Larry “Chief” Boutillette owns Sunset Ranch in upstate New York. It was formerly owned by Cowboy Jack Patton—performer, Western radio personality and long-time friend of Eden Ahbez.
Patton took credit for many of the good things that happened to Ahbez with “Nature Boy,” though it’s been hard to verify all of his claims as yet. For instance, Patton claimed that both he and Ahbez helped songwriter Stan Jones get “Ghost Riders in the Sky” to Burl Ives and Vaughn Monroe in 1949, though then-contemporary newspaper clippings, as well as Jones’ own biographer, fail to ever mention Patton in that equation.
In going through Ahbez’s personal archive some years ago, I found that he kept a dusty copy of Jack’s mid-1940s album wherever he went. The two men also wrote and recorded several singles together in 1949-50, including “Trail’s End” and “The Jalopy Song.” Patton obviously meant a great deal to Ahbez and, as yet, I’m still working out the details of their full relationship.
As such, Boutillette and I recently sat down to try and untangle a bit of Cowboy Jack Patton—the myth and the man.
Brian Chidester, 02/01/2015
Brian Chidester: So how did you first meet Cowboy Jack Patton?
Larry Boutillette: I met Jack at his dude ranch called “Jack Patton Sunset Ranch” in upstate New York. The ranch had been closed for some years and I was buying the part with his barn-dance hall on it.
BC: Did he ever mention why he moved from California to New York?
LB: He was born in Amsterdam, New York, and grew up there. Sunset Ranch is just 7 miles away. He operated the ranch from 1949 to 1965… operated the entire ranch. Jack told me he closed it because the town was giving him a hard time about his water supply. Rumor has it that his only son hung himself in the barn. Jack’s wife was said to be an Indian princess too. Her stage name was “Princess” something.
BC: Did he ever talk about Eden Ahbez?
LB: Jack talked about many of his friends and experiences in the music business, and health food business, including Ahbez, Gene Autry, Hoot Gibbins, Kirk Douglas and others. Jack was a very active and interesting man. For some reason he took a liking to me and told me a lot in person and wrote to me wherever he was in the country.
BC: Jack did several singles with Ahbez in the 1950s and may have helped him get “Nature Boy” into the hands of Nat “King” Cole. Did he ever say how he met Ahbez?
LB: Jack met Ahbez in 1944. Ahbez was a dishwasher at a vegetarian restaurant where Jack went [ed. The Eutropheons Restaurant on Laurel Canyon Blvd.]. It appears that he worked with Ahbez at least until 1949 when Vaughn Monroe recorded “Ghost Riders in the Sky.” After that, more research will be needed, but I think he continued some activity with Ahbez.
BC: You don’t know what kind of activity?
LB: I have two of Jack’s films regarding Ahbez, whom he labeled as “The Prophet.”
BC: There was a movie about Ahbez?
LB: Yes, two films called “The Prophet.” I have Jack’s original copies.
BC: So he and Ahbez continued to work together later in their lives?
LB: I suspect that Jack had contact with Ahbez in later life, as evidenced by the movies, [which were filmed] at Sunset Ranch.
BC: Do you know what year the films were made?
LB: I can’t date the films.
BC: Where was Patton living when he passed away?
LB: He was living in Nashville. He’d purchased a recording studio there.
BC: So he recorded up to the end of his life? Where are his last recordings now?
LB: In 1992 Jack bought the recording studio in Nashville. He also owned Gold Tone Records. “Nature Boy” was first released on Gold Tone by Jack, then released on Capitol [by Nat Cole].
BC: I never knew that. I knew Jack recorded a full album in the 1980s, and there was a song called “Nature Girl” on it, though he doesn’t credit Ahbez with writing it—just himself. There was also an article about Jack in a newspaper out of New Amsterdam from the time, which is pretty self-aggrandizing, but Jack is quoted as saying that his old friend Ahbez tried for many years to write “Nature Girl,” and now he himself is taking a shot at it.
LB: Jack’s last dream of accomplishment was his recording studio—and he was active up to his death.
BC: I see. So what condition is his archive in now?
LB: His archive is scattered. I have much. My neighbor has some.
BC: Anything in the archive related to Patton’s work with Ahbez that would be of interest?
LB: The two movies are the most important. I have Jack’s hand-written autobiography also. He may mention Ahbez in that.
BC: What condition are the movies in?
LB: I have 5 or 6 of Jack’s movies actually. The two Ahbez was featured in… I have not played either for fear of damaging them. Ahbez may have been in more.
BC: Thanks, Larry.