Public Cowboy No. 1: The Life and Times of Gene Autry

Public Cowboy No. 1: The Life and Times of Gene Autry

by Holly George-Warren
     
 

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The only performer to earn 5 stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame—for film, recordings, TV, radio, and live performance—Gene Autry was the singing cowboy king of American entertainment. Now, in Public Cowboy No.1, Holly George-Warren offers the first serious biography of this singular individual, in a fascinating narrative that traces Autry's climb from

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Overview

The only performer to earn 5 stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame—for film, recordings, TV, radio, and live performance—Gene Autry was the singing cowboy king of American entertainment. Now, in Public Cowboy No.1, Holly George-Warren offers the first serious biography of this singular individual, in a fascinating narrative that traces Autry's climb from small-town farm boy to multimillionaire.
Here for the first time Autry the legend becomes a flesh-and-blood man—with all the passions, triumphs, and tragedies of a flawed icon. George-Warren recounts stories never before told, including revelations about Autry's impoverished boyhood, his adventures as an up-and-coming singer, and the impact his unbelievable success had on his personal life. She describes Autry's loving but doomed mother, who died on the brink of her son's success, and his ne'er-do-well father, who married five times and wandered the west. Autry battled his own demons but emerges here in a positive light, an immensely personable man, one of America's most charitable benefactors, known for his boundless generosity, and a patriot who enlisted during World War II. The book provides equally colorful details of Autry's lengthy radio and recording career, which included such classics as "Back in the Saddle Again" and "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer"; his movie career, where he breathed new life into the Western genre; and his role in early television, being the first movie star to develop his own TV shows. And along the way, we see how he invested shrewdly in radio, real-estate, and television, becoming the owner of the California Angels and the only entertainer listed among 1990's Fortune 400.
Based on exclusive access to Gene Autry's personal papers, as well as interviews with more than 100 relatives, employees, colleagues, and friends, this engaging biography brings to life a major Hollywood star—a man who, more than anyone else, put Western music and style on the American cultural map.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"An appealing, bittersweet success story."—Jack Markowitz, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

"This vivid, detailed chronicle of Gene Autry's life and career is a pleasure to read. George-Warren has done her homework, and presents a straightforward, honest portrait of the man who conquered virtually every medium of show business...The book offers solid assessments of his Autry's recordings and the evolution of his singing style, and fascinating behind-the-scenes details of his career in Hollywood and his ongoing battles with Republic Pictures. His rags-to-riches story is well told here."—Leonard Maltin

"The definitive portrait of Gene Autry."—John Beifuss, Commercial Appeal

"At last, in the centennial year of Gene's birth, Holly George-Warren gives us Public Cowboy No. 1, his first serious, full-length biography. There isn't likely to be another for a long time, so it's fortunate that Ms. George-Warren's is a good one."—Dallas Morning News

"Public Cowboy No. 1 increases our understanding of the American cowboy myth, perpetuated by those movies known as westerns. George-Warren creates a realistic, factual portrait of Autry, the star and the man."—Rick Tamble, The Tennessean

"Holly George-Warren's research is deep and impeccable. Every celebrity could use a biographer like Ms. George-Warren."—Jeanine Basinger, The New York Times

"Enjoyable, thoroughly researched...illuminating biography."—Publishers Weekly

"Holly George-Warren's meticulously researched, engrossing bio-she had access to Autrys personal papers and interviewed more than 100 of his intimates-takes the larger-than-life Autry down to human level...Public Cowboy No. 1 will likely stand as the definitive account of his life and work."—Harp Magazine

"A thorough, no-nonsense account of a singular life, and the prolific music writer George-Warren employs a brisk, assured style that hews to the Cowboy Code."—The Atlantic

"George-Warren does an impeccable job of presenting the facts of Autry's life and career detailing his early attempts at making records through his most successful periods. For fans of the singing cowboy, country music or general pop culture this book is highly recommended."—Midwest Book Review

"An engaging, meticulously researched portrait of an American phenomenon...a colorful and unsparing account."—Norfolk Virginian-Pilot

