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
- 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.
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.
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):
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."
Editor, Film Music Review