America's most successful Singing Cowboy, Gene Autry grew up on a small ranch in Texas before moving to Oklahoma. He learned to play guitar and sing as a boy, and after working as a railroad telegraph operator he decided to try his luck as an entertainer. As Oklahoma's Singing Cowboy, Autry performed Jimmie Rodgers-inspired tunes on local radio, then made his way to New York to cut some records, including "That Silver-Haired Daddy of Mine," co-written with a railroad buddy. The track became a smash and helped Autry land on Chicago's powerful WLS radio station, which broadcast the popular National Barn Dance program. In 1934 Autry was featured as a western singer in the film In Old Santa Fe. The role led to a contract with Republic Pictures, where he created the musical western genre, beginning with Tumbling Tumbleweeds in 1935. Autry's hugely popular movies featured songs that also became hits (prefiguring music videos), and his colorful cowboy garb began influencing the way country performers dressed. Thanks to Autry and the many singing cowboys who followed him, western merged with country - giving C&W a national audience.
Courtesy of palmpictures.com
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