"Gene Autry was far more than a movie star, a recording artist, and everybody's favorite singing cowboy. Now, like a modern-day version of the great scouts of the old west, Holly George-Warren has applied her prodigious skills as a researcher and reporter to track down every fascinating detail of the life of this American icon. She's also an excellent writer, so Public Cowboy No. 1 is a story well told."-Ben Fong-Torres, author of Hickory Wind: The Life & Times of Gram Parsons and The Doors By the Doors

"Gene Autry pioneered a movie genre that helped shape American popular culture between the 1930s and the 1950s, and after: the singing cowboy. It is sometimes forgotten, though not by Holly George-Warren in this scrupulously researched biography of his creative years, that Autry's hugely popular Saturday matinee films were tuneful musicals as well as highly moral Western fables. In giving Gene, Champion, and Melody Ranch their overdue props, George-Warren provides a shrewd history of a lamented childhood ritual."—Gary Giddins, author of Natural Selection and Visions of Jazz

"Meticulously researched...Public Cowboy No. 1 increases our understanding of the American cowboy myth, perpetuated by those movies known as westerns. George-Warren creates a realistic, factual portrait of Autry, the star and the man."—The Tennessean

"Cleanly written and solidly researched."—Palm Beach Post

"If Gene Autry's movies had the impact on your young life that they had on mine, you'll revel in Holly George-Warren's Public Cowboy No. 1, a thoroughly researched and thoroughly engrossing account of America's favorite singing cowboy. Even those who know Autry only by reputation or from television reruns will find a wealth of information and many rich insights in this superb biography."—Nolan Porterfield, Author of Jimmie Rodgers: The Life and Times of America's Blue Yodeler and Last Cavalier: The Life and Times of John A. Lomax

Jeanine Basinger
Ms. George-Warren was given access to Autry’s archives, and she presents a complete portrait of the poor boy named Orvon Grover Autry who worked hard to rise to the top of a profession that was alien to his origins. She doesn’t psychoanalyze Autry, interpret him or tell alleged “secrets” that she alone miraculously knows. Her Autry is externalized, but her research is deep and impeccable. Every celebrity could use a biographer like Ms. George-Warren.
— The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

In this enjoyable, thoroughly researched volume, author and pop culture commentator George Warren (Cowboy) details the life and work of Gene Autry, the influential star of music, movies and television. After a descriptive genealogy, George Warren takes the reader through Autry's formative years, featuring his deadbeat dad, the oft-married Delbert, and his long-suffering mom, Nora. Born Orvon Grover Autry in 1907, the cowboy's childhood was spent watching Tom Mix movies in Achille, Okla., and singing for classmates. The bulk of the book is devoted to Autry's career as a musician and film actor, beginning with the telegraphing job he neglected in order to make his early recordings, and his subsequent discovery by American Record Corporation A&R man Art Satherley. Most striking, though perhaps not surprising, is that the much-revered man who "reinvent[ed] the saga of the cowboy and the West" was not a cowboy at all, but a deft performer and professional who made an unexpected, highly fortuitous move from film to television in the late 1940s. Included are abundant notes, a bibliography and a brilliant chronological list of Autry's 640 recording sessions. An easy, fluid read, this illuminating biography also provides a look into the early days of the radio and recording industry. (Apr.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780195177466
Publisher:
Oxford University Press, USA
Publication date:
05/07/2007
Pages:
480
Product dimensions:
9.40(w) x 6.60(h) x 1.80(d)

Meet the Author

Holly George-Warren is an award-winning writer, editor, and frequent commentator on Western films, music, and fashion. A contributor to more than 40 books on popular music, she is the author of Cowboy! How Hollywood Invented the Wild West and coauthor of How the West Was Worn: A History of Western Wear. She is also author of the children's books Honky-Tonk Heroes and Hillbilly Angels: The Pioneers of Country & Western Music and Shake, Rattle & Roll: The Founders of Rock & Roll. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, Rolling Stone, Village Voice, Entertainment Weekly, and many other publications. Beginning in Fall 2006, she will be Adjunct Professor of Journalism at SUNY-New Paltz.

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