Tex's Later Life

As late as 1953, both Vera and Tex appear on the Electoral Roll living at 'The Paddocks', Windmill End, Epsom so their personal separation may have been a gradual process.

1951

In July 1951 Tex was one of 300 performers who took part in the News Chronicle Stage and Radio Garden Party at Blackpool, to raise funds for the Variety Artistes Benevolent Fund (VABF). I noticed one of the other participants was northern comedian Al Read who I loved for his observational humour. I was surprised to find that Al had been another resident of Lytham St. Annes where I have lived for the last 35 years. Some of his routines are available on YouTube and are still worth listening to - which is more than I can say about those of Tex.

Al Read
Photo of Al Read [107]

Also in July, Tex was back with Bill Waddington at Morecambe, but this time we find on the bill Sheila Wilson and her amazing horses, 'Bracken' and 'Snowy'. Was this Vera's 'Bracken' or another horse?

Cutting
Cutting from 'The Morecambe Guardian' 14 July 1951 [58]

This show had a short run at Bradford in August, then returned to Morecambe for the summer season.


In October Tex appeared in what was presumably yet another 'Western' show called 'Home on the Range' at Eastbourne, with many of the performers from the previous show - but not Vera. In November, it was yet another show called 'Mélange Magnifique' at Walham Green, Fulham in London. He was billed as 'Tex McLeod & Margaret'. His turnover of partners seems to have been gaining pace. I could hazard a guess as to what the main qualifications for a stage partner were ...

Cutting
Cutting from 'The West London Observer' 30 November 1951 [37]

The next engagement was in a show called 'Original Sensations' at Dudley in December. At the top of the bill was Jay Howard from Baltimore - 'The man with the masks'. He made rubber masks which he wore to impersonate famous people. His act looks very creepy from the cutting below from 'The Baltimore Sun'!

Cutting
Cutting from 'The Birmingham Daily Gazette' 15 December 1951 [31]
Cutting
Cutting from 'The Baltimore Sun' 12 February 1956 [95]

1952

January started for Tex at the Harrogate Royal Hall supporting Leslie Hutchinson (Hutch).

After Harrogate came a show in Bath called 'Pistol Packin' Rhythm' which went on to Islington.

Cutting
Cutting from 'The Somerset Guardian and Radstock Observer' 1 February 1952 [59]

Next was another 'Western' show called 'Home on the Range', which started in March at Salford and went on to Preston and Burnley.

At the age of 63, Tex's act was beginning to lose its appeal, and the comments of the reviewer of 'The Stage' in May suggested that his jokes in the show at Walthamstow had passed their sell-by date. We learn for the first time that the full name of Tex's new assistant was Margaret Gregory. Given his age, he was doing well to carry on his rope-twirling as it must have been pretty physically demanding.

Cutting
Cutting from 'The Stage' 22 May 1952 [10]

In July Tex appeared low down the bill in a 'Texan Rodeo Spectacular' show put on by impresario Tom Arnold at the Harringay Arena. This included a very large cast of 'cowboys, Indians and horses'. Apparently Tex was involved in teaching the show's English riders how to ride 'Western' style.

Cutting
Cutting from 'The Stage' 15 May 1952 [10]

The correspondent of 'The Stage' gave what I thought was a very fair review of the event and this was Tex's last mention in the UK press for the year.

Cutting
Cutting from 'The Stage' 31 July 1952 [10]

1953

In January Tex was appearing in a show called 'Aqua Rhythm Rhapsody' at Darlington with 'Margaret'. Then on to Stockport in February, and New Cross supporting Harry Roy and his band. In March Tex and Margaret were in another show called 'Mexican Hayride' which progressed to Bedford in April then Burnley, Nelson and Aston in May.

On 2 June I watched the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II on TV at the house of an old great-aunt. Dozens of people were crammed into the front room watching a tiny wooden set; I had never seen a TV before. Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary had been the first to get to the top of Mount Everest a few days before.


Tex next appeared in a show of unknown title at Halifax early in July; at the end of the month he was in a show called 'Holiday Parade' at Redruth, which included Conrad's pigeons. The last time Tex appeared with these flying rats had been in 1948. As the average lifespan of a pigeon is 6 years, these were presumably the children or grand-pigeons of the previous performing creatures, although it is claimed that one was 18 years old so it could have appeared in the earlier show. I hate pigeons because they eat my cabbage and fruit plants!

