Road to Valhalla Part 1

(Deb) Hi. I’m Deb Bisel, your co-host for Around Kansas. Welcome to the Fox 
Theatre in lovely downtown Newton, Kansas where we are about to premiere 
the documentary, The Road to Valhalla. Stay with us. We’ll be right back.  
Closed Captioning Brought to you by the Kansas Soybean Commission the 
Soybean Checkoff Progress Powered by Kansas Farmers.
(Deb) Welcome to Around Kansas. I’m Deb Bisel. We’re here in the historic 
Eldridge Hotel in Lawrence, Kansas, one that was rebuilt after a couple of 
times and with me today is my good friend Ken Spurgeon and he is the 
filmmaker and genius behind the Road to Valhalla, another premier tonight 
in Lawrence and we’re just so excited to have you with us. So tell us, Ken, 
about how you came to make these three films on the Civil War in Kansas. 
(Male) Well it’s a long story, but just first of all, love of Kansas 
history and when we made the first film, which was Touched by Fire, which 
kind of focuses on Bleeding, Kansas, I didn’t think at that point there’d 
be a trilogy, but that story takes place in 1854 to 1861 and it was our 
first effort. It was a good effort, but, you know, there was things that 
could be improved upon, then we focused in the second one on the Lawrence 
Raid in particular, Bloody Dawn based on Tom Goodrich’s book and then this 
film is kind of an encapsulation of everything, the whole Kansas-Missouri 
story from the beginning of the war certainly until the end of the war and 
except this time I didn’t want to focus just on the bloodshed. I wanted to 
focus on the total outcome and restoration and reunion as well. (Deb) Well 
it’s a phenomenal film and a real labor of love. I’m so pleased to have 
been a part of it and you’ve got people who have been involved from the 
very beginning, so a lot of other people that love Kansas history as well. 
(Male) Yes. Lots of people like yourself and many other historians have 
been involved and, you know, we’re a not for profit, so we’ve had lots of 
teachers and educators. Our narrator, Buck Taylor, who’s a famous, to me, a 
famous character actor who’s been involved through Blood Dawn and this film 
and then people like Tim Ruse, who’s with the Constitution Hall in Lecompton, so 
it’s been a labor of love not just for me, but I think it’s been a labor of 
love for a lot of people who love Kansas history quite honestly and we just 
think, all of us think, that these are important stories and I know you do 
too and, I mean, that’s the connecting piece between us all is that we 
believe they’re important and that they need to be told and who else is 
gonna tell them if we don’t tell them and have a passion for them? A lot of 
us say we want our students and children to know about it, but then the 
responsibility for that falls upon all of us and, so, I think that’s what 
motivates me. (Deb) Now if folks don’t get to one of the premieres or one of 
the public showings, how can they get these films? (Male) Well they can go 
to and that’s The films will 
be on some form of PBS, whether they’re a broader audience or PBS regional 
stations, but they’re coming, but at, they can buy 
them in our store and the DVD’s will be out soon, probably spring 
of 2014. (Deb) Well they’re a great tool for educators, but it’s a great 
thing for the family to just have and watch  because I’m sure the family 
will enjoy it as much as a classroom, so it’s just again, a wonderful labor 
of love and such an incredible effort by so many people and just kudos, 
good job, once more. (Male) Thank you very much. (Deb) We’re so, so thrilled 
to be a part of it and so thrilled to have so many great interviews with 
the people that are involved, so stay tuned. We’ve got a lot more to come 
with the Road to Valhalla. 
(Deb) Welcome back to Around Kansas. I’m Deb Bisel and with me is Jed 
Marrow. Jed, it’s so good to see you. (Male) Nice to be here. Thank you. 
(Deb) And Jed has composed some really wonderful, original music for The 
Road to Valhalla and you also did original music in the second of this 
trilogy, Bloody Dawn. In fact, Bloody Friday, is that the name of it? 
