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Cowboy Songs Corral

This is another in the series celebrating
one singer-songwriter

 



"Back in the Saddle Again"


A Centennial Tribute to Gene Autry

 

 

Contents

Gene Autry: Five Star Entertainer

Gene Autry is the only show business personality to have five stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame:

  • motion pictures
  • radio
  • television
  • recordings
  • live performances (rodeo shows)

 

He was also the most prolific of B-western stars, featured in more than 90 western movies and making over 600 recordings. He ontributed to or owned the rights to hundreds of western songs.

He was born Orvon Grover Autry in Indian Creek near Tioga, Texas on September 29, 1907.   After shortening his name to Gene Autry, he got his first break making records in the early 1930s.

Films

Though others had done some singing before him, like Ken Maynard, it was Gene Autry who made the singing cowboy a popular form of movie entertainment. Gene made his first singing appearance in the Ken Maynard film, IN OLD SANTE FE,in 1934.

One year later he appeared and sang in the wacky and wonderful western/sci fi serial, THE PHANTOM EMPIRE, where he sang his first hit song, "That Silver Haired Daddy of Mine" (music & lyrics by Gene Autry and Jimmy Long).

Then Gene made his first full-length picture for Republic Studios: TUMBLING TUMBLEWEEDS. In addition to the title song, Gene reprised "That Silver Haired Daddy of Mine," and also sang "Ridin' Down The Canyon" (co-written with Smiley Burnette, who received a whopping $5 for the song). The song was recorded by Bing Crosby (shown at left).

Other hit songs that Gene had from his films are: "Take Me Back To My Boots and Saddles"; "Back in the Saddle Again"; "Call of the Canyon"; and "Ghost Riders in the Sky." All of these songs are included on this enjoyable Varese Sarabande CD, with a personal message from Gene Autry himself:

Gene Autry: The Singing Cowboy, Chapter One

After his first movie, he frequently made 6 or more movies a year for Republic. His early song hits include: "Mexicali Rose"; "South of the Border (Down Mexico Way)"; "The Last Round-Up"; and "Blue Canadian Rockies." All of them are featured on this second CD from Varese Sarbande, with another message from Gene Autry:  

Gene Autry: The Singing Cowboy, Chapter Two

His last one in 1953 for Columbia was ironically titled: LAST OF THE PONY RIDERS, and it featured the fine song: "Sing Me a Song of the Saddle" (music & lyrics: Gene Autry and Frank Harford).  

For a list of his films click here  

Radio and Television Shows

Gene had his own radio prgram from 1940 to 1956, and his own television series from 1950 to 1956. Some of his best nown songs from his movies, radio and TV shows are on this excellent CD:

Gene Autry: The Western Collection (Varese Sarabande)

Besides being in films, radio and television, he also made hundreds of personal appearances in parades, rodeos and at other events.

Recordings

There are some songs which list Gene Autry as songwriter for words & music (such as the song shown at left) and also as co-writer. Besides the songs he wrote entirely himself, he didn't contribute much to the songs he co-wrote with another songwriter. M ost of the time he just added or changed a few words, as in his theme song "Back in the Saddle," mostly written by Ray Whitley in 1939. Or sometimes Gene came up with the idea for a song, like "Here Comes Santa Claus" in 1946. But no matter how much Gene contributed to these songs, he still made them popular and they continue to entertain his many fans today.

Here is a list of his first five million-selling records with dates they were recorded -- information from The Gene Autry Book by David Rothel (1988) and Sing Cowboy Sing: The Gene Autry Collection notes by Douglas B. Green (Rounder Records, 3 CD box set, 1997):

  • "That Silver Haired Daddy of Mine" (Jimmy Long-Gene Autry) -- recorded 29 October 1931.
  • "Tumbling Tumbleweeds" (Bob Nolan) -- 11 November 1935/ also in 1946.
  • "Back in the Saddle Again" (Ray Whitley-Gene Autry) -- 18 April 1939/ also in 1946 and 1952.
  • "South of the Border" (Michael Carr-Jimmy Kennedy) -- 11 September 1939/ also in 1946.
  • "You Are My Sunshine" (Jimmy Davis-Charley Mitchell) -- 18 June 1941/ also in 1956.

Gene received a gold record for "That Silver Haired Daddy of Mine" after the song sold over a million copies. That gold record is on display at the Gene Autry National Center in Los Angeles.

One of the most popular of all Christmas songs is "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer" written by Johnny Marks.  It was recorded by Gene in June of 1949. By December 3rd of that year, it had climbed to the No. 1 spot on the charts.  It's now the second largest-selling Christmas song of all-time, after Bing Crosby's recording of "White Christmas." Gene also had a big hit with another Christmas song, "Here Comes Santa Claus," featured in his western film, THE COWBOY AND THE INDIANS (1949), included on this wonderful CD of original soundtracks:

Gene Autry: 20 Greatest Movie Hits (Varese Sarabande)

For more information about his life and career, click here.

Gene Autry was truly a man of many talents, from easygoing singer to smart businessman and baseball owner who made many wise and careful investments.

He fully deserved his "Five Stars" on the Hollywood Hall of Fame.   

He died on October 2, 1998 at the age of 91.

For his many fans Gene Autry will always remain...

"Back in the saddle again."

Roger Hall
Editor, Film Music Review

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Film Stars and Singing Cowboys

There is a web page devoted to vintage western film music and cowboy songs and singers.