Cutting
Cutting from 'The West Briton and Cornwall Advertiser' 30 July 1953 [60]

August saw Tex appearing in Newcastle, Huddersfield then Liverpool. In September he was in Hulme near Manchester, then Bolton but there were no more mentions of appearances for the rest of the year.

Fifth Marriage

Towards the end of the year, Tex married Margaret Gregory at Doncaster, West Riding, Yorkshire making her wife #5.

Tex and Margaret had three children. I believe they are still alive so I will respect their privacy and say no more on this subject - however see the 'postscript' at the foot of this page. I don't know how long the relationship between Margaret and Tex lasted but it must have been at least a few years given that they had three children.

1954

Tex started 1954 in 'Home on the Range' at Darlington in January, followed by engagements at New Cross and Evesham in February. In March it was the West Bromwich Plaza alongside the popular novelty act 'The Morton Fraser Harmonica Gang'; the ensemble then moved on to Liverpool.

In April it was announced that Tex would be taking part in a Rodeo event at Victoria Park in Arbroath, which would include high wire performances by cycle and motorcycle riders. In the meantime, he carried on performing with Morton Fraser and Co. at Wigan.

Cutting
Cutting from 'The Montrose Standard' 8 April 1954 [61]

The Arbroath event proved to be very successful. Tex's next engagement was at Halifax in September and he had no mentions in the press for the rest of the year, other than that in December he had attended the funeral of Sir George Robey.

Cutting
Cutting from 'The Birmingham Daily Post' 2 December 1954 [182]

1955

February saw Tex appearing in Liverpool as a supporting act to Leslie George Cole, who styled himself 'The Great Levante'. Cole was a famous Australian illusionist and stunt performer, who has been described as Australia's most famous magician. Tex also appeared in Belfast around the same time.

Photo
The Great Levante photographed by Ray Olson 2 January 1941 [96]

The next engagement for Tex was at Birmingham in August where he supported Al Martino, a singer born in Philadelphia to Italian parents, who was popular in both the US and the UK. The show went on to Portsmouth, Leeds and Swansea.

Photo
Portrait of Al Martino [1]

Tex got no further mentions in the press in 1955.

1956

Apparently Tex had no engagements in 1956 before May, when he supported singer Anne Shelton at Portsmouth. Shelton was a London singer who had entertained troops at military bases during WW2. She had a narrow escape in 1944 when she declined an offer to sing with famous American bandleader Glenn Miller. Had she accepted, she would have been on the plane that disappeared on a flight from England to Paris. His death spawned many unlikely conspiracy theories. Shelton's most famous songs were 'Lilli Marlene' and 'Lay down your arms'. Her voice was similar to Vera Lynn's in my opinion.

Photo
Anne Shelton being presented to Queen Elizabeth II in 1953 [97]

In June Tex was performing in Birmingham before moving on to Candie Gardens in Guernsey. Candie Gardens was a late 19th century pleasure garden in the grounds of Candie House in St. Peter Port, which had an auditorium of some kind until at least 1963 when The Beatles performed there for one night. The auditorium has gone but, strangely, I have been unable to find out anything about it.

In July Tex appeared in Halifax, where he was described as 'remarkably energetic' by 'The Bradford Observer' - not bad for a 67 year-old - then on to Newcastle and Liverpool. In August it was Edinburgh, Cardiff and Swansea, supporting the popular but anodyne singing couple Teddy Johnson and Pearl Carr. They were to come second in the Eurovision Song Contest in 1959 with the truly awful song 'Sing, Little Birdie'. If you are a masochist or musical philistine you can find it on YouTube.

Photo
Teddy Johnson and Pearl Carr [124]

In September it was Glasgow with Al Martino again, then back to Guernsey in September, and Brighton with Morton Fraser & Co. in October. That ended Tex's engagements for 1956.

1957

The first engagement in 1957 was at Llandudno in June. This was followed in July by Margate, supporting Edmundo Ros (1910-2011), a very popular singer, bandleader, and club and record company owner from Trinidad.

Cutting
Cutting from 'The East Kent Times and Mail' 10 July 1957 [13]

Also on the bill was Norman Evans - famous for his 'over the garden wall' act in which he played a gossiping old housewife. Evans had lost an eye in a car accident near Preston two years earlier, which he said was caused by swerving to avoid a black cat. His headstone in a Blackpool cemetery takes the form of a low wall with the epitaph 'Norman's last garden wall'.

