Gene Autry

Gene Autry is a real person who played the part of a cowboy called "Gene Autry". What I remember most about him is his beautiful horse, "Champion".

Most TV cowboy's horses were really smart and helped them out of jams, but Champion could do almost anything! This horse was so talented that he got his own TV show called "The Adventures of Champion"!

All About the Show

The professional life of Gene Autry included music (he was a singer!), Western movies (he was a star!), and he was a big hit in his TV series, "The Gene Autry Show", which began in 1950 and ran through 1956.

He fit the TV cowboy model of a handsome, well dressed cowboy whose only purpose was to ride from town to town upholding the law in the Southwest. And, like other TV cowboys, he had a way of doing that without ever getting dirty or seldom ever firing a shot!

Remember I mentioned Gene's other talent - he could sing! In fact he sang so well that he was known as "the singing cowboy"! The show's theme song was "Back in the Saddle Again". I can still hear him singing that song. Can't you?

His sidekick "Pat" (played by Pat Buttram) always managed to get into some kind of silly predicament in each episode, Gene would find an opportunity to burst into song, and Champion (the Wonder Horse) wound up saving the day! Remember - this was one very talented horse!

The Cowboy Code

From 1940 to 1956, "Gene Autry's Melody Ranch" was a huge hit as a weekly show on CBS Radio. As you can see, it continued on the radio even while "The Gene Autry Show" was airing on TV. Gene knew that lots of young fans were listening to his radio show and watching his TV show so he created the "Cowboy Code" for these fans. Under his code, the Cowboy must:

1. Never shoot first, hit a smaller man, or take unfair advantage.

2. Never go back on his word, or a trust confided in him.

3. Always tell the truth.

4. Be gentle with children, the elderly and animals.

5. Not advocate or possess racially or religiously intolerant ideas.

6. Help people in distress.

7. Be a good worker.

8. Keep himself clean in thought, speech, action and personal habits.

9. Respect women, parents and his nation's laws.

10. Be a patriot.

Did you know there is a Gene Autry museum?

More About the Actors

ORVON EUGENE AUTRY (Gene to his fans) was born on Sept. 29, 1907 and died of lymphoma on Oct. 2, 1998, just 3 days after his 91st. birthday, at his home in Studio City, CA.

Gene was born in Texas but grew up in Oklahoma, working on the family ranch. He left high school early and went to work as a telegrapher for the St. Louis-San Francisco Railway. While working there, Will Rogers heard him singing and playing the guitar and encouraged Gene to sing professionally. With that confidence he auditioned for RCA Victor around 1928 and spent several years recording music and singing on various radio shows. In 1932 he had his first hit song, "That Silver Haired Daddy of Mine", which he sang as a duet with Jimmy Long. He followed that up with "Back in the Saddle Again" and a lot of Christmas songs including "Santa Claus is Coming to Town", "Frosty the Snowman" and his biggest hit ever, "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer". Over his career, Gene Autry made 640 recordings and he wrote, or co-wrote 300 of those. His records sold more than 100 million copies and he has more than a dozen gold and platinum records, including the first record ever certified gold.

In 1932 Gene Autry married the niece of Jimmy Long, Ina May Spivey, who died in 1980. In 1981 he married Jacqueline Ellam who had been his banker. He had no children by either marriage.

He began his movie career in 1934 as part of a singing cowboy quarter, starring with Smiley Burnette in "In Old Santa Fe". As part of Republic Pictures, Gene made another 44 films by 1940, all B Westerns in which he starred (riding Champion!) with Smiley Burnette. After returning from his WWII service, Gene chose Pat Buttram to work with him and they made 40 films and over 100 episodes of his TV show together.

From 1936 to 1955 Gene Autry and Roy Rogers held either first or second place in the top 10 money-making Western stars polls.

Gene Autry was a very smart businessman. As early as 1942 he had a string of rodeo stock so he became a partner in the World Championship Rodeo Company which furnished livestock for many of the country's major rodeos. In 1954 he acquired Montana's top bucking string, moved it to a 24,000 acre ranch in Colorado and continued to provide livestock for most of the major rodeos in Texas, Colorado, Montana, and Nebraska. For his work as a livestock contractor, Gene Autry was inducted into the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Associations ProRodeo Hall of Fame in 1979.