(Male) I call the song One Bloody Friday. (Deb) Oh, man it’s haunting. It’s 
wonderful. (Male) Thanks. (Deb) So tell me how you came to be involved with 
this and just working with Ken Spurgeon. (Male) I make my living at the  
Irish and Scottish festivals. I was doing a festival in Kansas City, Kansas 
and ran into some folks that are connected to the Lone Chimney Films and I 
had written a song that kind of poked fun at John Brown from the 
Confederate perspective after reading an editorial from a pretty popular 
writer in those days and the rest is history. They thought it was funny and 
invited me to participate. (Deb) It’s some wonderful history. So when you 
take historic events like the Civil War in Kansas and create songs, what are 
you trying to do with that? (Male) That’s a good question. In this case, 
I worked with the filmmaker Ken Spurgeon who talked a lot about what he 
was thinking about and how we wanted to develop the film and I asked what 
books he was reading and that he was basing it on, and I read those books 
and we talked more about the ideas, things that he wanted to highlight in 
the film and I told him my ideas for songs and we developed those and went 
off and wrote a bunch of songs. (Deb) Now one of the things that I believe 
you have a real gift for is singing. I really appreciate being a historian 
and connecting to people the way I do in history, I think you do the same 
thing with your songs. You bring out those poignant, very human moments and 
this, you know, great, grand saga that was the Civil War, but they’re very 
personal moments within that war. (Male) As a songwriter, that’s what 
appeals to me. You know the history is the backdrop as far as I’m 
concerned. (Deb) Right. (Male)  It’s the human story that appeals to me and 
that’s why I write those songs. We talked about the Bloody Dawn. In that 
one, Ken asked me about writing a song. I said, Well how should I tell a 
song like that? How can I tell that story? He said write it from 
Quantrill’s perspective, so when I read your book, as a matter of fact, I 
looked for things that Quantrill was noted for saying and I pulled out some 
of those quotes. Leave no stone unturned. Let’s get these houses 
burned. We’re gonna have one bloody Friday. You know all of these quotes 
that I found in there, I just looked for the rhyme in those phrases and 
found a way to fit those into a song. (Deb) So what are you most proud of 
or pleased with this film and what you did? (Male) Well I loved the theme 
song Shine’s Like Gold. (Deb) It is wonderful, it’s wonderful. (Male) And 
that song just kind of focuses in the subject of the title, where did the 
movie come from and it comes from the quote from the North Carolina 
soldier saying that he looked forward to the reunion in Valhalla where he’d 
meet and greet all of his comrades, you know, friend and foe and, so, that 
was the whole focus of the song. (Deb) Well it’s a wonderful job, just a 
wonderful job and Jed is so talented and I’ve got to tell people, I hope 
this airs before Christmas because you’ve got to get the Banjos League 
Heard on High. It is my mission to get everybody in America to hear and 
in Europe, we don’t want to discriminate to hear Banjos We have Heard on 
High. (Male) That’s a noble mission. (Deb) Jed, thank you so much.    
(Male) Thank you. (Deb) Wonderful having you with us. We’ll be right back. 
(Deb) Welcome back to Around Kansas. I’m Deb Bisel, your co-host and I 
could not be more thrilled than to be sitting here with Buck Taylor. This was
one of my first crushes, so, you know, the great thing about being a media 
person is you get to meet all these people you’ve admired for so long and 
Buck has a starring role and is narrator of the documentary film, Road to 
Valhalla and, Buck, it’s just great to have you with us. (Male) Thank you, 
Deb. Thank you for having me on your show and I’m pleased to be in Kansas, 
a place that’s dear to my heart because if there wasn’t a Dodge City, there 
probably would have never been a Gunsmoke, which I was apart of for a long 
time. (Deb) Everybody watching, I know all of our viewers of Around Kansas 
know exactly who Buck Taylor is, Newly for years on Gunsmoke and then, of 
course, a very successful career in so many things, art, rodeo, you do it 
all, a Renaissance man. (Male) Yes, I try to. I’m an aging Newly, but I 
love history. I love our American west. I love our American cowboy way of 
life. I ranch in Texas and rodeo a lot, as much as I can. I’m a team roper, 
but I love history and this movie, Road to Valhalla is about Kansas 
history, in particular, and Missouri and if I can say something about the 
filmmaker Ken Spurgeon. (Deb) Isn’t he wonderful? (Male) He is awesome. I 
met him years ago and I’ve been a fan of his ever since and he’s used me as 
a narrator and as an actor, but I want to equate two things that I thought 
about tonight as I was in the car riding here with Ken, something some 
student asked him or someone, you know, Why do you like to do this and why 
do you do this? And I flashed back to Gunsmoke and Milburn Stone, who was 
born and raised in Burton, Kansas and in Gunsmoke, he was the historian. He 
was the guy that made Gunsmoke as accurate as possible, even though we had 
mountains in the background, forget about that, but he was operating on a 
guy and he had this scalpel in his hand and before he went to operating, 
they said, Action, he went, Woo, woo, wait a minute. He said to the director, 
he said, This scalpel is like 1927. He said, This is supposed to be 1876. 
The director said, Milburn, who’s gonna know the difference? Two or three 
people? He said, If we’re that close, let’s make it right, and that’s what 
Ken Spurgeon reminds me of because his answer was, Why do you do this? And 
he says, Because I care. I mean what a cool thing to say and what a neat 
thing. It must be part of Kansas to say that. (Deb) It is. (Male) You know 
and Kansas, the heartland, man, it doesn’t get any better than this. Dodge 
City was the cowboy capital of the world, you know, the just gives me goose 
bumps and like I said, I’m not being corney or anything like that. 
Milburn was so proud of his heritage and I was so proud to be a part of 
Gunsmoke and all that and now I’m part of this and I’m beside myself.  
