John Wayne: What Influenced the Duke’s Recognizable Drawl in the Classic Cowboy Films

by Halle Ames
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Legendary actor John Wayne is easily recognizable from his countless roles as a cowboy, but close your eyes, and his drawl is still identifiable.

John Wayne wasn’t just known as the iconic, masculine cowboy being featured in every western hit in theaters. The Duke’s classic deep southern drawl is why Wayne was such a big star.

If I say the name John Wayne, does a picture of a scowl and dirty cowboy come into mind? Now, if I tell you to think of his voice, you can probably hear quotes from his top movies like Stagecoach or The Shootist. As I said, the man is distinguished. But who is to credit for the deep, twangy, silky smooth voice of the legendary John Wayne?

Early Life In The Midwest

Firstly, John Wayne, originally Marion Morrison, was born in Winterset, Iowa, located near the southern, middle part of the state. Being a Midwest native, I can confirm that some pockets of the area exhibit southern accents. Many will refer to them as Midwestern accents, but John Wayne isn’t drawing his “a’s” quite like the rest of us farming folk.

However, if you go directly East from Winterset, Iowa, for nearly six hours, you will almost run directly into Chicago. As specifically an Illinois native, people from the Chicago area usually sound more northern than southern. Furthermore, Wayne and his family packed their bags and moved to sunny California when he was just six years old. Is that enough time to pick up a dialect that would carry with John Wayne throughout his life? Debatable. Maybe he was just blessed with the iconic voice.

Who John Wayne Credits

According to Cowboys and Indians, John Wayne credits an unlikely source for his voice. During an interview, Wayne once noted that he attempted to mimic his stuntman, Yakima Canutt’s voice. He explained that when Canutt was angry, his voice would change, and the actor loved it.

“I noticed that the angrier he got, the lower his voice, the slower his tempo. I try to say my lines low and strong and slow, the way Yak did,” said Wayne.

In fact, when the legend would give advice on how to be an actor, he simply stated, “Talk low, talk slow, and don’t talk too much.”

In addition, the website reveals that John Wayne had a brief singing career as well. With a voice like that, why not give it a try! While we would love to hear that sweet lullaby, his dreams of being a musical star were short-lived.

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