Las Vegas Review-Journal
Thursday, September 19, 2002

Actor Martinez, a Las Vegan for 16 years, dies

'Real McCoys' TV role was career highlight


Actor Tony Martinez, who played ranch hand Pepino Garcia on the hit TV sitcom "The Real McCoys," died Monday at Nathan Adelson Hospice. He was 82.

A memorial celebration of life will be held at a later date.

A 16-year Las Vegas resident, Martinez retired after a 60-year show business career that took him from his native Puerto Rico to Hollywood.

Born Jan. 27, 1920, in San Juan, Martinez broke into movies in the late '40s. The Internet Movie Database lists his first on-screen credit as a bellhop in the 1948 Republic Pictures adventure "Angel on the Amazon."

After supporting roles in the 1950 Western "Barricade," the 1952 boxing drama "The Ring," the 1953 thriller "Second Chance" and the 1955 Western "The Naked Dawn," Martinez played himself in the 1956 musical "Rock Around the Clock." In addition to composing "Mambo Rock," played by Bill Haley and the Comets, Martinez and his band performed "Solo Y Triste (Sad and Lonely)," "Cuero (Skins)," "Mambo Capri" and "Bacalo Con Papa (Codfish and Potatoes)."

Martinez's TV breakthrough came the following year when he was cast as the musically inclined Pepino in "The Real McCoys." The show, about a West Virginia clan that moved to California's San Fernando Valley, became one of TV's biggest hits and launched a rural comedy craze.

Three-time Oscar-winner Walter Brennan starred as the family's cranky grandfather, Amos, whose irascible exchanges with Pepino added to the down-home humor. "The Real McCoys" made its prime-time debut in October 1957 and ran five seasons on ABC, then switched to CBS for its final prime-time season in 1962-63. Daytime reruns continued on CBS from 1962 to 1966 under the title "The McCoys."

In 2000, Martinez joined "Real McCoys" co-stars Richard Crenna and Kathleen Nolan for a "Real McCoys Reunion" TV special.

In addition to his TV and movie work, Martinez's career extended to the stage, encompassing directing and writing as well as acting.

Survivors include his wife, Myra Martinez of Las Vegas; sons David Martinez of Las Vegas and Christian Martinez of California; daughters Renee Wilson of Cedar City, Utah, and Lissette Martinez of New York; sister Angelica Montanez of Virginia; four grandchildren; and two great- grandchildren.

The family requested memorial donations to Nathan Adelson Hospice. Nevada Funeral Service-Nevada Cremation or Burial Society handled arrangements.