Song writers
Elvis on Record




"River Of No Return"

A Centennial Tribute to Ken Darby

[1957 Publicity Photo]



Born:   May 13, 1909, Hebron, Nebraska

Died: January 24, 1992, Sherman Oaks, California


His full name was Kenneth Lorin Darby and his movie career spanned four decades, from the early 1930s to the late 1960s, beginning as a singer with The King's Men, leading to arranging music,especially as an vocal arranger for Alfred Newman in the 20th Century Fox Music Department.



Ken Darby with his three singing companions were known as The King's Men. They were the first singing quartet to appear in a Hopalong Cassidy western, THE RENEGADE TRAIL [shown in above picture -- Darby is on the far right horse].

This Paramount western film was released in 1939, starring William Boyd as Hopalong Cassidy, co-starring Russell Hayden as Lucky and George (Gabby) Hayes as Windy. The King's Men performed two songs in this western film:"Lazy Rolls the Rio Grande" and "Hi Thar, Stranger!" (both sung with singing cowboy, Eddie Dean)
-- From "Hi Thar, Stranger! Ken Darby and the King's Men in Hoppy Films," by Roger Hall in HOPPY TALK, Summer, 2004.


The publicity photo below shows The King's Men from one year earlier, without their western duds. Pictured clockwise from left to right are:

Jon Dobson, Ken Darby, Rad Robinson, and Bud Linn...

(Photo courtesy of Films in Review, June-July 1969)

Watch a 1934 short film featuring The King's Men singing at YouTube




Darby also worked as lyricist and arranger at 20th Century-Fox during the 1950s.


For RIVER OF NO RETURN (1954), he wrote the lyrics to: "I'm Going to File My Claim," "Down in the Meadow," "One Silver Dollar" (all sung by Marilyn Monroe) and the title song (sung by Tennessee Ernie Ford & also by Marilyn Monroe).

Other Darby songs "New York" from HOW TO MARRY A MILLIONAIRE (1953),
"Cindy from THE TALL MEN (1955), and
"Paper of Pins" from BUS STOP (1956).





Did you know that the songwriters credited for "Love Me Tender" (Elvis Presley and Vera Matson) did not write the words or the music for this song?



Actually it was Ken Darby who wrote the title song. He based it on an old Civil War Era song, "Aura Lee (or Lea)." He also wrote the other three songs in LOVE ME TENDER (1956):

"Poor Boy"
"We're Gonna Move"
"Let Me"



For more about the early years of Elvis, see

"Shake, Rattle and Roll":
Electric Elvis and Bill Randle


Vocal Arranger and Conductor

Ken Darby received three Oscars for his work on film musicals:

THE KING AND I and CAMELOT (both with Alfred Newman),
and PORGY AND BESS (with Andre Previn).

In honor of this centennial year, Ken Darby has been named for a Sammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

Read excerpts from an excellent interview with Darby by Page Cook in Films in Review at this link:

21st Annual Sammy Awards

For an extensive list of the films he worked on as an actor and musician, click on

Ken Darby on IMDb

See the Wikipedia article on

Ken Darby

I never met Ken Darby though I wish I had and told him what a talented musician he was during his long career.

Just listen to those wonderful lyrics he wrote for "River Of No Return" or "Love Me Tender" for a sample of his great skill as a songwriter.

---Roger Hall, Editor, Film Music Review

More information about Ken Darby and The King's Men is available in the multimedia book on CD-ROM:

"Following the Stars" -- Music and Memories of Hopalong Cassidy

AMP Western Links

"Back in the Saddle Again" - Centennial Tribute to Gene Autry

Cowboy Songs Corral

"Dust" -- Roy Rogers Becomes A Star

"High Noon" and Dimitri Tiomkin

Hopalong Cassidy Music

Hopalong Cassidy Songs

"The Last Round-Up" -- A Tribute to Billy Hill

"On the Banks of the Sunny San Juan" -- Centennial Tribute to Eddie Dean

"True Grit" -- Centennial Tribute to John Wayne

Western Movie Songs

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