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Fuller Up, The Dead Musician Directory
 
  Gene Autry
 Long illness Oct  2, 1998
Age 91
OBITUARY 
BIOGRAPHY / (Autry's Cowboy Code) 
LINKS
 
 
 
 

OBITUARY 
        
      Autry, in tune with the changing times
        

                       For a guitar-strummer whose seminal career moment came in an 
                       Oklahoma telegraph office, Gene Autry wore a lot of hats strumming 
                       his way to the American Dream. And by no means were they all of the 
                       cowboy make and model. 

                       Autry, who died Friday at 91, was a box 
                       office champion, World War II veteran 
                       and one of the few baseball owners who 
                       conjured up warm feelings. He was a 
                       successful songwriter, investor and the 
                       only performer to rate five stars on the 
                       Hollywood Walk of Fame. Even his 
                       recording career divided into 
                       sub-categories: country-western, holiday 
                       songs and duets with the likes of Jo 
                       Stafford and Rosemary Clooney. 

                       Still, the modesty that typified the B 
                       Westerns he made from the '30s to the 
                       '50s extended to his self-evaluation. "I'm 
                       not a great actor, great singer or great 
                       rider," he once said. "But what the hell is 
                       my opinion when 50 million people think 
                       I do pretty good?" 

                       They did indeed. First, there was his 
                       breakthrough 1931 recording of That 
                       Silver-Haired Daddy of Mine, waxed 
                       less than four years after Will Rogers 
                       passed through an Oklahoma telegraph 
                       office and gave its guitar-picking employee 
                       career encouragement. Much later, there 
                       came fame with radio's Melody Ranch 

               program and more than 90 movies. 
         
                       Autry the actor generally opted for singing over gunplay and sometimes 
                       looked as if he might get winded lifting a pot of campfire beans. But 
                       with famed horse Champion and his comical sidekick Smiley Burnette, 
                       he was a good-hearted role model personifying fairness, honesty and 
                       tolerance. 

                       Eventually, he became a key player in early '50s TV when his Flying A 
                       Pictures produced not just his own half-hour show but The Range 
                       Rider and Annie Oakley. And if this wasn't enough to endear him to 
                       baby boomers, there were his kiddie recordings: Here Comes Santa 
                       Claus, Frosty the Snowman, Peter Cottontail and Rudolph, the 
                       Red-Nosed Reindeer. 

                       Autry also was a businessman, landing for many years on Forbes 
                       magazine's list of the 400 richest Americans. His most high-profile 
                       investment was the Los Angeles Angels, which he founded as an 
                       American League franchise in 1961. The Walt Disney Co. bought a 
                       controlling interest in the team (now the Anaheim Angels) three years 
                       ago, but this season Autry, seated in a golf cart, soaked up cheers from 
                       fans before one game. 

                       As the last survivor of the celebrated Hoppy-Gene-and-Roy 
                       triumvirate, Autry's passing comes just three months after Roy Rogers' 
                       death in July — making this a miserable year for boomer heroes when 
                       coupled with the deaths of Buffalo Bob Smith and astronaut Alan 
                       Shepard. 

                       Autry was that rare individual who'll be equally missed in sports and 
                       entertainment — and by Donner and Blitzen, too. 
       

                 By Mike Clark, USA TODAY 

 
Gene Autry
 
        LOS ANGELES (AP) _ 
        Gene Autry, who parlayed a $5 mail order guitar, 
        charm and a smooth voice into a career as 
        Hollywood's first singing cowboy, died Friday. 
        He was 91. 

        Autry built a multimillion-dollar fortune in broadcasting 
        and was the original owner of the California Angels 
        baseball team. 

        He first sang on radio in 1928, and went on to make 
        95 films and star in a TV show from 1950 to 1956. 
        He also cut 635 records, including ``Rudolph the Red- 
        Nosed Reindeer'' and his signature ``Back in the Saddle 
        Again,'' which was back on the charts in 1993 as part 
        of the soundtrack to the hit movie ``Sleepless in Seattle.'' 

        He ranked for many years on the Forbes magazine list 
        of the 400 richest Americans, before he fell in 1995 to 
        the magazine's ``near miss'' category with an estimated 
        net worth of $320 million. 

        Autry, who once turned down a chance to play in the 
        minor leagues, had been the Angels' owner since the 
        team was formed as an American League expansion 
        franchise in 1961. 

        In the heyday of the Western, Autry was ranked top 
        Western star at the box office from 1937-43, and in 
        1940-42 he was in the Top 10 of all movie box office 
        favorites. 

        Autry hung up his performing spurs in 1956, but 
        continued to own four radio stations, the Gene 
        Autry Hotel in Palm Springs, and several other 
        properties. In 1982, he sold Los Angeles television 
        station KTLA for $245 million. 

