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“J. Frank Dobie” by Cactus Pryor (1988)

Cactus and Peggy Davis Pryor

Sound | 1988

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  •  Originally written by Pryor and Faulk as “Two Lone Stars” 
  •  Cactus Pryor comes onstage as J. Frank Dobie 
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  • About the video
  • Cactus Pryor Cactus Pryor
  • John Henry Faulk John Henry Faulk
  • J. Frank Dobie J. Frank Dobie
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This video captures the full performance of Cactus Pryor’s two-man show, “J. Frank Dobie”, written by Pryor and his close friend, Texas folklorist John Henry Faulk. After Pryor did a Dobie impression on his radio show, Faulk, who was Dobie’s protégé, and Pryor decided to write a show largely based on Faulk’s memories of his mentor that would be a dialogue between Dobie (as played by Pryor) and Faulk. After several runs of the show, Faulk left to work on another performance project. This video captures a later performance of the show when actor George Smyer joined the cast in Faulk’s absence. It was performed at Black’s Opera House in Lockhart in 1988.
Richard S. "Cactus" Pryor was a comedic television and broadcast personality from Austin, Texas. Cactus, an Austin native, was born in 1923, straight into the entertainment business. His father owned the Cactus Theater on Congress Avenue (hence the nickname), and starting at just 3 years old, Cactus made stage appearances before the shows began. Cactus attended the University of Texas and served in the US Army Air Corp. When he returned to Austin from his service in 1944, Cactus joined the broadcasting team at Lady Bird Johnson's KLBJ radio station, where he worked until 2008. He joined the world of broadcast television at KTBC in 1951 where he was program manager and hosted a variety of television programs, including a football program with Darrell K Royal and many celebrity interviews. Cactus appeared in two films with his friend John Wayne, Hellfighters and The Green Berets. Throughout the 1960s and 70s, he became a sought-after speaker and event host, famous for his roasts of entertainers and politicians, most of whom he counted as close friends. Cactus was also known for his disguises. He would appear at functions in character, often pulling a fast one on the crowd as he charmed them first in disguise, then again as he revealed himself and used his earlier conversations to entertain the crowd. As an active member of the Headliners Club of Austin, Pryor starred in many humorous television news satires alongside Texas politicians, some of which can be seen in his film collection, as well as the Gordon Wilkison Collection and the Wallace and Euna Pryor Collection.   He was nationally-known, but kept Austin his home, helping put the city on the map in the 60s and 70s. Cactus Pryor announced to his KLBJ listeners in 2007 that he had Alzheimer's disease, and Austin's "original funnyman" died in 2011.
John Henry Faulk (1913-1990) was a Texas writer, humorist, television personality, lecturer, and civil rights activist. Faulk grew up in Austin, Texas and studied at the University of Texas where he became the protégé of progressive Texas thinkers J. Frank Dobie, Walter Prescott Webb, and Roy Bedicheck. Faulk’s father was a socialist and staunchly anti-racist, and Faulk’s upbringing, coupled with the influence of his three mentors, led his scholarly research into the civil liberties of African-Americans; his master’s thesis focused on the analysis of ten African-American sermons from churches along the Brazos River. Faulk taught English at the University of Texas from 1940-42, where he honed his talents of using storytelling as a commentary on societal norms in front of his students. After serving in the Merchant Marines and the U.S. Army during WWII, he became acquainted with members of the entertainment industry through his close friend, Alan Lomax. In 1946, CBS gave Faulk his first weekly radio program. He went on to have shows on several other regional stations before beginning the John Henry Faulk Show for WCBS in 1951. The show ran for six years until Faulk famously fell victim to Cold War era McCarthyism, and his entertainment career effectively ended due to his blacklisting. In 1957, the right-wing, for-profit organization AWARE, Inc., likely in retaliation for Faulk’s previous efforts to thwart AWARE’s control of the  American Federation of Television and Radio Artists union, blacklisted Faulk for alleged communist associations and sympathies. Faulk filed and won a libel suit against the organization, winning a historic settlement that the jury determined was fair compensation, a sum much larger than Faulk sought in his original petition. Despite his courtroom victory, Faulk was unable to find work as a media entertainer again until 1975 when he joined the cast of Hee-Haw. Faulk wrote two books, one a tell-all about his battle against blacklisting that became an Emmy-winning television movie in 1974. He returned to Austin in 1968, and, along with his work on Hee-Haw, he wrote two one-man plays, unsuccessfully ran for U.S. Congress, and again became a university lecturer, urging students to protect their First Amendment rights. Faulk married Hally Wood in 1940, Lynne Smith in 1948, and Elizabeth Peake in 1965; he had five children. John Henry Faulk died in 1990 after a battle with cancer. Austin’s central branch of their public library system is named in his honor.
James Frank Dobie was a Texas folklorist and writer that wrote on the traditions of rural Texas and was known for his liberal views that went against the grain of mainstream Texas politics. Dobie was born on a ranch in Live Oak County in 1888 and moved to Alice, Texas at sixteen where he lived with his grandparents and finished high school. He attended Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas, near Austin, where he was introduced to poetry and to his wife, Bertha McKee, whom he married in 1916. He worked for newspapers and taught high school before attending Columbia University in New York City to work on a master's degree. In 1914, he joined the faculty of the University of Texas at Austin, where he became involved with the Texas Folklore Society. He left UT from 1917-19 to serve in Word War I. Upon his return from the war, Dobie left the University of Texas to work on his uncle's ranch in La Salle County, where he learned to write of the richness of life, land, and rural ranch culture. He returned to the University and the Texas Folklore Society for use of its libraries and resources, and, after a brief stint at Oklahoma A&M Univeristy, published his first book, A Vaquero of the Brush Country, in 1929. Dobie continued to publish books through the 1930s, and in 1941, published The Longhorns, which is considered one of the best descriptions of the 19th century Texas cattle industry. In 1939, Dobie began writing a Sunday newspaper column that humorously critiqued Texas state politics and politicians from his liberal point of view. During World War II and in immediate post-war years, Dobie taught American History at Cambridge University in England, as well as at universities in Germany and Austria. He published a book about his experiences in Europe. Dobie was dismissed from the faculty of UT in 1944 after a public reaction to a colleague's dismissal for liberal beliefs. He spent the remainder of his working years writing another series of books about life on the open range. Dobie was awarded the Medal of Freedom by President Lyndon B. Johnson on Septemeber 14, 1964, and he died in Austin four days later. He is remembered as one of the great progressive thinkers of Texas. Dobie is buried at the Texas State Cemetery.