Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index

Gene Autry

Gene Autry (September 29, 1907 - October 2, 1998) was an American performer who gained fame as The Singing Cowboy on the radio, in movies and on television.

Orvon Gene Autry was born in Tioga, Texas. His family moved to Ravia, Oklahoma in the 1920s and after leaving high school in 1925 Autry worked as a telegrapher for the St. Louis and San Francisco Railroad. An amateur talent with the guitar and voice led to him performing at local dances. After an encouraging chance encounter with Will Rogers, he began performing on local radio in 1928 as Oklahoma's Yodeling Cowboy.

In 1931 he signed a recording deal with Columbia Records. He worked at NBC's WLS National Barn Dance in Chicago for four years with his own show. His first hit was in 1932 with "That Silver-Haired Daddy of Mine".

In 1934 he made his film debut for Republic Pictures in In Old Santa Fe, his first name role came in 1935 in the 13-part The Phantom Empire. He went on to make a further 44 films up to 1940, all B westerns where he played under his own name, rode his horse Champion and had many opportunities to sing. He was the first of the singing cowboys. From 1940 to 1956 he also had a weekly radio show on CBS, The Melody Ranch. Another money-spinner was his Gene Autry Flying "A" Ranch Rodeo show which first performed in 1940. During the war he served with the Air Transport command.

Post war he briefly returned to Republic before moving to Columbia in 1947. He also starred and produced his own television show on CBS from 1950. He retired from show business in 1964, having made almost a hundred films up to 1955 and over 600 records. Post-retirement he invested widely in real estate, radio and television. He bought into the California Angels in 1960. In 1988 he opened the Gene Autry Western Heritage Museum. His estimated wealth on his death was over $300 million.

He married Ina May Spivey in 1932, she died in 1980. he married Jacqueline Ellam in 1981.

His autobiography was published in 1976, co-written by Mickey Herskowitz, it was called Back in the Saddle Again after his 1939 hit and signature tune.