Gene Autry

Gene Autry  (born Orvon Grover Autry; September 29, 1907 – October 2, 1998) was an American performer who gained fame as a singing cowboy on the radio, in movies, and on television for more than three decades beginning in the early 1930s.  From 1934 to 1953, Autry appeared in 93 films and 91 episodes of The Gene Autry Show television series.  Autry is considered the second major influential artist in the history of country music, after Jimmie Rodgers.  His singing cowboy movies were the first vehicle to carry country music to a national audience.  In addition to his signature song, “Back in the Saddle Again”, Autry is also remembered for his Christmas holiday songs, particularly his biggest hit, “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”.  Autry is the only person to be awarded stars in all five categories on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, for film, television, music, radio, and live performance.  (More from Wikipedia)

I was also able to tour the Country Music Hall of Fame Museum, where I learned about the disparate forces leading to what is known as country music:  rockabilly from Elvis Presley on down (my favorite form of country and, by now, maybe my favorite form of rock and roll as well), yodeling masters (particularly Jimmie Rodgers, whose 1927 hit “Blue Yodel No. 1 (T for Texas)” was the first half-million–selling country song), honky tonk (the kind of music heard in early country music clubs, as personified by Hank Williams Sr.), mountain folk music (most importantly the Carter Family), Western music (often in the form of singing cowboys like Gene Autry and Roy Rogers – in fact, for many years the genre was called country and western), and western swing (basically countrified big-band sounds).  I don’t know too much about the latter strand, and Jimmie Rodgers is a bit old-fashioned for my tastes (though I have a compilation CD that I sure hope turns up among those remaining to be cleaned up from Katrina); but I have learned enough about the other foundational musicians over the years and other early forms of country to become a major fan. 


(February 2015)


Last edited: March 22, 2021