The Loop Newspaper - Tehachapi's Online Community News & Entertainment Guide

By Pat Doody 

Tehachapi's legendary resident Dick Baxter

 

Dick and Ellie were married on Dec. 9, 1955. They moved to California in 1961, where he eventually formed Dick Baxter Management.

Tehachapi resident and famed Hollywood manager Dick Baxter has a reason to be proud of his career in show business. Not many people can say that they have put in 54 years, but Baxter has. The farm boy from Shelbyville, Indiana started Dick Baxter Management in 1963 and has never looked back.

Born on a 40 acre farm near Shelbyville, Baxter grew up like most kids working on the farm and going to school. He was on the school track team but his real interest was in the field of entertainment. Even then he would write lyrics and songs. Also like most kids, he loved going to the theater on weekends. For twenty five cents, he could spend the afternoon at the Ritz Theater in Shelbyville. He says that he has always loved the lore of the west and especially the cowboys that appeared at those matinees. He fell in love with actress Dale Evans in her first movie "Swing Your Partner" in 1943.

Dick's maternal grandfather, Dr. Charles Dunn was a surgeon at Major Hospital in Shelbyville. His mother let it be known that she wanted Dick to enter medicine; however, Dick had other ideas and attended business school instead.

His business career began as an underwriter for an insurance company. That is where he met Ellie, the pretty girl who would become the love of his life. Dick says that it was Ellie who first asked him out. They were married on December 9, 1955 and have now been together for an amazing 61 years. He became credit manager of Indianapolis Public Loan before he turned 21. It was obvious that he had a knack for business.

In 1959, when he was working publicity for the Indiana State Fair, he was asked to put together a scrapbook for Roy Rogers and Dale Evans who would be performing at the fair. That chance meeting turned into a friendship that would last decades.

He and Ellie moved to California in May of 1961 and settled in the San Fernando Valley. Dick worked as credit manager for Valley Stationers in Sherman Oaks. It was one of the largest in the valley at that time. In that position, he handled accounts for stars such as Mary Tyler Moore and Barbara Eden. Ellie worked for Safeco Insurance which was also based in the Valley.

It was while attending a show at Bill Bailey's, a local night spot in Sherman Oaks, that Dick was introduced to the Four Tunes, the night's entertainment. Jim Gordon, the leader of the group, told Dick, "you'd make a good manager." The Four Tunes became Dick Baxter Management's first client. Dick said that he gave himself six months to make it as a manager and the rest is history. In 54 years, he has never had to ask for a client to sign with him.

One day Dick's secretary mentioned that her dad wanted to meet him. Her dad turned out to be Stuart Hamblen, one of radio's first singing cowboys who was also composer of such great Country Gospel songs as "It Is No Secret What God Can Do" and "This Old House". He also became one of Baxter's clients.

Dick and Ellie had revived their acquaintance with Roy Rogers and Dale Evans when they arrived in California and had become very close friends. One evening the Baxters were invited to the Rogers household for what they thought was just a dinner. At dinner, Dale told him that she had decided that she wanted her own manager and she wanted him. Dick told her that "they were family" and family doesn't always get along. Her response was "let me worry about that." Roy's manager Art Rush gave his blessing and Dick managed Dale for the next 26 years. With tears in his eyes, Dick recalled Dale's last words to him, "Remember, you're my baby brother." When Art Rush passed away in 1989, Dick stepped in as Roy's manager as well.

Kathryn Grayson, through a mutual friend with Dale Evans, also joined Baxter's firm. The actress and soprano had been under contract at Metro Goldwyn Mayer during the 1940's when she appeared mostly in musicals. Baxter arranged guest starring appearances for her on television shows like "Murder She Wrote".

An independent record producer once called Dick and said he had a young spanish girl who needed a reliable manager. He met with Anacani at the famous Tail O'the Cock Restaurant in Sherman Oaks and managed her career for eight years until she got married. She is remembered best for her appearances on the Lawrence Welk Show.

Among Dick's stable of artists was The Frontiersmen and Joanie who some older readers may have seen at Knott's Berry Farm at the wagon circle campfire or in the Rose Parade. During the 1970s and 80s, Dick managed singer Jay Hoyle who was as well known for his comedy as for his music.

In an effort to become a better manager, Dick studied acting and voice. He actually did do some modeling and shot a pilot for a show called Baxter's Bag. Comedian Marty Allen was his male guest star and Joanie Sommers, once called the "Voice of the Sixties" was his female guest. Joanie regularly appeared on a show called "Your Hit Parade" and is probably best remembered for her hit song "Johnny Get Angry". The show was not picked up but Baxter said that he greatly enjoyed the experience and learned a lot. During the years that Dick was becoming one of the most respected managers in Hollywood, Ellie went to work for NBC and spent 19 years there in the personnel department. He credits her partnership and support as a contributing factor to his success.

The multi-talented Baxter always enjoyed writing and has been composing lyrics since he was a young man. An early poem is entitled "It's a lovely Night for Lovers Now and Always". He formed Dick Baxter Publishing which is licensed with ASCAP early in his career. Now nearing 80, he is still writing and publishing music.

In 2007, Dick Baxter wrote and published a fascinating book spanning his long career in Hollywood. "Standing Tall in the Shadows – Memoir of a Hollywood Manager" is still available through Barnes and Nobel and Amazon. It can also be ordered directly from Bear Manor Media at (580) 252-3547. He has every right to be proud of the fact that he has always been highly respected in Hollywood as a professional.

Working publicity for the Indiana State Fair, Dick and Ellie presented a scrapbook to Roy Rogers and Dale Evans on Sept. 10 1959.

Over the years, he and Ellie kept trying to stay true to their country roots. When they came to California, the San Fernando Valley was still country to the rest of Los Angeles. When it became over-crowded, they moved out to a new community call Canyon Country. In time, that area also became crowded and they moved out to Agua Dulce. Dick said that they really wanted to be away from the Hollywood scene and even Aqua Dulce had its associations so they started to look for an undiscovered hideaway. Tehachapi seemed to be exactly what they were looking for. In May of 2000 they moved to the homestead that they called Deer Haven. It wasn't until after they arrived, that they found it was not as undiscovered by Hollywood as they thought but they loved it anyway. Dick and Ellie have been here ever since and have become part of Tehachapi's legendary residents.

 
 

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