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

News Archive: 2004

The Essential Gene Autry, 1931-1953
Posted December 7, 2004

Here is the official press release from Sony Legacy on The Essential Gene Autry, 1931- 1953.

DECEMBER 7, 2004





40 Songs Range From Jimmie Rodgers' "T.B. Blues" And "That Silver-Haired Daddy Of Mine," To "Home On The Range" And "Roly Poly"—Plus "Back In The Saddle Again," "Tumbling Tumbleweeds," "Don't Fence Me In," "South Of The Border (Down Mexico Way)," "The Yellow Rose Of Texas," "Mexicali Rose," and more

"God Bless America," "Here Comes Santa Claus," "Peter Cottontail," And "Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer" Too!

Liner Notes Essay By Official Biographer Holly George-Warren Adds Historic Background On Collection, To Arrive In Stores January 11th On Columbia/Legacy

"In the early 1930s, before he made his mark in the movies, in children's recordings, and in the American League, Autry broadened the regional appeal of hillbilly music and cowboy songs by taking the sound to a nationwide audience, via his hugely popular records and radio broadcasts. As his own repertoire evolved from Jimmie Rodgers-style blues and twangy hillbilly songs to mellifluous western music and polished country-pop, the sound and look of country & western music became a national – and international – sensation."

—from the liner notes written by Holly George-Warren

The tradition of America's singing cowboy found its first great voice with Gene Autry—and never looked back. At the core of his busy career as a film, radio, television, and live performer from the 1930s to the 1950s was his prolific output of records which sold more than 100 million copies during his lifetime, at first for the various labels of the American Recording Corporation (ARC) and later Columbia. THE ESSENTIAL GENE AUTRY, the first double-CD package devoted exclusively to these recordings, will arrive in stores January 11th on Columbia/Legacy, a division of Sony BMG Music Entertainment.

THE ESSENTIAL GENE AUTRY rides in with 40 tunes covering Gene Autry's career from 1931—a trio of chestnuts recorded in April (his original "Dallas County Jail Blues" and his first role model, blue yodeler Jimmie Rodgers' "T.B. Blues") and October ("That Silver-Haired Daddy Of Mine," another Autry original that later became the country's first million-selling record in 1935)—up through 1953's "Roly Poly," written by c&w publishing icon Fred Rose. Rose's career-long partnership with Autry first bore fruit on 1941's "Be Honest With Me," which is heard on disc one.

2004 marked the 75th anniversary of Autry's first recording session (for RCA Victor Records) in New York City, just days before the stock market crash in October 1929. The historic scope of THE ESSENTIAL GENE AUTRY is provided by a newly commissioned liner notes essay written by his biographer, two-time ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award winner Holly George-Warren. Her exclusive interviews with Autry in 1997 (the year before his death on October 2, 1998) were the lynchpin for a contract with Oxford University Press to write his biography. The book will be published in 2007, in conjunction with the centennial anniversary of Gene Autry's birth (September 29, 1907).

In addition to contributing to Rolling Stone, the New York Times, the Village Voice, the Journal of Country Music, No Depression, American Cowboy, and numerous other publications, Ms. George-Warren is the editor of more than a dozen books, and the author of Cowboy: How Hollywood Invented the Wild West, How the West Was Worn, Honky-Tonk Heroes and Hillbilly Angels: The Pioneers of Country & Western Music, and the children's book Shake, Rattle & Roll: The Founders of Rock & Roll.

No Gene Autry collection would be complete without the litany of signatures that established his reputation in the 1930s ("a singer who happened to be a cowboy, rather than a cowboy who tried to sing," to paraphrase one chronicler), and carried him up through his enlistment in the Army Air Corps at the outbreak of World War II. This first round of hits would include such familiar titles as "Tumbling Tumbleweeds" (his second million-seller), "Back In The Saddle Again" (his third), "South Of The Border (Down Mexico Way)" (the fourth), "The Yellow Rose Of Texas" (number five), "Mexicali Rose," and "You Are My Sunshine," to name a few.

During the WWII years, Autry's songs were the fabric of Americana for a generation: "Amapola (Pretty Little Poppy)," "Jingle Jangle Jingle," "Deep In The Heart Of Texas," "I'm Thinking Tonight Of My Blue Eyes," "I Hang My Head And Cry," "Don't Fence Me In," and more. Immediately after the war years, Autry's return to the spotlight reflected a man and a country that had shifted gears. Eternal classics like "Home On The Range," "Have I Told You Lately That I Love You," and "Buttons And Bows" bore his unmistakable stamp.

In 1947, at the age of 40, he co-wrote and recorded "Here Comes Santa Claus (Right Down Santa Claus Lane)," one of the biggest Christmas songs in years. It was a prelude to 1949's "Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer," which went on to sell more than 30 million copies in its 78 and 45 rpm single formats, and vies with Bing Crosby's "White Christmas" as the biggest yuletide record of all time. Having tapped into the market, Autry returned in 1950 with another children's holiday favorite, "Peter Cottontail."

