Farewell to the Singing Cowboy
Source: Sounding Board Newsletter Vol 6 - January 1999
In Memory of Gene Autry 1907-1998
Gene Autry, America's Favorite Singing Cowboy, passed away at his home in Studio City, California, on October 2, 1998. He was 91 years old. His career spanned some 60 years in the entertainment industry, encompassing radio, recordings, motion pictures, television, rodeo and live performances. He also became a broadcast executive and major league baseball owner. He is the only entertainer to have five stars on Hollywood's Walk of Fame, one each for radio, records, film, television and live theatrical performance (including rodeo).
Many of Gene's recordings (and movies) were made using his Martin guitars. He certainly owned and played many special ones, among them the very first and most famous D-45 with his name inlaid in the fingerboard. Gene had a long friendship with the Martin Guitar Company, and his correspondences, always warm and cordial, spanned four generations of the Martin family. It was Martin's great privilede and pleasure to issue the Limited Edition Gene Autry D-45S Signature Model in 1994. This project served as a template for most all of the Martin Limited Edition Artist Signature Models that followed. Royalties from the Autry Edition supported the Autry Museum of Western Heritage in Los Angeles, an incredible project which was one of Gene's greatest passions.
Gene appeared in 93 feature films and made 635 recordings. His beloved Christmas and children's records Here Comes Santa Claus (1947) and Peter Cottontail (1950) sold more than two million copies, while Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1949) remains the second best selling single of all time. Gene Autry's legacy will live on at the museum he founded and in the hearts of his fans. At Martin, we will surely miss him.