Actor Ken Curtis

Celebrities, Celebrity Q&A, People
on January 11, 2004

Can you please give me information on Festus from Gunsmoke? Where was he born and raised and when?

—Andy M., Georgia

Ken Curtis, the actor who played Deputy Festus Haggen on Gunsmoke for 10 years, died in 1991 at the age of 74. He was one of the few cast members of the show with a true Western lawman background. His grew up in Colorado, where his father was a sheriff. Curtis’ interests lay in music, and he moved to Los Angeles to become a singer. He soon joined Tommy Dorsey’s band, replacing a young singer by the name of Frank Sinatra. Still, his first big hit, after a stint in the Army, was a cowboy song, Tumbling Tumbleweeds. He went on to become one of those singing cowboys and appeared in a number of Westerns, including The Searchers. He became a regular cast member on the hit TV series Gunsmoke in 1964, replacing Dennis Weaver, who had played Deputy Chester Good, and staying until the show went off the air in 1975. He then retired in Fresno, Calif., re-emerging to work in 1983’s short-lived Western prime-time soap, The Yellow Rose, and popping up to meet with fans at the occasional Western movie convention.