Orvon Gene Autry was born September 29, 1907. He gained fame as The Singing Cowboy on the radio, in movies and on television. He worked in Chicago, Illinois, on the WLS (AM) radio show National Barn Dance for four years with his own show where he met singer and songwriter Smiley Burnette.
His first hit was in 1932 with That Silver-Haired Daddy of Mine. Autry also sang the classic Ray Whitley hit "Back in the Saddle Again", as well as many Christmas songs including "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town", his own composition "Here Comes Santa Claus", "Frosty the Snowman" and probably his biggest hit ever, "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer".
Discovered by film producer Nat Levine in 1934, he and Burnette made their film debut for Mascot Pictures Corporation. Shortly thereafter, Mascot was absorbed by the formation of Republic Pictures Corp. and Autry went along to make a further 44 films up to 1940, all B westerns in which he played under his own name. He became the top Western star at the box-office by 1937, reaching his national peak of popularity from 1940 to 1942.
Autry briefly returned to Republic after the war, to finish out his contract, which had been suspended for the duration of his military service. Thereafter, he formed his own production company to make westerns under his own control, which were distributed by Columbia Pictures, beginning in 1947. He also starred in and produced his own television show on CBS beginning in 1950. He retired from show business in 1964, having made almost a hundred films up to 1955 and over 600 records.
Autry created the Cowboy Code or Cowboy Commandments in response to his young radio listeners aspiring to be just like Gene.
1. The Cowboy must never shoot first, hit a smaller man, or take unfair advantage.
2. He must never go back on his word, or a trust confided in him.
3. He must always tell the truth.
4. He must be gentle with children, the elderly, and animals.
5. He must not advocate or possess racially or religiously intolerant ideas.
6. He must help people in distress.
7. He must be a good worker.
8. He must keep himself clean in thought, speech, action, and personal habits.
9. He must respect women, parents, and his nation's laws.
10. The Cowboy is a patriot.
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