Art&Seek presents This Week in Texas Music History. Every week, we’ll spotlight a different moment and the musician who made it. This week, Texas music scholar Gary Hartman looks at the life and career of Gene Autry, the owner of the first gold album in country music history.
You can also hear This Week in Texas Music History on Saturday on KERA radio. But subscribe to the podcast so you won’t miss an episode. And our thanks to KUT public radio in Austin for helping us bring this segment to you.
And if you’re a music lover, be sure to check out Track by Track, the bi-weekly podcast from Paul Slavens, host of KERA radio’s 90.1 at Night.
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This Week in Texas Music History, we’ll celebrate a Texas singer who earned the first gold album in country music history.
Orvon “Gene” Autry was born near Tioga, Texas, on September 29, 1907. He started as a Jimmie Rodgers impersonator and a so-called “hillbilly” singer before scoring his 1931 hit “That Silver Haired Daddy of Mine.” The record sold more than a million copies and earned Autry the first gold album in country music history. By 1934, he had landed a minor role in Ken Maynard’s western In Old Santa Fe. Soon, Autry was starring in the first of nearly 100 feature films. By far, the most popular movie cowboy of his era, Autry set the standard for other Hollywood cowboys to follow. As his film career skyrocketed, Autry abandoned his earlier stage persona as a southern hillbilly and started wearing elaborate western outfits that were better suited to the romantic Texas cowboy image he had adopted. He also began expanding his musical repertoire to include more cowboy songs, as well as tunes that featured Spanish lyrics or Texas-Mexican borderland themes.
Next time on This Week in Texas Music History, we’ll learn about we’ll honor a popular artist who stopped making records in order to protest the unfair treatment of his fellow black musicians.