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Cool Things - Lonesome Cowboy Costume and Musical Saw

Roy Faulkner's 
musical saw

Kansans were listening to this singing cowboy play his musical saw before Gene Autry appeared on the silver screen.

Kansan Roy Faulkner had a long and successful career singing cowboy songs on the radio and before live audiences. He was known as the Lonesome Cowboy and played the musical saw (pictured), guitar, violin, and harmonica.

Born in 1911, Faulkner was adopted by a Kansas family. By the age of 17 he had learned to play the guitar, and took a job performing on a Milford radio station. The station was known as KFKB (Kansas First, Kansas Best). It was owned and operated by the infamous Doctor John Brinkley who claimed he could cure male impotency by implanting goat glands in his patients. The doctor used his radio station to dispense medical advice and promote his own medicines.

Roy Faulkner, The  Lonesome CowboyBrinkley also used KFKB to run for the governor's office in 1930. Brinkley appeared at campaign rallies around the state where the popular Lonesome Cowboy warmed-up the crowd with his signature song, "Strawberry Roan." Brinkley narrowly lost his bid for public office, but ran again two more times. Faulkner also performed for Brinkley's 1932 campaign.

Eventually Brinkley lost both his medical and broadcasting licenses in Kansas. He moved to Del Rio, Texas, where he set up a radio station called XER just across the border in Mexico. Faulkner performed on this station for a national and international audience. Brinkley claimed XER reached all 48 states and 15 other countries.

Faulkner toured the country in 1934 with the Purple Sage Riders (this group predated the better-known Riders of the Purple Sage). Like many other singing cowboys of his day, he went to Hollywood and made a few movie shorts as a member of a cowboy band. Faulkner also worked at other Midwest radio stations, including WHO in Iowa where he met a charming young sports announcer named Ronald Reagan.

Roy Faulkner's shirt

The "Lonesome Cowboy" was a popular performer, receiving 3,500 fan letters a day during one three-week period alone. One fan wrote to Faulkner's wife after his death in 1981: "I heard he was to be in Norfolk, NE with the Purple Sage Riders so I coaxed my brothers to take me in to see his show. I was 16 at the time, a very shy person and couldn't bring myself to ask for his autograph, even though he came off the stage and sat down in the audience one row behind me. I used to stay up to midnight to hear him sing over XER. . . . I saved up a whole dollar to order his picture and I still have the 9 x 12 photograph which I cherish."

Faulkner dressed as a cowboy during his many live appearances, wearing this embroidered shirt for some of them. He and his wife eventually settled in Topeka, where he worked at various radio stations before retiring from the entertainment business. In 2005, Faulkner's wife, Louise, donated the items pictured here as well as scrapbooks and other mementos from his singing career to the Kansas Museum of History.

Entry: Cool Things - Lonesome Cowboy Costume and Musical Saw

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: January 2006

Date Modified: December 2014

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.