Wyatt Earp, Gone Again

Did you know the real-life Sheriff Wyatt Earp lived from 1848 to 1929 and was most famous for the legendary “Shootout at the O.K. Corral” in Tombstone, Arizona in 1881? And that some of his authentic escapades were used later in the TV show, The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp which ran from 1955 to 1961? This blog post is about and dedicated to actor Hugh O’Brian who starred in the TV episodes. I was saddened to learn Mr. O’Brian passed away on Monday, September fifth at the age of ninety-one. He was in TV, movies and theater, but was also a dedicated and important philanthropist.

Many of you might not know that westerns were huge on TV in the late 1950s and 60s. I was a teenager and my parents and I would watch Wyatt Earp together as a family; something that has been almost lost over the ensuing years. My father was a big fan of westerns and we watched most of those shows and I still remember the theme songs from many of them.

Fast forward to the mid-1980s. I was in a restaurant in Montgomery, Alabama with friends and on my way back from the ladies’ room; I spotted a man I was sure I recognized. I returned to my table and asked my friends if they recognized him as well, but no one did. I couldn’t let it go. I had to find out, so I gathered up my courage and approached the gentleman’s table. Apologizing profusely for disturbing him and his friends, I asked, “Are you Hugh O’Brian?”

He smiled at me and said he was. I remember being very nervous, but I told him what a fan I was, and that my parents and I watched his show faithfully every week until the end. I even told him I remembered the theme song of Wyatt Earp. I could tell, he didn’t believe me, but was hesitant to embarrass me, so I offered to sing it to him, if he would forgive my singing. He, clearly, was enjoying my interruption and said he’d love to hear it.

I summoned up the last of my courage and began:

          “Wyatt Earp, Wyatt Earp,

          Brave courageous and bold.

          Long live your fame and long live your glory,

          And long may your story be told.”

Much to my surprise and shock, there was not only applause from Mr. O’Brian, but also from his friends, and from several tables of people nearby. I’m glad the restaurant wasn’t well lit at that hour (they dimmed the lights for dinnertime), because I imagine my face was appropriately scarlet.

With a somewhat shaky voice, I humbly thanked Mr. O’Brian for allowing me to interrupt him and his friends and went back to my seat. He was so gracious and I think he was pleased to still have fans after all those years. He was a gentleman both on and off the screen. That’s a moment I’ll never forget.

I don’t have a picture of Hugh O’Brian, but if you’d like to see what he looked like, click: his website is:


Coco Ihle is the author of SHE HAD TO KNOW, an atmospheric traditional mystery set mainly in Scotland.

Join her here each 11th of the month.


Filed under memory, musings

18 responses to “Wyatt Earp, Gone Again

  1. Jeannie D.

    I remember him, I always though he was a very handsome man. My Daddy and I loved watching the show to.

  2. Bob wagner

    It was a good show; I enjoyed it, Gunsmoke, the Rifleman, and my favorite – Maverick. See, I was an intellectual at an early age! 😎

  3. What a sweet story! I’m so glad you had the courage to approach him! I’m sure you made his day.

  4. Wow! You sang to him? What courage. And what a great story.

  5. saradubose

    What a story! I’d love to have heard your song–right here in Montgomery, AL. 🙂

    • Oh, Sara, if I’d known you then, I’d have grabbed you and borrowed your courage! Thank you so much for reading and commenting on my blog. Say, “Hello” to Montgomery for me.

  6. I was jealous of the fact that American kids must surely see more Westerns on TV than I did (being in England). I used to set up my tape recorder to record the theme tunes from the box, so I could play them back while doing homework.

  7. Sheila, I’ll bet we could have fun comparing theme songs. Lots of my British and European friends were fascinated by the old American West, while we were more fascinated by their castles and knights in shining armor. Interesting. Thanks for reading and commenting.

  8. Great story, Coco! It is always a joy to find a well known person who is charming and accessible!

  9. Thank you, Chuck and Heidi. I totally agree! Thank you for reading and commenting on my blog.

  10. Pat Gordon

    Hi Coco,
    A wonderful story and I admire you for your self confidence in singing to this great, decent man. I put him in the same category as Clint Eastwood.
    Cheers to you, Pat

    • Thank you, Pat. If I had thought about it beforehand, I may not have had the nerve. I’m glad I did, though. Yes, Clint Eastwood is another! Thank you for stopping by and leaving your comment.

  11. Cheryl Hilzer

    It’s always fun to meet a celebrity, but then to sing to him, how exciting for you!!!

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