The first half of the decade proved to be Autry's finale as a performing artist, as he gradually phased out films, television, radio, live performing, and finally recording in favor of pursuing his interests as a keen businessman, entrepreneur, and philanthropist. Nevertheless, Autry's final years in the studio are represented by a fascinating array of material, from Woody and Jack Guthrie's "Oklahoma Hills" and Leadbelly's "Goodnight Irene" to Irving Berlin's "God Bless America," from the traditional folk songs "On Top Of Old Smokey" and "Old Chisholm Trail" to the rousing "Dixie Cannonball."

But the heart and soul of THE ESSENTIAL GENE AUTRY are those songs which ingrained his legend on the silver screen. The western dude image and heroic easy-going temperament of modern country & western music of the last 50 years adheres to a blueprint laid down by Autry back in the 1930s. By the time America's Depression-era movie-going public heard him sing the opening title song of In Old Santa Fe, his film debut (with star Ken Maynard), Gene Autry's fate was sealed. Over the course of 93 movies, Autry rode into history on his horse Champion, frequently coming to the rescue of farmers or townsfolk or Native Americans at odds with scurrilous politicians, oily company men, even enemies of the state.

Many of those films were named for Autry's latest or recent record (or vice versa), among them 1935's Tumbling Tumbleweeds, 1939's Mexicali Rose, 1941's Down Mexico Way, 1937's Boots and Saddles, 1946's Sioux City Sue, 1949's Riders In The Sky, and 1953's On Top Of Old Smokey—all of these showcased on THE ESSENTIAL GENE AUTRY.

"During his four-decade musical career," Ms. George-Warren sums up, "Gene Autry cut more than 600 sides, including some 300 compositions he wrote or co-wrote, earning multiple gold and platinum records. As he evolved from old-time hillbilly blues to polished Western pop, America's Favorite Singing Cowboy created an influential—and enduring—body of work."


Disc 1 – Selections

  1. Back in the Saddle Again (V, 1939)
  2. South of the Border (Down Mexico Way) (V, 1939)
  3. The Life of Jimmie Rodgers (V, 1933)
  4. Tumbling Tumbleweeds (R, 1935)
  5. The Convict's Dream (P, 1937)
  6. Dallas County Jail Blues (R, 1931)
  7. Dear Old Western Skies (M, 1935)
  8. The Yellow Rose of Texas (V, 1933)
  9. Mexicali Rose (P, 1935/1936)
  10. T.B. Blues (P, 1931)
  11. I'm Thinking Tonight of My Blue Eyes (O, 1942)
  12. Amapola (Pretty Little Poppy) (O, 1941)
  13. Listen to the Rhythm of the Range (P, 1937)
  14. That Silver-Haired Daddy of Mine (V, 1931)
  15. When It's Springtime in the Rockies (P, 1937/1938)
  16. Be Honest with Me (O, 1940/1941)
  17. It Makes No Difference Now (C, 1941)
  18. Deep in the Heart of Texas (O, 1942)
  19. Take Me Back to My Boots and Saddle (O, 1937/1938)

Disc 2 – Selections:

  1. Jingle Jangle Jingle (O, 1942)
  2. Don't Fence Me In (O, 1944)
  3. Oklahoma Hills (SMSP, 1946/2000)
  4. Gallivantin' Galveston Gal (C, 1946/1947)
  5. Have I Told You Lately That I Love You (C, 1945/1946)
  6. Goodnight Irene (C, 1950)
  7. Sioux City Sue (C, 1946/1970)
  8. Home on the Range (C, 1946/1947)
  9. Roly Poly (C, 1953)
  10. I Hang My Head and Cry (O, 1941/1942)
  11. God Bless America (C, 1951)
  12. Ghost Riders in the Sky (C, 1949)
  13. On Top of Old Smokey (C, 1951/1952)
  14. Buttons and Bows (C, 1947/1948)
  15. Old Chisholm Trail (C, 1951/1952)
  16. Old Soldiers Never Die, They Just Fade Away (C, 1951)
  17. Dixie Cannonball (C, 1946/1947)
  18. Peter Cottontail (C, 1950)
  19. Here Comes Santa Claus (Right Down Santa Claus Lane) (C, 1947)
  20. Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer (C, 1949)


  • V – Vocalion Records
  • R – Romeo Records
  • P – Perfect Records
  • M – Melotone Records
  • O – Okeh Records
  • C – Columbia Records
  • SMSP – Sony Music Special Products

(followed by year of recording/year of release, unless the same)

For further information on Gene Autry contact:
Tom Cording at Legacy Media Relations, 212.833.4448, or
Randy Haecker at Legacy Media Relations, 212.833.4101

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