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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.

Early life

Christened Orvon Gene Autry, the grandson of a Methodist preacher, near Tioga, Texas, his parents, Delbert Autry and Elnora Ozmont, moved to Ravia, Oklahoma in the 1920s. After leaving high school in 1925, Autry worked as a telegrapher for the St. Louis–San Francisco Railway.

Career

Radio

An amateur talent with the guitar and voice led to his 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".

Singing

He signed a recording deal with Columbia Records in 1931. He worked in Chicago, Illinois on the WLS (AM) radio show National Barn Dance for four years with his own show where he met singer/songwriter Smiley Burnette. His first hit was in 1932 with That Silver-Haired Daddy of Mine, a duet with fellow railroad man, Jimmy Long.

In films

Discovered by film producer Nat Levine in 1934, he and Burnette made their film debut for Mascot Pictures Corp. in In Old Santa Fe as part of a singing cowboy quartet; he was then given the starring role by Levine in 1935 in the 12-part serial The Phantom Empire. Shortly thereafter, Mascot was absorbed by the formation of Republic Pictures Corp. and Autry went along to make a further 44 films up to 1940, all B westerns in which he played under his own name, rode his horse Champion, had Burnette as his regular sidekick and had many opportunities to sing in each film. He became the top Western star at the box-office by 1937, reaching his national peak of popularity from 1940 to 1942.

He was the first of the singing cowboys, succeeded as the top star by Roy Rogers when Autry served as a flier with the Air Transport command during World War II. From 1940 to 1956, Autry also had a weekly radio show on CBS, Gene Autry's Melody Ranch. Another money-spinner was his Gene Autry Flying "A" Ranch Rodeo show which first aired in 1940.

He briefly returned to Republic after the war, to finish out his contract, which had been suspended for the duration of his military service and which he had tried to have declared void after his discharge. Thereafter, he formed his own production company to make westerns under his own control, which were distributed by Columbia Pictures, beginning in 1947. He also starred and produced his own television show on CBS beginning in 1950. He retired from show business in 1964, having made almost a hundred films up to 1955 and over 600 records. He was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1969 and to the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1970.

Post-retirement he invested widely in real estate, radio and television, including buying the copyrights from dying Republic Pictures for the films he had made for them.

As baseball executive

In 1960, when Major League Baseball announced plans to add an expansion team in Los Angeles, Autry – who had once declined an opportunity to play in the minor leagues – expressed an interest in acquiring the radio broadcast rights to the team's games; baseball executives were so impressed by his approach that he was persuaded to become the owner of the franchise rather than simply its broadcast partner. The team, initially called the Los Angeles Angels upon its 1961 debut, moved to suburban Anaheim in 1966 and became known as the California Angels, then the Anaheim Angels from 1997 until 2005, when it became the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. In 1995 he sold a quarter share of the team to The Walt Disney Company, and a controlling interest the following year, with the remaining share to be transferred after his death. Earlier, in 1982, he sold television station KTLA (Los Angeles) for $245 million.

Personal life

In 1932 he married Ina May Spivey (who died in 1980), who was the niece of Jimmy Long. He married his second wife, Jackie Autry, in 1981.

He had no children by either marriage.

Legacy

In 1972, he was inducted into the Western Performers Hall of Fame at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

His autobiography was published in 1976, co-written by Mickey Herskowitz; it was titled Back in the Saddle Again after his 1939 hit and signature tune. He is also featured year after year, on radio and "shopping mall theme music" at the holiday season, by his famous recording of "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer".

CMT in 2003 ranked him #38 in CMT's 40 Greatest Men of Country.

The Museum figures as the centerpiece of his legacy

The Museum of the American West, in Los Angeles' Griffith Park was founded in 1988 as the "Gene Autry Western Heritage Museum", featuring much of his collection of Western art and memorabilia. It has become a very respected institution, preserving the essence of everything related to the "mythic aspects" of the American "old west". Everything from true historical lifestyles, to the 70 year sage of the Hollywood "western movie" genre.

Included for many years on Forbes magazine's list of the 400 richest Americans, he slipped to their "near miss" category in 1995 with an estimated net worth of $320 million.

Gene Autry died of lymphoma at age 91 at his home in Studio City, California, and is interred in the Forest Lawn, Hollywood Hills Cemetery in Los Angeles, California.

He was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame in 2003. He is also the only person to date to receive stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for contributions in all five possible categories: the motion picture star is located on 6644 Hollywood Blvd., the radio star is located on 6520 Hollywood Blvd., the recording star is located on 6384 Hollywood Blvd., the TV star is located on 6667 Hollywood Blvd. and the live theatre star is located on 7000 Hollywood Blvd.

In 2004, the Starz Entertainment Corporation joined forces with the Autry estate to restore all of his films, which have been shown on Starz's Encore Western Channel on cable television on a regular basis to date since.

