"I'm not a good actor, a good rider or a particularly good singer, but they seem to like what I do, so I'll keep on doing it as long as they want."

American actor and singer (1907-1998). Birth name: Orvon Gene Autry. He was born the son of an itinerant preacher near Tioga, Texas, but he graduated from high school in Ravia, Oklahoma. After working as a railroad laborer and as a telegrapher (he sometimes claimed that Will Rogers discovered him while he was singing in the telegraph office and encouraged him to go to California to seek his fortune), he got work singing on a radio station in Tulsa, Oklahoma--within three years, he had his own show and had started to record his own records.

After he had a hit record in 1932 with a song he wrote called "That Silver Haired Daddy of Mine", Autry made the jump to Hollywood as a square dance caller in 1934's "In Old Santa Fe" and starred in a 13-part Western serial called "The Phantom Empire" in 1935. Gene and his trusty steed Champion were popular enough that Republic Pictures signed him to make a whole slew of movies, and his films opened the door for many other singing cowboys, including Roy Rogers and Tex Ritter. His pre-WWII movies included "Tumbling Tumbleweeds", "Melody Trail", "Red River Valley", "Singing Cowboy", "Guns and Guitars", "The Big Show", "Git Along, Little Dogies", "Round-Up Time in Texas", "Yodelin' Kid from Pine Ridge", "Public Cowboy No. 1", "Prairie Moon", "Mexicali Rose", "South of the Border", "Men with Steel Faces", "Melody Ranch", "Back in the Saddle", "Down Mexico Way", "Cowboy Serenade", "Heart of the Rio Grande", and "Bells of Capistrano."

Autry was a flight officer with the Air Transport Command from 1942-1946, but returned to Hollywood to make even more movies, including "Sioux City Sue", "Saddle Pals", "Robin Hood of Texas", "The Strawberry Roan", "The Big Sombrero", "Riders in the Sky", "Sons of New Mexico", "Mule Train", "Cow Town", "Gene Autry and the Mounties", "Texans Never Cry", "Whirlwind", "Valley of Fire", "Night Stage to Galveston", "Apache Country", "Goldtown Ghost Riders", "Saginaw Trail", and "Last of the Pony Riders."

During the 1950s, Autry produced several television shows, including "The Gene Autry Show", "The Adventures of Champion", "The Range Rider", and "Annie Oakley."

Autry was also a pretty good songwriter. Besides his theme song, "Back in the Saddle Again", he wrote "Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer" (the second most-popular Christmas song ever, after Bing Crosby's "White Christmas), "Here Comes Santa Claus", "Tears on My Pillow", "Dixie Cannonball", "You're the Only Star in My Blue Heaven", "I Wish I Had Never Met Sunshine", and over 200 others.

Autry had, for the most part, retired from films by the 1960s and devoted himself to business and real estate. He owned several radio stations and hotels and even bought the California Angels baseball team in 1983. He has five stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame--more than any other performer--for his work in film, TV, radio, music, and live theater.

Autry was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1969 and was inducted into the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum's Hall of Great Western Performers (in 1972) and its Hall of Great Westerners in 1980. He and his second wife opened the Gene Autry Western Heritage Museum, full of authentic Western memorabilia, in 1988.

Autry died of lymphoma in Los Angeles in 1998.

"It occurs to me that music, with the possible exception of riding a bull, is the most uncertain way to make a living I know. In either case, you can get bucked off, thrown, stepped on, trampled--if you get on at all. At best, it is a short and bumpy ride."

Research from the Internet Movie Database (www.imdb.com)

Update: morven points out that the freeway exit for the Anaheim Angels' stadium is called "Gene Autry Way."

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