On October 02, 1998, just two days after his 91st birthday, Gene Autry passed away at his home in Southern California.
Born on September 29, 1907, Autry grew up on a ranch in Tioga, Texas. He started working as a railroad telegrapher when Will Rogers first heard him sing. With the latter’s enthusiasm with what he heard, he advised Autry to venture on show business.
Roger’s suggestion to the country music star was indeed great advice. Autry signed a career as Hollywood’s first singing cowboy. In addition, he appeared on radio, television, and the movie screen. More than his gift of voice, his talent brought him his biggest fortune.
At his death, he had acquired vast real state holdings. Not only that but he also had several stations and the American League Anaheim Angels baseball team.
Everything that he had, it all began with a song.
The Singing Cowboy Who wore a White Hat
Back in the days when a cowboy hat is a big fashion statement, it was known that good guys wore white hats while the bad guys wore black. For this matter, Gene Autry was always the hero. With his horse, whose name is Champion, he sang his songs as other cowboys would do.
His first radio appearance when he first sang was in 1928. This appearance paved his way to more performances including acting in films and his lead role in television’s “The Gene Autry Show.” The said show aired on TV from 1950 to 1956. Overall, he produced 95 movies. In fact, he is still the only Western star included on the list of top 10 box office moneymakers.
For his entire career, Autry released a total of 635 records. Not only did he co-write his famous trademark tune, “Back in the Saddle Again,” he also garnered a series of gold records. This record included his non-standard favorites such as “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” “Here Comes Santa Claus,” “Peter Cottontail,” and “You are My Sunshine.”
Autry’s Undying Legacy
Opened in December 1988, one of his greatest legacies, The Gene Autry Western Heritage Museum, opened. His team may never have won a World Series in his lifetime, but he sure did leave this legacy behind.
The said museum honored the kind of cowboys Autry had played onscreen.
Also, the museum holds some of the most priced items in the world. Among the items there, the $54 million museum houses the 1870s-era steam fire engine from Nevada. Also, it has the guns formerly owned by Annie Oakley and Wyatt Earp, and the costumes of TV’s Lone Ranger and Tonto.
During his dedication, friends and fellow artists flocked the Los Angeles Griffith Park to reflect on his influence as an entertainer and as a person.
Country music singer and actor Glen Campbell said:
“My older brothers used to take me to the shows to see Gene Autry and Roy Rogers, all of that you know, the Western movies.”
Meanwhile, Dale Evans and Roy Rogers recalled Autry as one of their peers.
“It was an era. Westerns were it.”
On the other hand, another friend, Buddy Ebden, expressed his thoughts about the late artist:
“He says he’d like to have made a true Western. He said his [movies] were kind of fantasies … so you couldn’t really believe them, but you could be entertained by them.”
Listen to Gene Autry’s most famous recording, “Back in the Saddle Again:”
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Back in the Saddle Again, Death Anniversary, Gene Autry