        By The Associated Press Robert Dose, Elfriede Frank, Ed Krahling, Rick L. Rozar 

 

OBITUARY
BIOGRAPHY
LINKS TOP
 
 
 
 
 

 

BIOGRAPHY
    Gene Autry 

    (b. Orvon Gene Autry, 29 September 1907, near Tioga, Texas, USA). 

    The eldest of four children of Delbert Autry, a poor tenant farmer, who moved 
    his family many times over the years, before eventually arriving at Ravia, OK. 
    His grandfather, a Baptist minister, taught him to sing when he was a child so 
    that he could perform in his church choir and at other local events. Autry also 
    learned to ride at an early age and worked the fields with his father. He grew  
    up listening to cowboy songs and received his first guitar at the age of 12.  
    (Initially he studied the saxophone but chose the guitar so that he could sing 
    as well.) He graduated from Ravia Community School in 1924 and after spending 
    a few months with a Medicine Show, he found work as a telegraph operator for  
    the Frisco Railroad in Chelsea, Oklahoma. He used to take his guitar to work  
    and sing and one night was heard by the famous entertainer Will Rogers, who  
    stopped to send a telegram. He suggested that Autry should look for a job in  
    radio. After trying unsuccessfully to find work in New York, he returned to OK 
    and began to appear on KVOO Tulsa as The Oklahoma Yodeling Cowboy. 

    After hearing recordings of Jimmie Rodgers, he became something of a Rod- 
    gers clone as he tried to further his career. In 1929, he made his first RCA Victor 
    recordings, My Dreaming Of You and My Alabama Home, on which he was ac- 
    companied by Jimmy Long (a fellow telegrapher) and Frankie and Johnny Marvin. 
    Further recordings followed for ARC Records under the direction of Art Satherley, 
    some being released on various labels for chain store sales. It was because of  
    releases on Conqueror for Sears that Autry found himself given the opportunity to 
    join WLS in Chicago. In 1931, he became a featured artist on the "National Barn  
    Dance," as well as having his own "Conqueror Record Time." Before long, Gene  
    Autry Roundup guitars and songbooks were being sold by Sears. Interestingly, 
    WLS portrayed him as a singing cowboy even though, at this time, few of his  
    songs were of that genre. Between 1931 and 1934, he was a hillbilly singer,  
    who still at times sounded like Rodgers. In fact most experts later rated him 
    the best of the Rodgers' impersonators. He began to include his own songs 
    and such numbers as The Gangster's Warning and My Old Pal Of Yesterday  
    became very popular. 

 
    Late in 1931, he recorded That Silver Haired Daddy Of Mine as a duet with  
    Jimmy Long, with whom he had co-written the song. The song eventually 
    became Autry's first million selling record. By 1934, he was well known as 
    a radio and recording personality. Having for some time been portrayed as 
    a singing cowboy by the publicity departments of his record companies, he 
    now took his first steps to make the publicity come true. He was given a  
    small part in the Ken Maynard film In Old Santa Fe and soon after starred in 
    a strange 12-episode western/science fiction serial called The Phantom 
    Empire. In 1935, Republic Pictures signed him to a contract and Tumbling 
    Tumbleweeds became his first starring western film. His previous singing  
    cowboy image was now reality. He sang eight songs in the film including 
    the title track, That Silver Haired Daddy and Ridin' Down The Canyon.  
    Further films followed in quick succession and by 1940 Autry ranked fourth 
    among all Hollywood money-making stars at the box office. In January 1940, 
    Gene Autry's MELODY RANCH radio show, sponsored by the Wrigley Gum 
    Company, first appeared on CBS and soon became a national institution,  
    running until 1956. Helped out by such artists as Pat Buttram, Johnny Bond 
    and the Cass County Boys, Autry regularly righted wrongs, sang his hits  
    and as a result of the program, built himself a new home in the San Fer- 
    nando Valley called Melody Ranch.  

    Quite apart from the radio shows and films, he toured extensively with his 
    stage show. It featured roping, Indian dancers, comedy, fancy riding from  
    Autry, smart horse tricks by Champion and music. By 1941, he was res- 
    pected and famous all over the USA The little town of Berwyn, Oklahoma 
    even changed its name to Gene Autry, Oklahoma. His songs such as Be 
    Honest With Me, Back In The Saddle Again (which became his signature 
    tune), Your The Only Star In My Blue Heaven, Goodbye, Little Darlin' Good- 
    bye (later recorded by Johnny Cash) and many more became tremendously 
    popular. In 1942, his income took a severe cut when he enlisted in the Air 
    Force, being sworn-in live on a "Melody Ranch" program. He spent some 
    time working on recruitment but then became a pilot in Air Ferry Command 
    and saw service in the Far East, India and North Africa. During this period, 
    he co-wrote with Fred Rose his classic song, At Mail Call Today. After his 
    release from the services, he resumed his acting and recording career. 
    Between 1944 and 1951, he registered 25 successive Top 10 country hits, 
    including Here Comes Santa Claus (later recorded by Elvis Presley), Rudolph, 
    The Red-Nosed Reindeer, Peter Cottontail and Frosty The Snow Man, which 
    each sold one million copies. He also had Top 20 US pop chart success  
    with Buttons And Bows. He left Republic in 1947 and formed his own Flying 
    A Productions, which produced his later films for release by Columbia.  
    When he made his last b-western, Last Of The Pony Riders, in 1953 he had 
    89 feature films to his credit. Contrary to many beliefs, there never was a feud 
    between Autry and his replacement at Republic, Roy Rogers. It was purely  
    something invented by Republic's publicity department.  