(Deb) Well I’m beside myself to be here with you and I have to tell you, 
I’m co-founder of the Kansas Hall of Fame and our first class of Laureates 
2011, I campaigned long and hard to get James Arness, Marshall Matt Dillon 
as portrayed by James Arness and he knew that, right before he died, he 
knew that he was going to be inducted into the Hall of Fame and he was so 
pleased and sent a very nice letter and, but the world knows America 
because of Gunsmoke and what a wonderful ambassador that was. I mean it’s all 
about community and honestly and decency and taking care of one another and 
the values are wonderful. (Male) I agree. I’ve run across a lot of people 
in my travels, in my art shows that I go to. I just came from Silver Dollar 
City. For six weeks I was there and they are huge Gunsmoke fans to this day, 
fifty-eight years it’s been on all together and people constantly tell me, they 
say, You know the shows were good shows. Good guys won, bad guys lost, very 
simple, but it was a great way to watch and learn and it’s rubbed off. I 
don’t know how many police officers have said, You know, when I was a kid, 
I watched Matt Dillon and I became a police officer because of him and his 
integrity and all that. (Deb) What a legacy. (Male) I mean I’ve got to 
pinch myself. I thought 1975 when they canceled it, you know, I said, Well 
it was great. I was on it eight years. It was awesome, you know, I’m gonna 
stay with my painting, my water colors and all that. It was fun. To this 
day, now there’s little kids this big, of course, they don’t know who I am, 
but I show them a picture of me, they say, Oh, that guy? No, you’re not 
that guy, are you? But anyway, it’s still running. It’s still rolling. It’s 
gosh, it’s something else. (Deb) We’re gonna be right back with more with 
Buck Taylor. 
(Deb) Welcome back to Around Kansas. With me is Buck Taylor and I just 
couldn’t be more thrilled. Buck, let’s talk about the west and I think 
there are people, especially in the eastern part of Kansas that tend to 
forget that they are part of the west, but Kansas, in my mind, defined the west 
and what do you think about that? (Male) What do I think about it? I think 
about the wide open plains of western Kansas, thousands of square miles of 
prairie grass, hundreds of thousands of buffalo, it’s dang sure the west 
and it’s part of our western, cowboy life because as you know, the buffalo 
hunters came, evolving out of that, the cattle came, the railroad came, you 
know, one thing lead to another and it’s a beautiful history. I didn’t tell 
you this, but from here, along with Ken Spurgeon, we’re filming an 
introduction to the Boot Hill Museum in Dodge City. (Deb) Great. (Male) I 
narrated and I also performed in the beginning of it, in other words, I 
ride in on a horse and I say, you know, you may remember me as Newly on 
Gunsmoke and so forth and so forth, you know, Matt Dillon, Marshall Dillon, 
Miss Kitty and all, we brought Dodge City and the west, but the Dodge 
City that you all know on television was a lot different from the real 
Dodge City and I’m gonna tell you about what really happened in Dodge City 
and it’s a neat script that they have and I narrate and I come and go in 
different parts, but it’s just for the museum. It’s things I never really
knew about as far as the history of Dodge City, the railroads, 
the buffalo hunters and all and I think people enjoy when they go visit 
Boot Hill Museum, they get me as kind of an actor type of guy, you know, 
not a historian, but certainly Dodge City was a part of my life in the film 
and then we show you the real Dodge City. (Deb) Now you had a very unique 
upbringing as the child of Dub Taylor. (Male) Yes, ma’am. (Deb) You grew 
up knowing, was it Chill Wills you said that was holding your hands when 
you took your first steps? (Deb) No, he didn’t have to hold my hand because 
I took my first steps to Chill Wills. (Deb) What an incredible story. So 
you were so blessed to grow up with that group of actors that brought the 
west to every home in America and around the world and what an incredible 
childhood. (Male) I’ll tell you something else that I like as well, Glenn 
Strange who played Sam the Bartender on Gunsmoke, a big, tall guy and friend 
of John Wayne. John Wayne told Jim Arness, Hire him, he’s our friend, you 
know, they were all buddies together. Well I roomed with Glenn Strange and 
we toured around like Doc and Festus were the A-Team. They went to all the 
big rodeos and small rodeos too. We went to ones they didn’t go to, 
Phillipsburg, Kansas for one. (Deb) Oh, wonderful. (Male) I started singing 
and everybody got up and left. I looked back at Glenn Strange and he 
said, Buck, there’s a tornado warning. We all got to get out of here. But 
what I was trying to say, Glenn Strange worked a one-o-one ranch, Miller’s 
one-o-one in Ponca City, came to Hollywood with Tom Mix, Buck Jones, Will 
Rogers and those guys and I would pick his brain to find out. He touched 
the west. (Deb) Oh, no kidding. (Male) And I’ve had a great life and this 
is maybe the best part of it right now. (Deb) That’s wonderful. (Male) I 
mean that. 
Closed Captioning Brought to you by the Kansas Soybean Commission. 
The Soybean Checkoff, Progress Powered by Kansas Farmers.

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