Gene Autry, America’s first singing cowboy star, has excelled in his personal lifetime achievement to the point where he is the only entertainer to have five
separate stars in his name in Hollywood’s famed Walk of Fame. Visitors will find one Gene Autry star each for records, radio, movies, television and finally, life theatrical, including rodeo performances. These, of course, designate activity in the performing arts. It should be well noted too, that Autry continues to distinguish himself as broadcast executive and major league baseball owner.
Autry began his radio career over 60 years ago, in 1928, when radio itself was in its embryonic days. A year later he began making recordings and, for many years thereafter, he held on to his premiere position in both of these art forms.
During his career as a maker of music, Autry made 635 separate recordings. For over 200 of these, he also was the composer or collaborator of the songs being recorded. He has sold over 50,000,000 records and more than a do/en of these have been certified as gold records for more than a million copies sold. The first recording ever certified gold, in fact, was Autry’s “That Silver-Haired Daddy of Mine.” Another, “Be Honest with Me,” was an Academy Award nominee.
Autry’s Christmas and Children’s records, such as “Here Comes Santa Claus” and “Peter Cottontail,” went platinum, signifying 2,000,000 copies sold, and his all-time best-selling single record of Johnny Marks’ “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” has accounted for sales of more than 25,000,000.
Many of the 93 movies that Autry was to make over the years of his career were based on hit records. The titles are well remembered in both categories and include “South of the Border,” “The Last Round-Up,” “Mexicali Rose,” “Goldmine in the Sky,” “Sierra Sue,” “Down Mexico Way,” “Riders in the Sky,” “Call of the Canyon” and “Strawberry Roan.”
Gene Autry’s “Melody Ranch,” was one of the all-time favorite early radio programs and was heard regularly on CBS Radio from 1940 to 1956. In 1950, six years earlier, Autry became one of the first of the major motion picture stars to enter television and, until 1955, he produced and starred in 91 half-hour episodes of The Gene Autry Show. He also found time during these years to produce such popular TV series as “Annie Oakley,” “The Range Rider,” “Buffalo Bill Jr.” and “The Adventures of Champion.”
One of Autry’s most cherished dreams came to fruition in November 1988 with the grand opening of the Gene Autry Western Heritage Museum. Now it is widely acclaimed as one of the finest museums in its depiction of the history of the American West and for its displays of authentic historical artifacts and collections of paintings, bronzes, costumes and coverage of all aspects of frontier life, from the Conquistadores to the modern cowboy.
Autry is also owner of the American League’s California Angels baseball team and radio stations KMPC-AM and K-LITE in Los Angeles and KVI-AM and KPLZ-FM in Seattle.