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Spade Cooley, the King of Western Swing, is best known for his musical success and the murder of his wife.
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Musician, murderer. Born Donnell Clyde Cooley on December 17, 1910 in Pack Saddle Creek, Oklahoma. Raised in an impoverished family, Spade Cooley moved with his family to Oregon at a young age. He became adept at the violin and was soon playing at local dances and as a movie stand-in for Roy Rogers, whom he resembled.
A quintessential American Western Swing musician and big band leader, Cooley performed a record-breaking 18-month engagement at Santa Monica's Venice Pier Ballroom in the early 1940s. He is known for several hit singles, including "Shame on You," "Detour" and "You Can't Break My Heart."
Cooley, who nicknamed himself the King of Western Swing, parlayed his enormous popularity as a musician into a career in acting. He appeared in 38 westerns and hosted a syndicated television show called The Hoffman Hayride from 1949 to 1959.
Spade Cooley??s career came to a screeching halt when, in 1961, he was charged with murdering his wife, Ella Mae Evans, after she expressed her wish to divorce him. Cooley suffered a heart attack during the trial when he was delivered his prison sentence. On November 23, 1969, while on temporary release from prison to play a benefit concert, he suffered a second heart attack, this time fatal.
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