Singing cowboy and twentieth century superstar Gene Autry was born on this day 109 years ago on the twenty-ninth of September, 1907. To commemorate the occasion, presented here is Autry’s first big hit record, featuring his early duet partner Jimmy Long.
Gene Autry was born Orvon Grover Autry on September 29, 1907 in Grayson County, Texas, near Tioga. After high school, he worked as a telegraph operator for St. Louis–San Francisco Railway, and would sing and play guitar on slow days. After losing that job, Autry sang on Tulsa’s KVOO, and when Will Rogers encouraged his singing career, he went to New York for an audition with the Victor Company, which wound up producing one record with Jimmy Long and Frankie Marvin on steel guitar. After Victor, Autry recorded for Columbia, which yielded several releases on their budget labels, in the style of the famous singing brakeman Jimmie Rodgers. After Columbia, he recorded for Gennett and the American Record Corporation, staying with the latter for many years. In 1934, he was “discovered” by Nat Levine of Mascot Pictures and made his motion picture debut in In Old Santa Fe, becoming the original singing cowboy of the screen. Before long, Autry became the top singing cowboy on film until he was surpassed by Roy Rogers, and his blue yodeling style was replaced with a more Western repertoire. He had hit records with “Silver Haired Daddy of Mine” in 1931 (and again in ’35), “Back in the Saddle” in 1939, and the Christmas classics “Here Comes Santa Claus” and “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”. During World War II, Autry served in the Army Air Corps. In the 1950s, Autry appeared in his own television program, and became involved in baseball. He retired from show business in 1964, having made over one-hundred films and over six-hundred records. Autry died of lymphoma on October 2, 1998. He is the only person thusfar to be awarded stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in all five categories.
Romeo 5109 was recorded on October 29 and 30, 1931 in New York City by Gene Autry and Jimmy Long. In addition to Autry’s guitar, the pair are accompanied by Roy Smeck on steel guitar.
Sentimental to the point of sappiness (and truly a piece of Americana) “Silver Haired Daddy of Mine” was Gene Autry’s first big hit, and one of his most enduring songs, making its biggest success in 1935 when Autry sang it in Tumbling Tumbleweeds.
Following the same formula as the previous, on the flip, they perform “Mississippi Valley Blues”.