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Monday, July 2, 2007

Tackling the Tough Questions About Riders of the Purple Sage

No One to Cry To, a Long, Hard Ride into the Sunset with Foy Willing of the Riders of the Purple Sage
By Sharon Lee Willing
Biographical Memoir
ISBN-10: 1-58736-686-X
ISBN-13: 978-1-58736-686-4
Reviewer: Tim Lasiuta (Canada) reviewer (

As one of the premier western swing bands of the 1930's and 40's, Foy Willing and the Riders of the Purple Sage were in demand everywhere. Radio. Movies. Special appearances. But, unlike the Sons of the Pioneers, their lineage did not continue unbroken. Unlike the Sons, their history was not chronicled, until now.

Sharon Lee Willing has provided a look into the troubled life of Foy Willing. Not that this is a sad book, but it is more a book about sadness. Foy Willing had had it all. Wealth. Fame. Reputation. And a faithful family. But his life path was the result of poor planning, and in the end, his character.

Sharon tackles the tough questions. She relates the early history of the Riders in more detail than we have ever had. But, with her appearance in Foy’s life in the 1950's, the story gains credibility. Foy had been an alcoholic, but he recovered. He still was in demand. He wanted marriage. But he was unwilling to take the final step. When he did, alcohol was again part of his life. And his marriage dissolved. That’s where the sadness comes in.

Foy was talented. More talented than his recording history tells. More passionate and creative than he is given credit for. Near the end of his years, the ‘old’ Foy Willing resurrected and he began the nostalgic resurgence of the Riders with very much success.

She even includes a discography, his film appearances, and a comprehensive list of songs written/co-written by Foy. Collectors will love this.

This is a heartfelt book. If you want a glossed over history of Mr Willing, don’t buy this book. If you want to read about the real Foy Willing, this is for you. Written by the one who knew him best, and loved him the most, "No One to Cry To" is the story of a man, blessed with talent, on a lifelong journey who finally found what he was looking for.

Tim Lasiuta (Canada)


Anonymous said...

I have read the book and it tells the true story of Foy Willing and the Riders of the Purple Sage. This is not a sugar-coated biography. This is a book about a man, his music and the woman who loved him, complete with all the life changing mistakes people make. I recommend it to all fans of Western Music.

Chuck Blore said...

Having know Foy, and to a lesser degree, Sharon, I know what a tough job it was to relive all the rough times, but also, I know about the joys of all the good tmes. Sharon tells the story with heartfelt compassion and love, not only for her husband, but for the Country Music world aas well. Really a warm and wonderful book Sharon. Nice review Tim, and thanks to Carolyn for posting.

Carolyn Howard-Johnson said...

Chuck, thank you for the thank you. It's always nice to hear that someone is behind the scenes pulling strings. (-: Please come back

Anonymous said...

I was only 19 years old when I first met Foy Willing. He appeared to be bigger than life to me. Working with Sharon Leisch, prior to her marrying Foy, at the radio and television station in Salinas, California, the entire staff was enamored with his style.

Sharon has captured so much of Foy's life in this book that I found each successive page to reveal more about Foy Willing than I had ever known.

He was special and this accounting of his trials and tribulations do justice to a unique individual and extraordinary performer.

Alan Skuba
Palm Desert, CA

Anonymous said...

"Foy and the riders", He and his talent,were then and still are in a league unto itself. It was all captured in Sharon Willings frank and honest tribute. Ray Charles styling of just one of Foys great songs"No One to Cry To",is by any ones measurement only the tip of his wonderful and diversified body of work. It is a solid read, I enjoyed it a lot. Thank you, Sharon

Norm Schickedanz said...

If you like the book, you might enjoy listening to Foy Willing and the Riders of the Purple Sage on their radio show, "All-Star Western Theater" from 1946-48. Recordings are available from various sources. As the head of an old-time radio club in Tucson, I've enjoyed listening to some of the shows, with singing by the RPS and guests such as Tex Ritter and their western dramatic skits.

Marvin O'Dell said...

Sharon's wonderful work on Foy Willing & the Riders of the Purple Sage fills in a lot of blanks concerning the career of this wonderful performer. I could hardly put the book down. Who would have known the full expanse of Foy's talent? What a sensitive man he was? How poor choices derailed a most-promising career? Sharon's candid work makes you almost feel like you knew Foy Willing personally by the time you finish the book. It's a great read!

Jerry D. Simmons said...

Sharon is a dedicated and talented writer who has written a wonderful book. She deserves all the success in the world.

Anonymous said...