‘Bonanza’: Kurt Russell’s Dad Starred in the Iconic Series

by Josh Lanier

Kurt Russell is one of Hollywood’s most popular actors ever. He’s been working in the industry since he was 12 years old, but his dad was no slouch. Bing Russell appeared in nearly 200 television shows and movies over his career. Most famously, he starred as Deputy Clem Foster on Bonanza.

Kurt and Bing Russell have a lot in common. They both had hopes of making it in baseball and then turning to acting when that fell through. Bing served as an unofficial mascot for the New York Yankees in the 1930s and 40s. Hanging out with the likes of Joe DiMaggio, Lefty Gomez, and Lou Gehrig.

Kurt Russell also started out in baseball. He made it to the AA minor leagues when an injury to his rotator cuff killed those dreams.

And like his dad, Kurt Russell started out in Westerns. Bing Russell was a well-known and much-beloved actor in Westerns. Along with Bonanza, he appeared in Gunsmoke and The Magnificent Seven. He was so well known, in fact, that Elvis Presley even asked if he could steal his look.

“You know, Mr. Russell, I don’t mean to be forward or rude, but I’ve seen you in a lot of Westerns and I love the way you wear your hat,” Kurt Russell remembers The King saying to his dad. “And I was just wondering, I wanted to ask you, if I ever do a Western, would you be okay if I wore my hat that way?”

Bing and Elvis would eventually go on to be friendly, at least to hear Bing tell it. Bing Russell bought an independent minor league baseball team in Portland in the 1970s — the Mavericks. He once said Elvis had promised to sing the national anthem at 20 Maverick home games. He also said Elvis wanted to play for the team as well, The Oregonian reported. This was during a time when Elvis was looking to lose weight, so it sounded at least somewhat plausible yet far-fetched. None of this ever happened.

Netflix has a documentary on the team called The Battered Bastards of Baseball.

It eventually all came full circle. Kurt Russell played Elvis in a 1979 movie and Bing Russell starred as Elvis’ father. It was the role that launched Kurt Russell’s career and earned him a Golden Globe nomination.