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Wild Bill! An Evening with James Butler Hickok

Walt Willey in "Wild Bill! An Evening with James Butler Hickok"

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My name is Walt Willey.  Many, many folks know me from my almost 25 years playing “Jackson Montgomery” on ABC’s All My Children.

While I enjoyed my time on the show tremendously, I’m now doing something that is an absolute passion for me.  A couple of years ago, while back in my hometown of Ottawa, IL, I became aware that James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickok and I were born only miles apart. 

Intrigued by this fact – and in the market for a one-man show with which to tour – I began my research on this fascinating man.  After two years of extensive study and writing and a few performances (to packed houses, great reviews and standing ovations), I am ready to tour with this production:  Wild Bill! An Evening with James Butler Hickok.

SHOW SUMMARY:  The show opens as we find Hickok in the Number Ten Saloon, the site of his assassination in 1876 at thirty-nine years old.  Hickok is trapped there, between life and “whatever may await me, be it the pearly gates of Heaven or the deepest pit of Hell”.  He is convinced that if he reveals to the “excursionists” in the audience his “real story, as best and as honest as I can…that a toll may be paid and I may – finally – be ferried to that far shore”.

What follows is Hickok’s account of his life: from humble beginnings in Illinois to his times as farmer, trapper, scout, guide, sheriff, marshal and actor.  The themes of reputation, celebrity, heroism and bravery are all explored, as is Hickok’s intolerance for bullies; “I don’t like bullies…not by themselves or by the bunch.  I never was much for the stronger taking an advantage over the weaker…or standing by and a-watchin’ it happen.”

In the course of the two forty-five minute acts (followed by question and answer period/meet and greet), Hickok regales his audience with stories of his experience with the “underground railroad”, his time in the Civil War, scouting for Custer, “that damned fool”, and his adventures with “Buffalo Bill” Cody, “How he got that moniker is a mystery to me.  Took him six shots to even slow a buffaler down”, “Calamity Jane” Cannery, “Always had this odd odor about her, Jane did”, and “Colorado” Charley Utter, “Charley’s a good friend to me.  Kinda keeps my nose clean fer me, ol’ Charley does.” and how - because of his exploits - most “shootouts” in Westerns take place in the streets and a pair of aces and a pair of eights in a poker hand is referred to as “the dead man’s hand”.  Hickok talks about several of his gunfights and his times as sheriff of Hays City, KS and marshal of Abilene, KS, his love of women “and they was awful fond of me”, and his untimely end in the infamous mining camp of Deadwood.

Chis Silk of the Naples Daily News says: “A gifted actor, Willey transforms himself into the lawman…delves into Hickok’s fascinating past with obvious passion…His storytelling skills keep the audience entranced.”

Says audience member Sandi:What an OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE Walt Willey gave! VERY deserving of BOTH standing ovations he received (Sat night and Sun matinee)...”

John states: As a Wild Bill fan for 30+ years, (I can tell you) you were great and did your homework for sure!  The best part was when you called Buffalo Bill a "pip-squeak" - I know the two Bills were friends but James Butler Hickok was the real deal and you nailed him!”

Trish shares: “My husband and I really enjoyed the show and the question and answer session afterwards. The time flew by…would recommend the show to anyone!”

We are currently booking performances for Fall and Winter. 

You may view a “sizzle” reel below and the photo gallery

And visit the Wild Bill! An Evening with James Butler Hickok Facebook site:


For more information and to book, please contact my representative. 


Happy trails!

Walt Willey

Join Walt Willey for a night to remember with Wild Bill Hickok.  See photo gallery and more information.

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*Though the "Code of the West" was always unwritten, here is a partial list of some of the guidelines:

  • Don't inquire into a person's past. Take the measure of a man for what he is today.
  • Never steal another man's horse. A horse thief pays with his life.
  • Defend yourself whenever necessary.
  • Look out for your own.
  • Remove your guns before sitting at the dining table.
  • Don't make a threat without expecting dire consequences.
  • Never pass anyone on the trail without saying "Howdy".
  • When approaching someone from behind, give a loud greeting before you get within shooting range.
  • Don't wave at a man on a horse, as it might spook the horse. A nod is the proper greeting.
  • After you pass someone on the trail, don't look back at him. It implies you don't trust him.
  • Riding another man's horse without his permission is nearly as bad as making love to his wife. Never ever bother another man's horse.
  • A cowboy doesn't talk much; he saves his breath for breathing.
  • No matter how weary and hungry you are after a long day in the saddle, always tend to your horse's needs before your own, and get your horse some feed before you eat.
  • Cuss all you want, but only around men, horses and cows.
  • Complain about the cooking and you become the cook.
  • Do not practice ingratitude.
  • A cowboy is pleasant even when out of sorts. Complaining is what quitters do, and cowboys hate quitters.
  • Always be courageous. Cowards aren't tolerated in any outfit worth its salt.
  • A cowboy always helps someone in need, even a stranger or an enemy.
  • Never try on another man's hat.
  • Be hospitable to strangers. Anyone who wanders in, including an enemy, is welcome at the dinner table. The same is true for riders who join cowboys on the range.
  • Give your enemy a fighting chance.
  • Never wake another man by shaking or touching him, as he might wake suddenly and shoot you.
  • Real cowboys are modest. A braggart who is "all gurgle and no guts" is not tolerated.
  • Be there for a friend when he needs you.
  • A cowboy is loyal to his "brand," to his friends, and those with whom he rides.
  • Never shoot an unarmed or unwarned enemy. This is also known as "the rattlesnake code": always warn before you strike. However, if a man is being stalked, this can be ignored.
  • Consideration for others is central to the code, such as: Don't stir up dust around the chuckwagon, don't wake up the wrong man for herd duty, etc.
  • Honesty is absolute - your word is your bond, a handshake is more binding than a contract.
  • Live by the Golden Rule.


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