Popular songs by Autry

  • "A Face I See at Evening"
  • "That Silver-Haired Daddy of Mine"
  • "The Last Roundup"
  • "Cowboy’s Heaven"
  • "Tumbling Tumbleweeds"
  • "Mexicali Rose"
  • "Take Me Back to My Boots and Saddle"
  • "Gold Mine in the Sky"
  • "South of the Border (Down Mexico Way)"
  • "Back in the Saddle Again" (1939)
  • "Be Honest With Me"
  • "Here Comes Santa Claus" (1947)
  • "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer" (1949)
  • "Peter Cottontail" (1950)
  • "Frosty the Snow Man" (1950)

 

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Roy Rogers  "King of the Cowboys"

  Dale Evans  "Queen of the West."
 

 

  Leonard Franklin Slye (November 5, 1911 – July 6, 1998), became famous as Roy Rogers, a singer and cowboy actor. He and his second wife Dale Evans, his "golden palomino" Trigger and his German shepherd "Bullet" were featured in over one hundred movies and The Roy Rogers Show which ran on radio for nine years before moving to television from 1951 through 1964. His productions usually featured two sidekicks, Pat Brady (who drove a jeep called "Nellybelle") and the crotchety bushwhacker Gabby Hayes. Roy's nickname was "King of the Cowboys". Dale's nickname was "Queen of the West." For many Americans (and non-Americans), he was the embodiment of the all-American hero.

Lucille Wood Smith, name changed in infancy to Frances Octavia Smith, famous as Dale Evans, (31 October 1912 - 7 February 2001) was a prolific writer, movie star, singer/songwriter and the wife of singing cowboy Roy Rogers.

Rogers was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, where his family lived on a house boat docked on the Ohio River. They later moved the houseboat up the river to Portsmouth, Ohio. The house boat was destroyed in the flood of 1913 and the Slye family moved to Lucasville just north of Portsmouth where Leonard spent his boyhood.

Rogers moved to California at eighteen to become a singer. After four years of little success, he formed Sons of the Pioneers, a western cowboy music group, in 1934. The group hit it big with songs like "Cool Water" and "Tumbling Tumbleweeds".

From his first film appearance in 1935, he worked steadily in western films, including a large supporting role as a singing cowboy while still billed as "Leonard Slye" in a Gene Autry movie. In 1938 when Autry temporarily walked out on his movie contract, Slye was immediately rechristened "Roy Rogers" and assigned the lead in "Under Western Stars," and a matinee idol, American legend, and competitor for Gene Autry was suddenly born. In addition to his own movies, Rogers played a supporting role in the John Wayne classic Dark Command (1940), a harrowing fictionalization of Quantrill's Raiders directed by Raoul Walsh, who'd discovered Wayne in 1929 and changed his name while casting him in 'The Big Trail, Wayne's first leading role. Rogers became a major box office attraction, and Dale Evans was cast in a movie with him in 1945. The following year, after Roy's wife, Arline, died in childbirth, Roy and Dale married. They were together everafter.

Rogers was an idol for many children through his films and television show. Most of his films were in color in an era when almost all other B-movies were black and white. There were Roy Rogers action figures, cowboy adventure novels, a comic strip, and a variety of marketing successes. Some of his movies would segue into animal adventures, in which Roy's horse Trigger would go off on his own for a while with the camera following him.

The Sons of the Pioneers continued their popularity through the 1950s. Although Rogers was no longer a member, they often appeared as Rogers' backup group in films and on TV.

Rogers and his first wife, Arline (Wilkins) had three children: an adopted daughter, Cheryl, and two birth children, Linda Lou and Roy Jr. Arline died of an embolism while giving birth to Roy Jr. in 1946. Dale and Roy had a daughter, Robin Elizabeth, who died of complications of Down Syndrome at age two. Evans wrote about losing their daughter in her book Angel Unawares.

Roy Rogers on Floodwall Mural painted by Robert Dafford, LaFayette, LA as part of a series of murals at his hometown, Portsmouth, Ohio

Rogers and Evans were also well known as advocates for adoption and as founders and operators of children's charities. They adopted several children. Both were outspoken Christians. In Apple Valley, California, where they made their home, numerous streets and highways as well as civic buildings have been named after them in recognition of their efforts on behalf of homeless and handicapped children.

Roy and Dale's famous theme song, which Dale wrote and they sang as a duet to sign off their television show, was "Happy trails to you, Until we meet again...".

For his contribution to the motion picture industry, Roy Rogers has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1752 Vine Street, a second star at 1733 Vine Street for his contribution to radio, and a third star at 1620 Vine Street for his contribution to the television industry.

Roy and Dale were inducted into the Western Performers Hall of Fame at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma in 1976 and Roy was inducted again as a member of the Sons of the Pioneers in 1995. Roy was also twice elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame, first as a member of The Sons of the Pioneers in 1980 and as a soloist in 1988.

 

Dale Evans

Lucille Wood Smith, name changed in infancy to Frances Octavia Smith, famous as Dale Evans, (31 October 1912 - 7 February 2001) was a prolific writer, movie star, singer/songwriter and the wife of singing cowboy Roy Rogers.

