mr. Rogers signed him for a series of six westerns. The article mentions that Jean Rogers would likely be his co-star and Joe Lewis would direct the pictures.
However, when the movie came out at the end of 1937, Lois January had the lead female role but Joe Lewis was the Director. Wanda Hale reviewed the movie for the Daily News in New York and gave the film two-and-a-half-stars. She starts by stating that westerns "will be more popular than ever from now on." She likened the looks of Bob Baker to Robert Taylor. She mentions Bob's start in movies as "as easy as falling off a log" after Bob's mom sent that picture in. She stated the movied had all the elements of a better Western: the story within bounds of credibility; moved right along to climax; only a few rough spots. She thought some of the roles could have been done by 'more seasoned hands' but she felt the 'gorgeous scenery' made up for that.
Readers learn that "Courage of the West" was a tribute to the Free Rangers that were mobilized by President Lincoln to combat the bandits in the west and bring law and order to the new pioneers.
Bob was hoping to sign with another studio in 1940 when with the pre-World War II defense build up, he was recalled to active duty until January 16, 1941.
Thereafter he had some small movie roles until 1944, but more often than not, he worked on the police force in Flagstaff, Arizona until 1954 except for another brief stint in the army during the first part of the Korean War.
In July of 1952, he made a decision to get into politics. After serving as a law enforcement officer for Flagstaff for many years, he decided he was going to be a candidate for Sheriff of Coconino County. By that time, he had already been a resident of Flagstaff since 1935. His platofrm was simple - strictly clean county. He promised if elected he would run the office in a "Christian like manner and promised 100 percent cooperation with all other law enforcement agencies. As part of the article announcing he was a candidate readers learned that he had been in the military for a total of nine years, He had served the previous seven and a half years in the Flagstaff City Police Department. He would run as a Republican. His Democratic oppounent ws J. Peery Francis.
On September 9, 1952, Arizona held its primary. J. Peery Francis and Art Vandeveir were the Democratic candidates while Leland Weed ran unopposed on the Republican side. September 10, the local newspaper reported that incumbent Sheriff J. Peery Francis had garnered 2,5742 votes to 1,106 for his opponent, Art Vandevier. Leland T. Weed, unopposed, got 786 votes.
It was interesting to see that a combined total of only $2,640 was spent by all candidates for the Arizona primary considering what is spent in the modern era of the 21st century. Leland Weed spent only about $180.
The Arizona Daily Sun, the local newspaper for Flagstaff, reported general election unofficial results on November 6, 1952. Francis won 4,417 votes while Weed got 2,205 votes.
Baker had also become quite proficient in leather craft and saddle making and had shops in Wickenburg and Camp Verde, Arizona.
However, he experienced heart problems from 1969 and retired in 1972 and passed away in 1975. His funeral was conducted by the Flagstaff Masonic Lodge and the Fort Verde Chapter of the Disabled American Veterans.
His widow outlived him eighteen years.
Although his career as a movie hero did not last as long as that of an Autry or a Rogers, his films are still sought and enjoyed by collectors. Unlike the other singing cowboys, he never seems to have made any records; one dedicated fan did compile a quality cassette tape release from movie soundtracks.
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