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Ken Foote's Holiday Songs: Gene Autry & Rudolph

(CBS 11 NEWS ) - Gene Autry was an accomplished singer, songwriter, movie actor, musician, rodeo performer, and a successful media and sports executive.

Born Orvon Grover Autry on September 29, 1907 in Tioga, Texas and passed away on October 2, 1998, Autry became famous as a singing cowboy on the CBS Radio Network. From 1934-1953, he appeared in 932 films and, from 1950-1956, in his own TV show on the CBS Television Network. Appearing on the TV show was his sidekick, Pat Buttram. Viewers will remember Buttram as the Hooterville conman Mr. Haney on CBS's "Green Acres." His signature song was "Back In The Saddle Again." Afterward, he moved to the business side of media as owner of several radio and TV stations and owner of the Los Angeles Angels.

Yours truly was at an Autry station in Phoenix AZ in October 1982 that was being sold to the company I was working for. The station was KOOL-TV Channel 10, which was a CBS affiliate. Autry also owned KOLD-TV (CBS) in Tucson and KTLA-TV (IND) in Los Angeles. I came close to meeting him that year, as that was when he sold KOOL-TV to the company I was working for (KOOL-FM and an Arabian horse business that was part of his company went to his partner, the late Tom Chauncey). Today, KOOL-TV is KSAZ-TV and is a FOX Owned and Operated station.

Today's holiday song is one he made famous, "Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer". Written by Johnny Marks, Autry's recording of this song was #1 on the American charts during the week of Christmas 1949. It was suggested that it be the "B" side for a song on the "A" side but Autry initially said no, until his wife convinced him otherwise. It became a hit!

Its official #1 date was January 7, 1950, making it the first #1 song of the 50's. Running 3:10 on the Columbia label (which was a division of CBS back then), the lyrics go like this, starting with Stanza 2:

Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer
had a very shiny nose
and if you ever saw it
you would even say it glows.

All of the other reindeer
used to laugh and call him names
They never let poor Rudolph
play in any reindeer games.

Then one foggy Christmas Eve
Santa came to say:
"Rudolph with your nose so bright,
won't you guide my sleigh tonight?"

Then all the reindeer loved him
as they shouted out with glee,
Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer,
you'll go down in history!


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