Born in Uvalde, Texas, Evans had a tumultuous early life, eloping with her first husband Thomas F. Fox at 14. She bore one son, Thomas Fox, Jr. at 15. Divorced in 1929 at 17, she married August Wayne Johns that same year, a union that lasted until their divorce in 1933. She took the name Dale Evans in the early 1930s to promote her singing career. She then married her accompanist and arranger Robert Dale Butts in 1935.

After beginning her career singing at the radio station where she was employed as a secretary, Evans had a productive career as a jazz, swing, and big band singer that led to a screen test and contract with 20th Century Fox studios. During her time at 20th Century Fox, the studio promoted her as the unmarried supporter of her teenage "brother" Tommy, actually her son Tom Fox, Jr. This deception continued through her divorce from Butts in 1945, and her development as a cowgirl co-star to Roy Rogers at Republic studios.

Evans married Roy Rogers on New Year's Eve 1946. Rogers ended the deception regarding Tommy. Rogers and Evans were a team on screen and off from 1946 until Rogers' death in 1998. Rogers and Evans had one child, Robin Elizabeth, who died of complications of Down's Syndrome shortly before her second birthday. Her life inspired Evans to write her best-seller "Angel Unawares".

From 1951 to 1957, Dale Evans and her husband starred in the highly successful television series The Roy Rogers Show, in which they continued their cowboy/cowgirl roles, with her riding her trusty buckskin horse, Buttermilk. In addition to her successful TV shows, over 30 movies, and 200 songs, Evans wrote the well known songs "Happy Trails" and "The Bible Tells Me So".

For her contribution to radio, Dale Evans has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6638 Hollywood Blvd. and a second star at 1737 Vine Street. for her contribution to the television industry. In 1976, she was inducted into the Western Performers Hall of Fame at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

 

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Rex Allen

   
 

 

 

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Rex Allen's Original Black Flash Suit  FOR SALE

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Rex Allen's Original Red Flash Suit    FOR SALE

Rex Allen's Original  Martin Guitar     FOR SALE

 

 

  Rex Allen (December 31, 1920 – December 17, 1999) was an American actor, singer, and songwriter.

Born Rex Elvie Allen to Horace Allen and Faye Clark on a ranch in Mud Springs Canyon, forty miles from Willcox, Arizona, Rex Allen would grow up to become a popular entertainer known as "The Arizona Cowboy." As a boy he played guitar and sang at local functions with his fiddle-playing father until high school graduation when he toured the southwest as a rodeo rider. He got his start in show business on the East Coast as a vaudeville singer then found work in Chicago as a performer on the WLS Radio program, National Barn Dance. In 1948 he signed with Mercury Records where he recorded a number of successful country music albums until 1952 when he switched to the Decca label where he would continue making records into the 1970s.

When singing cowboys such as Roy Rogers and Gene Autry were very much in vogue in American film, in 1949 Republic Pictures in Hollywood gave him a screen test and put him under contract. Beginning in 1950, Allen starred as himself in nineteen of Hollywood's western movies. One of the top-ten box office draws of the day, whose character was soon depicted in comic books, on screen Allen personified the clean cut, God-fearing American hero of the wild west who wore a white Stetson, loved his faithful horse named "Koko" and had a loyal buddy who shared his adventures. Allen's comic relief sidekick in first few pictures was Buddy Ebsen and then character actor, Slim Pickens.

Over his career, Rex Allen wrote and recorded many songs, a number of which were featured in his own films. Late in coming to the industry, his film career was relatively short as the popularity of westerns faded by the mid 1950s. He has the distinction of making the last singing western in 1954. As other cowboy stars made the transition to television, Allen tried too, cast as Dr. Bill Baxter for a half-hour weekly series called Frontier Doctor. Allen was gifted with a rich, pleasant voice, ideally suited for narration and was able to find considerable work as a narrator in a variety of films especially for Walt Disney Pictures wildlife films and TV shows. He also was the voice of the father on Disney's Carousel of Progress , which was presented at the 1964 World's Fair and is now at Walt Disney World . He was also the voice behind Purina Dog Chow commercials for many years.

For his contribution to the motion picture industry, Rex Allen was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6821 Hollywood Blvd. In 1983, he was inducted into the Western Performers Hall of Fame at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

In 1989 his life story was told in the book Rex Allen: "My Life" Sunrise to Sunset - The Arizona Cowboy written by Paula Simpson-Witt and Snuff Garrett.

Rex Allen died in 1999 in Tucson, Arizona from injuries received when his caretaker accidentally ran over him in the driveway of his home. Cremated, his ashes were scattered near the Rex Allen Museum and Willcox Cowboy Hall of Fame in Willcox, Arizona where most of his memorabilia is on display. A few months before his death, Allen gave an extensive interview on his days at WLS radio to announcer and producer Jeff Davis for the 75th Anniversary History of WLS Radio program, which was broadcast after Allen died. That segment of the program was dedicated to his memory.

His son, Rex Allen Jr. was also a successful singer, with several country hits in the 1970s.

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