The Official Website of Gene Autry, America's Favorite Singing Cowboy

Photo Album

2005 Founder's Day Exhibit "Gene Autry, The Christmas Cowboy"

Installation of the 2005 Founder's Day exhibit at the Autry National Center's Museum of the American West, "Gene Autry, The Christmas Cowboy." The exhibit runs November 14, 2005 through January 16, 2006.

November 14, 2005

Zach Schrock, Rigney Graphics

Each fall, the Museum of the American West presents a special Founder's Day cameo exhibit that showcases one aspect of Gene Autry's life. This photo album provides a behind the scenes look at how such an exhibit is installed by the museum's Collections Management, Conservation, Curatorial, and Exhibits departments.

We hope you'll bring the family to the museum to see this special display of the many Christmas connections to Gene Autry. And if you can't make it to sunny Southern California for a personal visit, we hope you view the photos with your favorite Gene Autry Christmas music playing in the background!

Below is the actual text from the exhibit.

Gene Autry, The Christmas Cowboy

Rolling Panel
Gene Autry, the Christmas Cowboy

Children of all ages have been Gene Autry fans since the 1930s. Most kids love Christmas, so it's no surprise that the original Singing Cowboy was also devoted to the Yuletide. Mr. Autry identified an audience for non-religious popular Christmas music and succeeded both in popularity and profit by serving those fans. Families enjoyed Gene's broadcasts of special Christmas programs on radio and television. They cherished the children's holiday music he recorded and sold. His most popular recording was "Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer." Another favorite was "Here Comes Santa Claus (Right Down Santa Claus Lane)." This recording captured the joy of children who took part in the annual Hollywood Christmas Parade. Being the Grand Marshal of "Santa Claus Lane" was one of Mr. Autry's favorite holiday experiences.

Center Case
Performance outfit, c. 1955. 

One of Gene Autry's favorites, this performance outfit was featured on the 1970 album cover titled, "The Original Gene Autry Sings: Rudolph and Other Christmas Favorites." Mr. Autry also wore this shirt as Grand Marshal of the Hollywood Christmas Parade in 1980.

Case 1 Left: Broadcasting and Recording
Live Broadcasts and Sound Recordings

Gene Autry produced a number of radio and television Christmas specials over the years. The first one was a national benefit broadcast on December 25, 1938, to aid Dust Bowl refugees living in and around Bakersfield, California. The youngsters were asked what star they wanted to see most and a large majority voted for Mr. Autry, "The Cowboy." By 1947, these young fans were all grown up and having children of their own. To reach this new generation of fans, Gene Autry began recording and selling children's holiday music. His first hit record came in 1947, with "Here Comes Santa Claus (Right Down Santa Claus Lane)." Co-written with Oakley Haldeman, this song was inspired by the Hollywood Christmas Parade. Another huge hit song was "Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer." Johnny Marks wrote the lyrics and melody for "Rudolph." The song was based on a 1939 story by Robert L. May. Gene Autry recorded the song in 1949, and Columbia Records sold two million copies the first year. Today, "Rudolph" is one of the most commercially successful songs of all time.

Case 2 Right: Hollywood Christmas Parade
The Hollywood Christmas Parade

Between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day each year since 1932 (except during World War II, 1942-1944), Hollywood Boulevard has been renamed "Santa Claus Lane." The opening of Santa Claus Lane marked the beginning of the holiday shopping season. From his first appearance in 1937, Gene Autry used the parade to promote special holiday merchandise. Over the years, Mr. Autry took part in the annual event many times. Mr. Autry was the Grand Marshal for the parade in 1939, when an estimated 500,000 people lined the streets to see the event. It was during the parade in 1946 that thousands of children shouting, "Here comes Santa Claus!" inspired Gene. He wrote a song with Oakley Haldeman to honor the event. Many other Western stars also rode in the parade, including Roy Rogers and Trigger, Dale Evans and Pal, Wild Bill Elliott and Stormy Night, and Bill (Hopalong Cassidy) Boyd and his horse, Topper.

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