Music Throwback Saturday: Gene Autry

I’ve never seen any of Gene Autry’s films!

gene_autryWhen baseball’s American League expanded from eight to 10 teams for the 1961 season, all I knew of Gene Autry was that he was the guy who owned the team initially called the Los Angeles Angels, later referred to, when it moved to suburban Anaheim in 1966, as the California Angels, then the Anaheim Angels. (The other team was the new Washington Senators, after the old team became the Minnesota Twins.)

But then I discovered this was the same fellow who performed not one, but three Christmas classics. Here Comes Santa Claus (Down Santa Claus Lane) was written by Autry, with music composed by Oakley Haldeman. It got to #9 on the pop charts in 1947 and to #5 early in 1948 on the country charts, then to #4 country later that year.

The song was covered by several artists, notably Doris Day (1949), Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters (1950), Elvis Presley (1957), and Bob B. Soxx & the Blue Jeans (1963), the latter for that famous Phil Spector Christmas album.

The first cowboy singing star of the movies – I’ve never seen any of his films! – had his biggest hit with Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer, performed with the Pinafores, which was #1 for eight weeks on a special kid’s music chart in 1949, and also hit #1 on the pop and country chart that year. It recharted for another three years, and again after Gene Autry died in 1998.

The final Christmas hit was Frosty the Snow Man, performed with the Cass County Boys. it got to #4 country and #7 pop in 1950, an #2 on the kids chart the following year. His success with just these three songs put him at #2 on the chart of the most successful Christmas singles artists, behind only Bing Crosby, at least through 2004.

He was inducted into the Country Hall of Fame, mostly for his non-Christmas music.

Listen to songs by Gene Autry:

Here Comes Santa Claus (Down Santa Claus Lane) here or here

Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer here or here

Frosty the Snow Man here or here

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. I hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

2 thoughts on “Music Throwback Saturday: Gene Autry”

  1. one of the cable channels shows the movies- mom is a big fan and watch them with her- if you have TW might be encore western i think. I also heard him sing Ghostriders in the Sky – didn’t realize it went that far back

  2. I knew all those Christmas songs (his other songs, not so much), but I heard Burl Ives’ version of “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer” first, because of the TV special, and so I always liked Ives’ version better, in part because I heard it and got to know it first. On the other hand, I heard the Phil Spector Christmas album many years after I’d already heard Autry’s songs, and I liked Bob B. Soxx & the Blue Jeans’ cover of “Here Comes Santa Claus (Down Santa Claus Lane)” better. Actually, liked The Ronettes’ cover of “Frosty the Snowman” and The Crystals’ cover of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”, too. I think I’ll go listen to the Phil Spector album now…

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