Richard Gillis, Songwriter on 'The Ballad of Cable Hogue,' Dies at 80

Richard Gillis OBIT - Publicity - H 2019
Courtesy of Kate Boyte Moya

Sam Peckinpah hired him to a personal services contract after seeing him perform in a bar.

Richard Gillis, a singer, songwriter and composer who worked for Sam Peckinpah on the Western fable The Ballad of Cable Hogue, has died. He was 80.

Gillis died July 31 in Thousand Oaks as a result of complications from a fall at his home in Toluca Lake, his family said. 

For The Ballad of Cable Hogue (1970), which featured an original score by Jerry Goldsmith, Gillis wrote music and/or lyrics for such songs as "Butterfly Mornings," "Tomorrow Is the Song I Sing" and "Wait for Me, Sunrise," performed by actors Stella Stevens and Jason Robards (both lip-synced in the Arizona-set, turn-of-the-century movie) and Gillis himself.

"The songs of Richard Gillis enhance the fanciful tone of the picture, and one, 'Butterfly Mornings,' recorded in the desert by Robards and Miss Stevens, enriches the montage of their days together, with a dramatic function rare for film songs," The Hollywood Reporter noted in its review.

Peckinpah had signed Gillis to a personal services contract after seeing him perform in a bar — he sang regularly at Jason's Steakhouse in Toluca Lake — and he worked with the famed director on other films including The Wild Bunch (1969) and Convoy (1978).

After Peckinpah died in December 1984, 10 people spoke at his funeral: Robards, Don Siegel, Lee Marvin, Mariette Hartley, Brian Keith, Robert Culp, Ali MacGraw, L.Q. Jones, Kris Kristofferson and Gillis. 

Born on Dec. 15, 1938, in Hollywood, Gillis attended John Burroughs High School in Burbank, the University of Denver and UCLA. After serving in the U.S. Army, he returned to Hollywood to pursue a career in music and the movies.

Gillis composed music, sang or acted in other films including Schlock (1973), directed by John Landis; A Boy and His Dog (1975); The Bees (1978); Demonoid (1980); and Pretty Woman (1990) and Frankie and Johnny (1991), both helmed by Garry Marshall. He also worked as an art director, set designer, prop master, etc.

Survivors include his son, Scott, and daughter, Kate; siblings Peggy, Jimmy and Woody; grandson Todd; nephew Winston; and ex-wife Valerie.