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Memories from the Homestead: Cowboy sidekick Pedro Gonzalez Gonzalez, well remembered in Willcox

On our way back from Tucson a few days ago, we stopped by and spent a morning at the Rex Allen Arizona Cowboy Museum, a must-see in Willcox along Railroad Avenue. 

 

     During the 1970s, Rex hosted a couple of Sons of the Pioneers tribute reunion events and his longtime pal Pedro would show up, complete with a song routine with his pots and pans! A very gifted musician, Pedro was discovered by John Wayne in the early 1950s. Looking through several large displays in Rex's museum, here's what I learned about Pedro Gonzalez Gonzalez. 

 

     Born Ramiro Gonzalez Gonzalez on May 24, 1925, in Augilares, Texas, his father was a trumpet player, his mother a dancer, and later his brother would become an actor. Young Ramiro, who was one of nine children raised during the Great Depression, joined a family act at age seven, dropping out of school, and due to not receiving a formal education, he would be illiterate all of his life. Years later when his acting career was taking off, his wife would read his scripts to him so he could memorize them.



    During World War II, Gonzalez married at age seventeen and served in the U.S. Army as a driver. When discharged, he began a stand-up comedy act for Spanish speaking audiences.

 

     In 1953 he appeared on the Groucho Marx NBC program "You Bet Your Life.” The footage is on YouTube and I highly recommend taking a look at it when you get a moment. He appears as Ramiro G. Gonzalez. Marx asks him about his name during their conversation. Marx asks, "What does the G stand for?" He replied, "Gonzalez," stating that both his parents were surnamed Gonzalez before they were married. Marx asked, "What does your wife call you: Ramiro or Gonzalez?" He replied, "She calls me Pedro," which brought laughter from Marx. A song and dance routine then took place with Marx making further comments about Pedro's comic abilities. From that time forward he was Pedro Gonzalez Gonzalez. 

 

     John Wayne happened to watch the entire program and reached out to Pedro, casting him in several films, “The High and Mighty,” “Rio Bravo,” and “Hellfighters.” Television appearances would happen also, where Pedro would appear on “Gunsmoke,”  “Wanted: Dead Or Alive,” and “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet.”

 

     Rex Allen's long friendship with Pedro and his wife began on the set of Rex's “Frontier Doctor” television series in the late 1950s. They would remain very close and work together for nearly forty years.

 

     Rex recalled, "Pedro Gonzalez Gonzalez traveled the country with me for so many years, he is like a brother to me. Every time I needed an act to work onstage with me, I chose Pedro because he is a showman, a hard act to follow. He has never missed a date."

 

     I was introduced to Pedro's talents over twenty years ago when researching the Sons of the Pioneers events of the 1970s. In April 1972 a reunion event at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles showcased Pedro performing his stand-up act and his musical routine with his pots and pans, which usually included the popular "Beer Barrel Polka." Another event took place at the Hollywood Paladium in September 1976 featuring Pedro, paying tribute to the Sons of the Pioneers. Both events were aired over KLAC radio and were archived into the Sons of the Pioneers Museum collection. 

 

      Pedro would also work closely with Mel Blanc at Warner Brothers, providing voice characterization for the Speedy Gonzalez cartoons.

 

     Rex Allen passed in late 1999, and Pedro retired. His family is still involved in acting today as his grandson is actor Clifton Collins Jr.

 

Pedro passed away from natural causes at his home in Culver City, California, on February 6, 2006, age 80. Pedro was survived by his wife Leandra and three children.

 

      While passing through the cultural center of the universe—Willcox, Arizona, drop by the Rex Allen Arizona Cowboy Museum, where the Spirit of the West begins! Visit their website at rexallenmuseum.org

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