Photo of Gene Autry Gene Autry

Born in the plains of Tioga, Texas, on Sept. 29, 1907, Orvon Gene Autry was working as a railroad telegrapher in Oklahoma when Will Rogers reportedly heard him sing and urged him to pursue a career in music.

After carving out a successful career in radio with his soothing tenor voice, Autry eventually debuted as Hollywood's first real "singing cowboy," playing himself in Ken Maynard's In Old Santa Fe (1934) and starring in a string of B Westerns with his trusty horse, Champion, and his sidekick, Smiley Burnette, throughout the 1930s and '40s.

After serving in World War II, he starred in The Last Round-Up (1947) and The Strawberry Roan (1948) before moving to television with "The Gene Autry Show" (1950-56) and retiring in 1956. A lifelong collector of Western memorabilia, Autry died on Oct. 2, 1998, 10 years after establishing the Gene Autry Western Heritage Museum in Los Angeles.

Gene Autry in Riders of the Whistling Pines

Riders of the Whistling Pines

1949 TV-G

To make a fortune harvesting government forestland, loggers Henry (Douglass Dumbrille) and Bill (Damian O'Flynn) murder a forest ranger and frame Gene (Gene Autry) for the crime. After clearing his name, Gene tries to stop the outlaws and save the forest from an insect infestation. Featuring both action scenes and musical numbers, this classic Western also stars Patricia Barry, Jimmy Lloyd and Clayton Moore.

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