    During the '50s, he became very successful in business and purchased many 
    radio and television stations. Between 1950 and 1956, he produced 91 episodes 
    of "The Gene Autry Show" for CBS-TV. His company also produced many other 
    television series, including "The Range Rider," "The Adventures Of Champion" 
    and "Annie Oakley." His business interest became even more involved during 
    the '60s, when apart from owning various radio and television companies, he be- 
    came the owner of the California Angels major league baseball team. "Melody  
    Ranch" reappeared as a television program in the '60s and ran for seven  
    years on Autry's KTLA station. It was syndicated to stations across the country  
    and although Autry did not appear as a regular, he did make guest appearances. 
    In 1986, Nashville Network decided to screen his Republic and Columbia  
    b-westerns under the title of MELODY RANCH THEATRE with Autry himself doing 
    opening and closing announcements. During his long career, Autry had three 
    horses to fill the role of Champion. The original died in 1947. Champion III, who 
    appeared in the Gene Autry television series and also as the star of the "Adven- 
    tures Of Champion" television series, died in 1991 at the age of 42. There was also 
    a personal appearance Champion and a pony known as Little Champ. During his  
    career he regularly sported a custom made C.F. Martin guitar, with beautiful  
    ornamental pearl inlay together with his name.  

    Many artists over subsequent years have copied this guitar, having their own 
    name inlaid into the fret board. Autry was elected to the Country Music Hall Of 
    Fame in 1969 for his songwriting abilities as well as his singing and acting. In  
    1980, he was inducted into the Cowboy Hall Of Fame Of Great Westerners. At 
    the time of his induction, he was described as ‘one of the most famous men,  
    not only in America but in the world’. Autry sold the final 10 acres of his Melody  
    Ranch film set in 1991. The ranch, in Placerita Canyon, California, which was  
    used for the making of such classic westerns as High Noon and the television 
    series "Gunsmoke" is scheduled to become an historical feature. His last US  
    country chart entry was Old Soldiers Never Die in 1971. Judging by the 
    popularity of his old films and his recordings, it is probably true to say that  
    neither do old cowboys.  

    Further reading: Back In The Saddle Again, Gene Autry with Mickey Herskowitz.  
    The Gene Autry Book, David Rothel.  

    MUSIC CENTRAL '96 

 


        GENE AUTRY'S COWBOY CODE 
         

         

               1.The Cowboy must never shoot first, hit a smaller man, or take unfair advantage.  
             2.He must never go back on his word, or a trust confided in him.  
             3.He must always tell the truth.  
             4.He must be gentle with children, the elderly, and animals.  
             5.He must not advocate or possess racially or religiously intolerant ideas.  
             6.He must help people in distress.  
             7.He must be a good worker.  
             8.He must keep himself clean in thought, speech, action, and personal habits.  
             9.He must respect women, parents, and his nation's laws.  
            10.The Cowboy is a patriot.  
       
       

           © 1994 Gene Autry Survivors Trust  


 
Thumbnails: 
 
        Autry released 635 records during his career.
              He was the first artist to be certified with a 
              gold record for That Silver-Haired Daddy of Mine.  
               
              Autry sold over 100 million records. 

              Only performer to rate five stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. 

              Autry was also the first artist to sell out a show in 
              New York City's Madison Square Garden.   

              Autry's best-known songs include "Rudolph The Red-Nosed 
              Reindeer" (widely believed to be one of the biggest-selling 
              singles in history). 

               "He says he'd like to have made a true 
                Western," recalled Buddy Ebsen. "He 
                said his were kind of  fantasies ... so you 
                couldn't really believe them, but you 
                could be entertained by them." 

             ``He truly was a star in the golden days of Hollywood. So 
              often, we've caught ourselves humming 'Back in the Saddle 
              Again,' a song that will always bring back warm memories of 
              Gene,'' said former President Ronald Reagan and his wife, 
              Nancy.  

              His last US country chart entry was Old Soldiers Never Die in 1971. 
 
 
 

 

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