Public Cowboy No. 1: The Life and Times of Gene Autry

Public Cowboy No. 1: The Life and Times of Gene Autry

Public Cowboy No. 1: The Life and Times of Gene Autry

Public Cowboy No. 1: The Life and Times of Gene Autry

Synopsis

The only performer to earn 5 stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame--for film, recordings, TV, radio, and live performance--Gene Autry was the singing cowboy king of American entertainment. Now, in Public Cowboy No.1, Holly George-Warren offers the first serious biography of this singular individual, in a fascinating narrative that traces Autry's climb from small-town farm boy to multimillionaire.
Here for the first time Autry the legend becomes a flesh-and-blood man--with all the passions, triumphs, and tragedies of a flawed icon. George-Warren recounts stories never before told, including revelations about Autry's impoverished boyhood, his adventures as an up-and-coming singer, and the impact his unbelievable success had on his personal life. She describes Autry's loving but doomed mother, who died on the brink of her son's success, and his ne'er-do-well father, who married five times and wandered the west. Autry battled his own demons but emerges here in a positive light, an immensely personable man, one of America's most charitable benefactors, known for his boundless generosity, and a patriot who enlisted during World War II. The book provides equally colorful details of Autry's lengthy radio and recording career, which included such classics as "Back in the Saddle Again" and "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer"; his movie career, where he breathed new life into the Western genre; and his role in early television, being the first movie star to develop his own TV shows. And along the way, we see how he invested shrewdly in radio, real-estate, and television, becoming the owner of the California Angels and the only entertainer listed among 1990's Fortune 400.
Based on exclusive access to Gene Autry's personal papers, as well as interviews with more than 100 relatives, employees, colleagues, and friends, this engaging biography brings to life a major Hollywood star--a man who, more than anyone else, put Western music and style on the American cultural map.

Excerpt

In 1994, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennigs, and Kris Kristofferson spent four days together in a Los Angeles studio making what would be their third and final album as the Highwaymen. Among their repertoire of outlaw songs and road ballads, they launched into an old favorite: Gene Autry’s “Back in the Saddle Again.” These four icons of country music, born during the Great Depression, had grown up with Gene Autry as their hero. He was their Public Cowboy No. 1. “I saw him in the movies when I was five years old,” Johnny Cash wrote in 1977, “and haven’t stopped loving him and his kind of movieland dreams. More than that, I took part of Gene Autry home with me in my heart and sang it out in the cotton fields, songs like ‘Be Honest With Me,’ [and ‘The] Last Round-Up’…” Serving as a road map out of rural poverty for Cash—and for so many other future artists—Gene Autry shone as the singing cowboy star whose radio programs, recordings, and movies in the 1930s and ’40s made him one of America’s most celebrated entertainers.

For Highwaymen producer Don Was, a visit one day from eighty-sixyear-old Gene Autry to the sessions “was very revealing.” Over the course of their careers, according to Was, each of the Highwaymen had “adopted variations on the cowboy persona, and that’s the guy they got it from.” Captured in a 2006 documentary, American Revolutions: The Highwaymen, Cash, Nelson, Jennings, and Kristofferson—then in their fifties and sixties—“turned into little kids,” Was related. “It was as if John Lennon came to my session.… Gene Autry is just sitting there with four of the most intimidating tough guys ever . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.