Norman's act inspired comedian Les Dawson, who lived just round the corner from me. Les performed regular sketches with Roy Barraclough as 'Cissie and Ada'.

Norman Evans
Norman Evans in 1948 from the BBC Archive [98]
Gravestone
The gravestone of Norman Evans - 'His last garden wall' [97]

Later in July Tex appeared at Liverpool then went on to Edinburgh with the same company. It seems like the Liverpool attendance was poor and Tex came on stage saying "Good evening, ladies and gentlemen - and seats".

In August Tex appeared at the Regal, Great Yarmouth with singer Dickie Valentine and comedian Bill Maynard.

Tex then appeared in Bradford, supporting singer Ronnie Carroll, followed by Glasgow with Dickie Valentine again - and that was it for 1957.

1958

Ploughing through the British Newspaper Archives, I kept thinking that surely Tex would have packed it in, but he was still appearing in 1958. In May he was at Nottingham with two musical comedy acts - Morton Fraser, with whom he had worked many times before, and another musical act 'Sid Millward and His Nitwits'. They played wild versions of classical hits, interspersed with madcap, visual jokes, and were an influence on Vivian Stanshall and his friends who formed the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band in 1962. Comedian Roy Hudd described them as an idiot conductor in an ill-fitting tail suit with mad hair and a Hitler moustache with a bunch of idiot-looking senile delinquents ... You can find several videos of Sid Millward and His Nitwits on YouTube and I think some of them are still funny.

Sid Millward and his Nitwits
Sid Millward and His Nitwits [1]

That show went on to Birmingham and Leeds and, at the end of the month, Tex was in a show at Hulme called 'Don't point - It's Nude'. His act got a good review from 'The Manchester Evening News' who noted that he had lampooned Ike (US President Eisenhower), Nasser (The President of Egypt), Dulles (John Foster Dulles - the hardline American Secretary of State) and the United Nations organisation. I'm sure Tex would have appreciated fellow artist on the bill 'Peggy Prince the Queen of Strip' - though at that time of censorship the performance would have been very tame.

Cutting
Cutting from 'The Manchester Evening News' 3 June 1958 [41]

Tex's next engagement was in June at Hastings with Morton Fraser again, then on to the Finsbury Park Empire where I see that a young Larry Grayson also appeared on the bill. In July it was Cleethorpes followed by Reading where the entertainment included magicians 'Bernard and Miss Radar', who challenged anyone to explain their act and offered a reward of £500. Props belonging to the pair were recently on sale.

Bernard and Miss Radar
Cutting from 'The Stage' 20 August 1959 [10]
Bernard and Miss Radar
Props belonging to Bernard and Miss Radar [1]

In August Tex appeared at Chester, in September at Aston and then the Manchester Hippodrome in Arthur Fox's 'Spectacle of Striptease'. Gosh!! Hang on a minute - until 1960, it was illegal for artistes appearing on stage in the nude to move, and the show would have had to consist of stationary tableaux to avoid prosecution. That rounded off the year's performances.

1959-1973

At last Tex started to slow down and there were no performances in 1959 until July, when he appeared at the Pavilion Theatre in Liverpool in a show called 'Taking Off Tonight'. Maybe this was more striptease? There are no details. That was it for 1959.


Tex's next professional engagement doesn't seem to have been until September 1962 when he appeared in cabaret at The Van Gogh Bar in London's 'Latin Quarter'. The show was called 'Folie Magnifique'; it carried on into October. Actually it carried on until at least January 1963 but without Tex on the bill of later venues. The cutting for the show mentions 'Tex McLeod and Partner'. At that time, Tex's wife Margaret had children aged eight, five and three which, based on Tex's history, suggests that the partner may not have been her.

Cutting
Cutting from 'The Stage and Television Today' 11 October 1962 [183]

Whether this was truly 'a great comedy and glamour show', as described in a later article, that I once had but have unfortunately mislaid, seems rather doubtful, given the quote below from Deep Purple bassist Nick Simper who also performed at The Van Gogh Bar at around that time [184]:

We found ourselves performing nightly from 8 until midnight at the Van Gogh Bar, a seedy watering hole attached to the Latin Quarter in Rupert Street, a nightspot frequented by gangsters and starlets amongst other odd characters. The bar was run by a tough guy called Ted, who kept a large wooden mallet under the counter in case of "trouble"!