Click on this link:

Cowboy Song Corral

There are also two eBooks available:

"Following the Stars" - Music and Memories of Hopalong Cassidy

"Dream World" - Songs, Poems and Stories --
memories of Hopalong Cassidy, Gene Autry, Tex Ritter, and Roy Rogers.

Tune Week

A few favorite Gene Autry songs were selected for Carry A Tune Week.

 

Read about the Gene Autry songs chosen at this link:

National Carry A Tune Week 2007

 

 

Western News

Are you looking for an informative publication about cowboy films?

Then you should subscribe to Western Clippings, the newsletter skillfully put together by Boyd Magers, who has written a great new book about Gene Autry's movies and TV shows, titled:

Gene Autry Westerns: America's Favorite Cowboy (Empire Publishing, 2007)

Western Clippings is chock full of interesting articles and news about vintage cowboy films and people.

To order the Gene Autry book or subscribe to Western Clippings, write to:

vidwest@comcast.net

 

Ten Favorite Songs From Gene Autry Films
selected by Roger Hall

 

  1. "Back in the Saddle Again" (1939) - music and lyrics by Gene Autry and Ray Whitley. First used in the Gene Autry western: ROVIN' TUMBLEWEED in 1939, and then again in BACK IN THE SADDLE in 1941.  The song was recorded 3  times by Gene: 1939, 1946 and 1952.  He also sang it during several programs in his TV series.                                                                                                         
  2. "Be Honest With Me" (1941) - music and lyrcis by Gene Autry and Fred Rose. The song was featured in several different Gene Autry westerns: RIDIN' ON A RAINBOW (song nominated for this film, 1941), SIERRA SUE (1941), and HOME IN WYOMIN' (1942). Other popular recordings of this song were made by Bing Crosby and Jimmie Wakely.      
  3. "Ghost Riders in the Sky" (1949) - music and lyrics by Stan Jones. This song was featured in Gene's 1949 film, RIDERS IN THE SKY. The song was a No. 1 million seller for Vaughn Monroe and His Orchestra, and also was recorded by Bing Crosby, Burl Ives, Peggy Lee and others. But I prefer Gene's understated rendering of this very unusual and memorable song.                        
  4. "Home on the Range" (1873) - music by Daniel E, Kelley/ lyrics by Brewster M. Higley. This famous song was written in Smith County, Kansas.  This song has been recorded by just about every singing cowboy, including Gene Autry, who sang it in his western, STARDUST ON THE SAGE in 1942, and later in several of his TV shows.                                                                          
  5. "The Last Round-Up" (1933) -  music and lyrics by Billy Hill.  One of the earliest and most poignant of popular western songs, it was introduced by Joe Morrison with George Olson and his orchestra.  Also a hit record by Bing Crosby. Gene sang it in two of his westerns: THE SINGING HILLin 1941, and THE LAST ROUND-UP in 1947 (Gene said this was his favorite film).
  6. "Mexicali Rose" (1923) -  music by Jack B. Tenney/ lyrics by Helen Stone.  A song popularized on radio in 1926 by Cliquot Club Eskimos. Gene first sang it in ROOTIN' TOOTIN' RHYTHM in 1937. He sang it in 1939 for his western, MEXICALI ROSE, and then again in his 1952 western, BARBED WIRE. Also on his TV show.
  7. "Sioux City Sue: (1946) - music by Dick Thomas/ lyrics by Ray Freedman.  This song was introduced in Gene's western movie of the same title.                                  
  8. "(Take Me Back to My) Boots and Saddles" (1935) -  music and lyrcis by Walter Samuels, Leonard Whitcup, and Teddy Powell.  The song was first used in the Gene's 1937 western with the same title.  It was featured again in CALL OF THE CANYON in 1942.                 
  9. "Tumbling Tumbleweeds" (1934) -  music and lyrics by Bob Nolan.  This song was made famous by Bob Nolan's group, The Sons of the Pioneers. The song was featured in Gene's first Republic western with the same title in 1935, and also IN OLD MONTEREY in 1939. Roy Rogers sang it ten years later in DON'T FENCE ME IN.                                                                                  
10. "You Are My Sunshine" (1940)  -  music and lyrics by Jimmie Davis and Charles Mitchell.  Tex Ritter first sang this  very popular song, with Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys, in the 1940 western, TAKE ME BACK TO OKLAHOMA. Jimmie Davis used it as his campaign song when he ran for governor of Louisiana in 1944.  Gene Autry's classic recording was made on June 18, 1941 and that year it was featured in one of his popular films, BACK IN THE SADDLE, plus again in STARDUST ON THE SAGE in 1942.  

 

 

 

A Few Recommended CDs

 

Back in the Saddle Again: 25 Cowboy Classics

 

 

Back in the Saddle Again: 25 Cowboy Classics

 

 

The Essential Gene Autry: 1933-1946

 

 

The Essential Gene Autry, 1933-1946

 

 

Gene Autry at the Melody Ranch

 

 

Gene Autry at the Melody Ranch

 

 

Complete 1950s Television Recordings

 

 

Gene Autry: Complete 1950s TV Recordings (3 CD Set)

 

 

AMP Links

Cowboy Song Corral

Hopalong Cassidy Music

"The Last Roundup" -- A Tribute to Billy Hill

"On the Banks of the Sunny San Juan" -- A Tribute to Eddie Dean

Western Songs From The Movies

Other Links

Autry National Center

Gene Autry Centennial

Gene Autry (Country Music Hall of Fame)

Gene Autry (Oklahoma Museum)

Gene Autry (Wikipedia)


 

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