Wesley Tuttle, 85; Western Singer on Radio, TV Shows

Times Staff Writer

Wesley Tuttle, a singer and recording artist who helped popularize country and western music in Southern California in the 1940s and ‘50s on such television programs as “Town Hall Party,” has died. He was 85.

Tuttle, who was inducted into the Western Music Hall of Fame in 1997, died of heart failure Monday in a nursing home in Sylmar. He lived in San Fernando.

Known for his versatility, which ranged from a hard “hillbilly” sound to smooth western vocals, Tuttle signed with Capitol Records in 1944. He was the third country singer signed by the label, following Jack Guthrie and Tex Ritter.


In 1945, Tuttle’s “With Tears in My Eyes” spent four weeks at the top of Billboard’s country chart. He also had other hits in 1945 and ‘46, with “Detour,” “I Wish I Had Never Met Sunshine” and “Tho’ I Tried.”

Tuttle returned to the Top 20 list in 1954 with “Never,” which he sang as a duet with his wife, Marilyn, a former member of the western backup group the Sunshine Girls.

During the 1940s, Tuttle sang in nearly a dozen B-westerns starring Ritter, Johnny Mack Brown, Russell Hayden, Jimmy Wakely and others.

He also had the distinction of being one of the singers who did the yodeling for the dwarfs in Walt Disney’s 1937 animation classic “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.”

On local television in Los Angeles, Tuttle appeared on Cliffie Stone’s “Hometown Jamboree” in the late 1940s and on “Foreman Phillips’ Round--Up” in 1950. But Tuttle was best known as a regular on “Town Hall Party,” a Friday-night radio show broadcast on KFI and a Saturday-night television show broadcast on KTTV from a dance hall in Compton.

Born in Lamar, Colo., on Dec. 30, 1917, Tuttle moved with his family to San Fernando in 1922. At age 6, while helping his father in his Chatsworth butcher shop, Tuttle’s hand got caught in a meat grinder. The accident cost him the middle three fingers of his left hand.


But that didn’t stop Tuttle from taking up the guitar, which he learned to play left-handed.

(For a publicity photo after signing with Capitol Records, Tuttle posed strumming his guitar with a prosthetic hand to hide his missing fingers. He paid about $300 for it. “But I never did use it again,” he said years later. “I still have it, but my dog has chewed on it pretty bad.”)

At 13, Tuttle launched his career when he became part of western singer Stuart Hamblen’s daily radio show in Los Angeles. Known for his beautiful tenor voice, he later performed periodically with the Sons of the Pioneers.

In 1957, Tuttle entered the ministry and toured the country preaching and singing. In addition to doing concerts and revival meetings, he recorded nine gospel albums, including five duet albums with his wife.

Tuttle retired in the mid-1970s.

Belinda Gail, the Western Music Assn.’s female western entertainer of the year for the past four years, said Wednesday that her friend Tuttle was “still playing his guitar and singing” until fairly recently.

“We’d sit for hours and he’d just have jams in their living room,” said Gail. “He’d teach me things on the guitar .... He was a very kind, giving man.

In addition to his wife of 57 years, Tuttle is survived by two sons, Wesley and Matt; seven grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren.

A memorial service with music by Gail and Curly Musgrave will be held at 2 p.m. Sunday at First Church of Christ, 606 Chatsworth Drive, San Fernando.