- NAME: Gene Autry
- OCCUPATION: Film Actor, Television Actor, Guitarist, Singer
- BIRTH DATE: September 29, 1907
- DEATH DATE: October 02, 1998
- Did You Know?: Gene Autry is the only entertainer to boast five stars on Hollywood's Walk of Fame.
- Did You Know?: In 1935, Gene Autry starred in Tumbling Tumbleweeds, the first Western plotted around the main character's ability to sing.
- Did You Know?: Gene Autry is credited with creating the musical Western.
- PLACE OF BIRTH: Tioga, Texas
- PLACE OF DEATH: Studio City, California
- Full Name: Orvon Gene Autry
- AKA: Gene Autry
- Nickname: Singing Cowboy
Best Known For
Actor Gene Autry, also known as the "Singing Cowboy," starred in Western movies from the 1930s to the early '60s. He won two Grammy Hall of Fame Awards for his work.
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"The hero must not take unfair advantage of anyone, including the bad guys. He must not hit anybody smaller than himself. He must always keep his word. He must not smoke or drink in public, and he must not kiss the girl."
Known as the "Singing Cowboy," Gene Autry was born Orvon Gene Autry on September 29, 1907, in Tioga, Texas. He was only 4 years old when his mother died. Soon after losing his mother, Autry moved to Oklahoma, where he began singing in church. He later learned to play the guitar, too.
When he was 16 years old, Autry went to work at a local railway station. He soon switched to manning the telegraph line at different stops along the railway line. One night, he played for a customer who told him that he had enough talent to get a job on the radio. The meddling customer turned out to be actor Will Rogers, and Autry soon quit his job to find work in the music business.
In 1927, Autry landed his first radio job as "Oklahoma's Yodeling Cowboy" on a Tulsa station. He scored his first hit the following year with "That Silver-Haired Daddy of Mine," which he wrote himself. Autry soon landed a regular spot on the National Barn Dance, which a show that was recorded in Chicago, Illinois. Around the same time, he married Ina Mae Spivey. In the mid-1930s, the couple headed west to conquer Hollywood.
In 1935, Autry signed with Republic Pictures and made his major film debut, The Phantom Empire. That same year, Autry starred in Tumbling Tumbleweeds (1935), the first Western plotted around the main character's ability to sing, and thus became credited with creating the musical Western. His other films include The Singing Cowboy (1937), Rhythm of the Saddle (1938) and Sioux City Sue (1942).
Autry was also a savvy businessman, developing and promoting his own lines of western-themed merchandise. During World War II, he took a break from his career to enlist in the U.S. Army Air Forces, serving as a pilot from 1942 to '45. He returned to the music charts in 1949 with the holiday classic "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer."
In 1950, Autry became a star in an emerging medium. He produced his own TV series, The Gene Autry Show, which enjoyed six successful seasons on the air. By the early 1960s, Autry had largely retired from acting. He devoted much of his time to his numerous real estate and media ventures.
Autry lost his wife in 1980. The following year, he married Jacqueline Ellam. Autry worked to preserve some of America's past with the Autry Museum of Western Heritage, which he established in 1988. Many of the items featured in the museum came from Autry's own collection of memorabilia. It is now known as the Autry National Center of the American West.
The winner of two Grammy Hall of Fame Awards (in 1985 and 1997), Autry is the only entertainer to boast five stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, for his work in motion pictures, radio, music recording, TV and live theater. Autry died on October 2, 1998, in Studio City, California. He was 91 years old.
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During the 1930s, partly to avoid the hillbilly image and partly owing to Hollywood's romance with the West, country music headed to the range. Western fringe and cowboy hats turned up on many singers onstage, while Gene Autry and Roy Rogers hit the country charts as "The Singing Cowboy" and the "King of the Cowboys," respectively. Autry made it big in Hollywood and on the radio, singing favorites like "Here Comes Santa Claus" and "Frosty the Snowman." Rogers and his wife, "Queen of the West" Dale Evans, also straddled the worlds of music and movies with their Wild West personas.
The association of country music with the wide open spaces of the western United States made such a deep impact on popular culture during this time that it never quite faded from the public perception of the country genre. To this day, Cowboy Country music serves as a reminder of our continued yearning for a life that's beautiful, pastoral and—ultimately—more simple.
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When it comes to singing about struggle and emotion, there are few genres that match the intensity of country music. Country music was born from musicians that were brave enough to wear their hearts on their sleeves from happiness to heartache. Because of country icons like Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton and Jimmie Rodgers, this southern, soulful genre has grown to become loved by many. Browse through the legends that established country music as the popular genre that it is today.
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Got chaps? Their cowboy and cowgirl personas are tough, rugged, and wild—just like the frontier in which they come from—and in turn, they elicit the nostalgia of The Old West with its fierce individualism and sense of golden opportunity. From the indomitable swagger of John Wayne to the intimidating scowl of Clint Eastwood, explore our Wild West Film Actors group.
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