At the far end, next to the toilets (of course!), was a small rostrum, which the three of us could just about squeeze onto. Night after night we would entertain a boisterous collection of mobsters, prostitutes, tourists and drunks. Occasionally on match days we would be flooded with football supporters. At these times, you kept your head down and prayed to get out alive!

On 5 September 1963, 'The Stage' mentioned in passing that Tex was living in Brighton and had been performing for the US Army in Germany. He would have been 74 years old by then.

But retirement came even to Tex and, as Bugs Bunny would have said:

Bernard and Miss Radar
Looney Tunes - Closing Credits [125]

Last Years

We know from the previous cutting that Tex was living in Brighton in 1963, but two of his daughters were born there in 1957 and 1959 and he may have lived there even before that. Whatever his address in Brighton may have been, at the time of his death, he was living at 26 Tidy Street - a few hundred yards from Brighton Station.

Death

I am grateful to Clark Gray for the following information, which I came across when close to completing this material and I will quote him verbatim about the sad ending to Tex's life [69]:


His life, while adventurous, was also plagued by the harsh realities of life on the road, including failed marriages and estranged children. As he grew too old to continue his life as an entertainer, he settled into his home at 26 Tidy Street in Brighton, England, where he ran a boarding house for homeless men.

It was one of the very men he took into his home who started the downward spiral of events that would lead to his death. On 31st January 1973 Tex and one of his boarders, after several previous altercations, got into a fist fight. The man was too much for the 84-year old cowboy to handle. He left his home to seek the help of the police but died in a phone box while trying to reach emergency services.

Alexander Dennis McLeod died on 1 February 1973 in Brighton, according to official records. He lived in a modest two-bedroom terraced house at 26 Tidy Street and left a net estate of £1,456 - equivalent to about £18k at 2020 values. His estate was bequeathed to his four children living in the UK - he was presumably estranged from the two living in America. Similar houses in the street have recently sold for over £600k.

I have so far found no obituary for Tex in the UK but the Brighton newspapers from that time are not available online. However, the following appeared in the New York Times [99]. It is inaccurate in many respects but at least noted his passing:


Tex McLeod, a Monologist In Style of Will Rogers, 83

Tex McLeod, a Western cowboy and rodeo star who became a success as a Will Rogers‐style rope‐spinning monologist in England, died after an apparent heart attack at his home in Brighton on Feb. 2. He was 83 years old.

Mr. McLeod was born in Austin, Tex., in 1889 and won many trophies in rodeo events in Cheyenne, Wyo., and Pendleton, Ore., and at the Calgary Stampede in Alberta.

He spent two seasons with Buffalo Bill Cody's Wild West Show and entered vaudeville when he was 17. He made, his English debut at the Victoria Palace in London in 1919 and played the major variety theaters.

Mr. McLeod stayed in England and retired in 1956 after 37 years. He returned to the United States only twice, in 1923 and 1928, for vaudeville tours.

The movie database IMDb has the following entry for Tex, written by Les Adams, which supports his claim to have worked in early movies. There are errors in the entry, and the grammar is awful, but I have quoted it verbatim [64]:


A native Texan who attended Texas A & M and won the All-Around Cowboy title at the Calgary Stampede in Alberta, Canada on September 12, 1913. Toured Australia with Hoot Gibson in a Wild West Show. Made silent films with G. M. Anderson (Broncho Billy) and with Anna Little and Alice Joyce, and appeared in most of the "101 Bison" westerns. Went on tour to England, made several sound films there in addition to performing in his own variety and cabaret act. English stage appearances in C. B. Cochran's "League of Notions (1921), "The Jazz Mistress" at the Hippodrone and in Lew Leslie's "White Birds", in addition to four years in London's "Midnight Follies." Remained in England and became somewhat of an icon, especially among those with an interest in the American West, real or reel.

Postscript 1982

'The Stage' published a rather sad letter on 6 March 1982 from Cordelia McLeod Fisher, saying she was Tex's daughter but she 'never got to know him properly' and asking for information about him. I don't know whether she was successful but I hope so. There were rumours that Tex wrote a memoir but I don't know whether this was true, and if so what became of it - which is a pity as I am sure it would make interesting reading. I have removed the address out of courtesy to Cordelia who may well still be alive.

Cutting
Cutting from 'The Stage' 6 March 1982 [10]

The next two pages will describe Vera's Later life.