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

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 ...

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

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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: 5/7/2007
  • 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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Table of Contents

Introduction
1. The Autrys and the Ozments
2. Cross Timbers
3. Tioga
4. Workin' on the Railroad
5. Musical Mentors
6. A New Name, a New Profession
7. The Oklahoma Yodeling Cowboy
8. Hillbilly Recording Artist
9. Midwestern Buckaroo
10. Uncle Art
11. From "High Steppin' Mama" to "Silver Haired Daddy"
12. Sweet Home Chicago
13. "The Singing and Yodeling Marvel"
14. Motherless Son
15. WLS Radio Star
16. Cowboy Balladeer
17. Smiley, Patsy, and Pee Wee
18. Celluloid Cowboy
19. Negotiations by Post
20. Republic Pictures Star
21. Battles-On Screen and Off
22. The Singing Cowboy
23. Public Cowboy No. 1
24. Strike!
25. At Home and Abroad
26. Melody Ranch
27. A Town Called Gene Autry
28. War!
29. Sergeant Gene Autry
30. Don't Fence Me IN
31. Back in the Saddle
32. Gene Autry, Inc.
33. From Horses to Reindeer, From Big Screen to Small
34. Last of the Pony Riders
35. On the Road Again-and Again
36. The Last Round-Up
Epilogue
Notes
Sources
Gene Autry Recording Sessions
Filmography
Acknowledgments
Index

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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 2, 2009

    Definitive Biography of the Singing Cowboy.

    Holly George-Warren has written what will become the standard biography of singer and western star Gene Autry. Her book is meticulously researched and it contains every aspect of both his personal and professional life. As one who loved Gene Autry films and carried the Autry lunchbox to school every day many years ago, I appreciate the author's time and efforts in outlining and explaining a remarkable life.

    The author has an obvious affection for Gene Autry. She records his unfailing loyalty to his large circle of friends and his immense generosity in supporting charities throughout his long life. Autry had many more friends than enemies.

    Sadly, the author must report that Autry, like many of our heroes, had some serious faults. His fans thought of Autry as a paradigm of virtue; a strong man of character, courage, and courtesy. In reality, Autry had a reputation as a womanizer and abused alcohol for much of his adult life. One would wish that he could have lived up to the high moral code which he promoted for years in his movies and television shows. These blemishes were hidden from the public and his millions of fans looked up to him as a wholesome role-model for living their own lives.

    There are marvelous movie posters and photographs to accompany the text which are worth the price of the book for fans. Adults will be taken back to their childhoods when they rode the dangerous trails of the old west with their pal, Gene Autry. A great ride will be had by all!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 25, 2008

    WILL THE REAL GENE AUTRY STAND UP

    I have been a life time fan of gene and was surprised to get to know the real gene autry with detail descrpition of his private life. The only dissapoinment of my hero was his drinking. I highly recommend this book for fan and nonefan alike. Joe de la rosa

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 2, 2007

    SMASHING AN AMERICAN IDOL

    If you want to learn more than necessary about how songs came into being, read this book. If you want to sweep an idol from his pedestal, read this book. If you want to remember kindly, good and talented Gene Autry, buy his CDs and DVDs and give this work of craft a miss.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 15, 2010

    For nothing is secret, that shall not be made manifest; neither any thing hid, that shall not be known and come abroad. Luke 8:17;KJV of Holy Bible

    I'm a fan of Gene Autry's movies and music, and I wanted to know more about him, because I loved him from my knowledge of his music and movies. From this book, I learn both what I could cherish and what would make me weep for him and his wife Ina. I believe the author did an amazing job of presenting Gene Autry as he was when he walk on the earth, in all his greatness and human frailties, without seeming to praise or judge either way. My only real regret is not knowing the story of all Gene's life after the 1960's, when he "retired" from making music and movies to be strictly a business man and owner of a major league baseball team. The details of his last days on the entertainment circuit were so morally and mortally tragic, that I want desperately to hear that things improved when he was closer to home and certain temptations were not so ready to hand anymore. I just wish it for his own sake as a person, but also for my love for him as a fan. Still and all, reading this biography is a great lesson in life. No man is perfect. Every one has their faults and failures. Some men's go before, and some men's follow after. If a person could learn anything from anyone's life: be who you want to be -- who you ought to be both in private and in public at all times, as much as you humanly can be because one day it will all come out anyway, whether you like it or not! If you are honest from start to finish, Lord willing, you won't be monsterously ashamed in the end, since everything done had a chance for help and correction at one time or another!

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