By Jim Harmon

It’s January 1957. I’m 10 years old.

My former neighbor from down the street (a block away) in Libby, Montana, is making headlines in the The Kaimin, Montana State University’s campus paper in Missoula.

“College song, dance group to appear in Montana cities,” read the headline.

“Dick Riddle’s College Capers will leave Monday for singing appearances at Sidney, Glasgow and Lewistown. They’re looking forward to a possible television appearance at Salt Lake City in March.”

The Riddle kids were older than I was, by a decade or more, so I never really knew them.

But the world would soon come to know Dick Riddle through record albums by his folk group, Three Young Men, later renamed Three Young Men From Montana.

In the early 1960s, the group recorded albums for “Columbia Records, appeared on the Johnny Carson Show nine times and became a regular act on the musical variety television show Hootenanny,” according to press releases at the time.

Dick Riddle at piano, The Montana Kaimin January 15, 1957
Dick Riddle at piano, The Montana Kaimin January 15, 1957

But let’s go back a few years.

In 1954, Riddle ran for ASMSU president against Roger Baty. He lost. But the campaign was interesting and refreshing.

Baty put together a “Baty or Bust” covered wagon, handing out free cookies. Riddle countered with an election headquarters at the Oval, offering free root beer!

On the stump, Baty touted his 3.5 GPA and his international travel, having lived in Beirut, Lebanon for three years. Riddle, who had a 2.2 GPA, highlighted his record as a delegate to the Central Board, member of Sigma Nu, and yell leader.

Baty ended up with 644 votes to Riddle’s 435.

In 1954, when Dick Riddle was a senior at MSU in Missoula (now UM), he was asked to “entertain at a local convention.” He quickly found some willing friends, according to a Kaimin account, and “put on a 45-minute show that marked the debut of the College Capers.”

Those willing friends were Cara Boggess, Patti Forzley, Pat Fox and Bob Ruby. The five performed on college campuses all across the Pacific Northwest, with a mix of Broadway tunes, popular hits and original songs written by Riddle, who also choreographed their performances.

They spent time with some interesting people. A.B. Guthrie’s daughter, Helen ‘Gus’ Miller, recalled in an interview with the Montanan magazine, “taking her college friends, the Three Young Men from Montana — Dick Riddle, Pat Fox and Bob Rubie — to see Judy Garland at Carnegie Hall on my nickel.”

In 1962, the trio was signed to a record deal and quickly released two LPs, “Three Young Men from Montana,” followed by “A Fresh New Sound.” Jim Lowe, a DJ for NBC radio, New York, wrote the jacket notes.

“Great exuberance marks the boys’ singing,” he wrote. “I have a feeling, together with a fond hope, that I’ll be playing their records for many years to come. I think they’ll be the greatest thing from Montana since Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse.”

Well, I don’t know about “the greatest thing since.”

The album did all right in sales. I bought a copy, but my purchase was based on the hometown Montana connection, not necessarily the group’s musical prowess. They were good – don’t get me wrong. But they were competing with the likes of the Kingston Trio and the Limelighters for record sales.

attachment-1962 - three young men from montana

In March 1963, the trio returned to where it all started: Montana State University in Missoula.

The press release for the event read, “The Three Young Men vocal trio whose meteoric rise in the entertainment world started at Montana State University a few years ago, will return to the campus for a performance in the University Theater Friday at 8:15 p.m.”

“The three MSU graduates, Pat Fox, ’57; Hardin; Dick Riddle, ’58, Libby, and Bob Ruby, ’59, Billings, started singing together as Sigma Nu fraternity brothers. After each had served a hitch in the service...they were signed to a five-year contract by Career Management, Inc., an affiliate of a top show music publisher.”

“Their concert at their Alma mater Friday will feature original arrangements of novelty numbers and folk songs along with hits from Broadway shows. Riddle, who doubles as piano accompanist, sings baritone, Fox sings high tenor, and Ruby, low tenor.”

attachment-ALBUM COVER - A Fresh New Sound - The Three Young Men From Montana

Dick went on to create ''COWBOY, a sprawling, brawling old-fashioned musical comedy about the life and times of the celebrated artist Charles M. Russell.”

As described by New York Times columnist Stephen Holden, COWBOY was “a show that wants to be a combination of ''Oklahoma!'' ''Big River,'' (and) ''Annie Get Your Gun.”

The best things about ''Cowboy,” wrote Holden, “are its eclectically folksy score by Richard Riddle, a Montana-born songwriter. Mr. Riddle's best songs shrewdly blend a turn-of-the-century high-plains rusticity with Broadway-style razzle-dazzle.”

Dick Riddle died on April 30, 1988. The Internet, with all its collected data, provides not a single account of his passing.

A 2019 article in Libby’s Western News newspaper about the induction of the Riddle family (Dina, Steve, and Dick) into the Libby High School National Honor Society Distinguished Graduate Hall of Fame simply mentions that Dick “considered himself just a writer, rather than a composer.” Not a word about the circumstances of his death.

Perhaps this article will prompt some recollections from others about the final days of this “Young Man From Montana.”

Jim Harmon is a longtime Missoula news broadcaster, now retired, who writes a weekly history column for Missoula Current. You can contact Jim at His best-selling book, “The Sneakin’est Man That Ever Was,” a collection of 46 vignettes of Western Montana history, is available at