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

News Archive: 2024

Holiday Hitmaker Gene Autry's Easter Tunes
Posted March 4, 2024

Everyone knows that Gene Autry is the Christmas Cowboy with his hit songs "Here Comes Santa Claus (right Down Santa Claus Lane)" and "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer," but did you know that Gene also sang Easter tunes, too? That's right, he performed "Easter Parade" on his Melody Ranch Radio Show on Easter Sunday, April 6, 1947. While he never recorded this Irving Berlin classic for Columbia Records it was a hit with his radio audience. When Gene renewed his contract with Columbia Records in the Spring of 1950 for an additional five years, his brand-new Easter hit "Peter Cottontail" sold 175,000 copies during its first week of release! The flipside of the record was "The Funny Little Bunny (with the Powder Puff Tail)" with Gene backed by the Cass County Boys and Carl Cotner's Orchestra on both tracks.

The popularity of Gene's record "Peter Cottontail" led to the song's performance on his Melody Ranch radio show and in his cross-country personal appearance tours. Most significantly, Gene sang "Peter Cottontail" in his B Western film The Hills of Utah, released by Columbia Pictures in 1951. That same year, Gene recorded and released another Easter record with the songs "Sonny the Bunny" and "Bunny Round-Up Time." The success of Gene Autry's holiday and children's recordings in the early 1950s led to his final Easter record in1954 with "Easter Mornin'" and "The Horse with the Easter Bonnet."

An interesting connection between Gene's Christmas and Easter records are composers Steve Nelson and Jack Rollins. Gene debuted their songs "Peter Cottontail" and "Frosty the Snowman" in 1950. Both releases became Gold Records for Gene. He recorded one more song by the songwriting duo, but it wasn't a holiday song. In the early 1950s Smokey Bear was hugely popular with his Wildfire Prevention campaign, and songwriters Steve Nelson and Jack Rollins wrote a song about him, adding "the" to the name only to keep the song's rhythm. Gene Autry recorded "Smokey the Bear" in 1952, once again backed by the Cass County Boys and Carl Cotner's Orchestra.

You can check out a selection of Gene Autry's Easter songs performances from his Melody Ranch Radio Show and movie Hills of Utah on our Gene Autry Official YouTube Channel's Easter Songs and Clips Playlist here.

  • In 2006 Gene Autry Entertainment partnered with Varèse Sarabande Records to release the CD album Gene Autry and Friends: Year-Round Cowboy. This included all six of Gene's Easter songs he recorded for Columbia Records in the early 1950s. The CD has since sold out and is no longer available on audio streaming services. But you might find the CD on resale sights, thrift stores, or garage sales. Read about the album here.

Spotify does have a few of Gene Autry's Columbia Records Easter song recordings.

Back to index