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Devvy Davenport
Reel Cowboys Charter Member
Devvy Davenport - The Singing Editor

We Will Miss You

 

Daughter of a career military man, blond haired, green-eyed beauty, Devvy Davenport was born in Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Being a "Air Force brat", she was variously educated in North Carolina, Kentucky, Arkansas, Texas, New Jersey and New York. As a child Devvy had a natural aptitude for writing poetry and prose; composing songs and singing; and dancing, dramatics and comedy. One night, at age 15, working as a "camera girl" in a Louisville, Kentucky nightclub, when the scheduled entertainer took ill, Devvy stepped up to the stage to fill in, just like in a show business fairy tale!

During the latter portion of WWII, touring with a USO Club, Devvy performed for our troops in Panama, Jamaica, Guatamala and throughout the U.S. Devvy sang, danced, did comedy and wrote material for herself and other acts.

Later, on a visit to the West Coast, friends arranged an introduction with Horace Heidt, of "Horace Heidt and His Musical Knights" at his Trianon Ballroom in South Gate, California. After an audition with the famous band leader, Heidt signed Devvy to his "Traveling Show, U.S.A.". Audiences just loved her. Her energy and talent seemed boundless. And during the four years with the band, Devvy made most of her own costumes. Till the end Devvy always had a kind word concerning Horace's influence and remained grateful for his loving guidance.

In subsequent personal appearances, theatre revue work and television through the years, she performed with Robert Alda, Milton Berle, Johnny Cash, Mike Conners, Tony Curtis, The Duncan Sisters, The Jordannaires, Tony Martin, Olsen and Johnson, Buck Owens, Mel "The Velvet Fog" Torme and many others.

In March of 1946, she entertained as a dancer and actor at the Havana-Madrid Hotel in New York City and witnessed Show Business history when singer Dean Martin and comic Jerry Lewis, who were booked separately, "heckled" each other's performances prior to their eventual partnership! Devvy's successful singing and dancing talent brought her to audiences all over the world. Also in 1946 Devvy moved to Hollywood, California and was named "Miss Copa Cabana" with one of the judges being none other than Frank Sinatra!

In August of 1947 Devvy gave birth to the first of two sons, Biff, and a few years later, Dru. Modeling and print work came in regularly for such a beauty as Devvy . She eventually made the musical transition to her roots, Country and Western. The progression was a natural. In Hollywood, after meeting the legendary Nudie Cohn, "The Rhinestone Cowboy Tailor to the Stars" Devvy became "outfitted" in what was to become her lifetime show business look. She remained close friends to Nudie, his family and especially his granddaughter, Jamie Lee Nudie. It was around this time that Devvy released several C&W singles, the most favorite to her many fans being her own composition, "Big Cowboy" on the Hi-G Lo-C label. Another memorable title was, "Git Your Guitar and Git!". At one point she produced a one woman show tiled, "The Devvy Davenport Revue" and performed it at the Silver Slipper nightclub in Rome, Italy.

Devvy wrote hundreds of poems and songs. Her songs were recorded by Debbie Reynolds, the singing and piano duo "Martha Davis and Spouse", and the Andrew Sisters. Devvy's tune "No Deposit, No Return" by the Andrews Sisters around 1952 for Decca Records gained Devvy the most notice. In the fifties Devvy appeared as the girl singer for one season on the "Tex Williams' Western Varieties" (1951) on KTLA Channel 5 in Los Angeles and on her own daily "Western Music" TV show on KTTV Channel 11 in which she co-wrote, co-produced and co-directed. Around 1953 Devvy co-starred with her son Biff on the Charlie Aldrich Show on KTTV Channel 11.

In the early fifties while performing at the Stardust Hotel in Las Vegas, Devvy was spotted by millionaire Howard Hughes. Impressed with her talents but unable to make contact before she left the hotel, Hughes "arranged" to have the local police follow her car with sirens blazing to "get" the info he needed! Devvy ended up with a contract with RKO Pictures, owned at that time by the imfamous Hughes!

Devvy Davenport appeared in several features. Devvy's films included "Hometown Girl" (1948), "Hollywood Varieties of 1950", "Wild Women" (1951), "Married Without A Ring (1952) and others. The "The French Line" (1954) starred (2002 Silver Spur Award Winner) Jane Russell. Devvy was one of the "show models" in the film along with another young unknown starlet at the time, Kim Novak. In 1963, Devvy continued her acting career and believe it or not, was the 'runner up' for the Elly May Clampett role for the top 10 hit, "The Beverly Hillbillies" which went to another blond beauty, Miss Donna Douglas.

Also in 1963, Devvy started her own country music magazine. Titled "Country Music Report / Review", she wrote, edited and co-published and it became the #1 C&W publication in the United States and received special recognition in Nashville, Tennessee. The magazine took a different approach to covering country music for the fans, offering more than just song lyrics and short notes on the artists. And it was printed on a higher quality paper stock that stands up to the test of time even some forty plus years later. As she developed the magazine, her famous contacts became more than just professional courtesy; she was able to consider such super stars as Johnny Cash and Marty Robbins good friends too. Her personal editorial column was entitled, "Under My Hat" which bannered a close-up photo of Devvy wearing a cute little straw hat, ala Minnie Pearl. Many C&W newcomers to the West Coast scene were profiled by Devvy long before they made it big!

At one of Cash's concerts, Johnny reprinted copies of Devvy's magazine and passed them out to the audience. He even gave the magazine a plug from the stage and recommended everyone to subscribe. Since her magazine was mail order only, such an endorsement became invaluable.

In 1966 Devvy was one of the first performers to entertain our troops in South Viet Nam. Early in the war, she gave a show within 6 miles of the de-militarized zone (DMZ)! Her visit was no quick tour; she stayed and entertained the troops for over a year, traveling the country with the USO. While "in country" she also assumed the duties of Entertainment Editor of the Saigon Daily Times. She also had a show she wrote titled, "Saigon Follies" in which she headlined and traveled to other Far East countries to perform including Japan, Thailand, and the Phillipines. While in Thailand she operated a dance and drama school in Bangkok (also earlier in Rome, Italy). Her performing partner some of this time was Gene Roman and they had an act called, "The Love Bugs". On a sad note, her younger brother Bill, who was in the armed forces was killed-in-action while Devvy was in the Far East. For her exemplary service and devotion to our fighting forces, Devvy was awarded the rank of Honorary Lieutenant Colonel by the United States Air Force.

In later years, ever creative, Devvy made jewelry and glassware in Hollywood, wrote children's stories for publication and donated time to charity. Devvy's volunteer work is legendary. As a faithful member of the Hollywood D.O.L.L.S. and the Reel Cowboys her dedication and energy was amazing.

Devvy is survived by her two fine sons, Biff and Dru, and two current members of the Reel Cowboys, cousins to Devvy, Erwin Jackson and John Ammons.

We, who were lucky to have known her will never forget Devvy's broad smile and her warm, giving heart to ALL she met. And while she entertained us all with her beautiful singing and loving humor you could say that Devvy was a consummate performer. Truth be told, Devvy Davenport was a consummate human being!

Biography compiled and written by Ramblin' Jack

In Memory of the Founder of the Reel Cowboys, Jack 'J.C.' Iversen
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