He bought real estate, beginning in 1953 when he purchased the 110 acre Monogram Movie Ranch near Newhall, CA. He renamed it Melody Ranch after his movie of the same name. After promptly selling 98 of those acres, he kept the remaining 12 acres of Western town, adobes, ranch cabin sets, and some open land for location shooting. In 1962 a fire destroyed most of the original sets but, making lemonade from lemons, Gene used the devastated landscape for filming productions such as "Combat".

He purchased the Los Angeles Angels baseball expansion team in 1961 and remained its sole owner until 1995 when he sold a one-quarter share to the Walt Disney Company, then a controlling interest in 1996 with the remaining share to be transferred after his death. The team honored Gene by retiring the number "26" (representing the 26th man on the 25 man roster), so strong was his support for his team.

Some of the honors bestowed upon Gene Autry include induction into the Western Performers Hall of Fame at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, OK in 1972. He was also a life member of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, Burbank Lodge #1497. His autobiography, "Back in the Saddle Again", was published in 1976 and CMT ranked him #38 in their "40 Greatest Men of Country Music" in 2003. In 2007 he became a charter member of the Gennett Records Walk of Fame in Richmond, IN. In 1978 Johnny Cash recorded a song called "Who is Gene Autry", and Gene autographed Johnny's famous black Martin D-35 guitar. He was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame in 2003 and in 2004 the Starz Entertainment Corporation (working with the Gene Autry estate) restored all of his films which can now be seen regularly on Starz's Encore Western Channel on cable TV.

MAXWELL EMMETT "PAT" BUTTRAM was born in Addison, AL on June 19, 1915, the youngest of 7 children.

Trying to follow in the footsteps of his Methodist minister father, Pat began college studying for the ministry but soon realized that he enjoyed performing in college plays and on a local radio station much more, and became a regular on the "WLS National Barn Dance" in Chicago.

Pat married Dorothy McFadden in 1936 and they adopted a daughter named Gayle, but divorced in 1946. In 1952 he married actress Sheila Ryan and they were still married when she died in 1975. Their daughter Katherine (nicknamed Kerry) was born in 1954.

He went to Hollywood in the 1940's and became a sidekick to Roy Rogers. But since Roy already had 2 regulars, Pat was dropped. Gene Autry picked him up soon after that and they starred together in more than 40 films and over 100 episodes of the Gene Autry TV show.

Thru his career Pat Buttram starred in a few movies and was one of the writers for the "Hee Haw" TV show. He is probably most remembered as Mr. Haney in the "Green Acres" TV show. During the 1970's he did voices for several movie characters. He described his distinctive voice as " it never quite made it thru puberty". Others would say it sounded like a handful of gravel thrown in a Mix-Master.

Pat Buttram was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and also has a star on the "Alabama Stars of Fame" in Birmingham, AL. He died of kidney failure in Los Angeles, CA in 1994 and is buried in the cemetery at Maxwell Chapel United Methodist Church in Haleyville, AL.

What is your favorite memory of Gene Autry?

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On TV every Sunday night - 7:30 
I was always fascinated by his cowboy shirts. They were the best.

Houston County Fair-Dothan, AL 
Gene Autry made an appearance at the Houston County Fair which was owned by my grandfather, Leonard J Lunsford. There was an announcement made for a female …

Meeting Gene Autry in person Not rated yet
In 1951, my Dad took my sister and me down to the Boston Gardens to see Gene Autry with his rodeo. At that time, we were living in Concord, N.H. The Boston …

Fun Facts ! Not rated yet
I believe that In most westerns, even in the 70's, the Gene Autry ranch supplied all the livestock for the movies, such as horses, …

Gene's Serial Not rated yet
Long before gene appeared in movies, he was a singer, as you said. His talent got him a role in the serial Phantom Empire. His character was a rancher …

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