Year
1907

Gene Autry, “The Singing Cowboy,” is born

As a boy, Autry sang in the church choir in Tioga and mastered the mail-order guitar his parents bought him for his 12th birthday. He was already an accomplished amateur and sometime-professional musician when, in the early 1920s, his family moved to Oklahoma, setting in motion the events that would make him into a star. While Autry strummed his guitar and sang casually during a quiet swing shift in the telegraph office in Chelsea, Oklahoma, in the summer of 1927, Okahoma’s favorite son and one of America’s favorite entertainers, Will Rogers, happened into the office and encouraged young Gene to head to New York City to pursue a recording career. One year later, Autry did just that, landing an audition at RCA Victor that led to his first recording sessions in the autumn of 1929.

Autry’s commercial breakthrough came two years later with the first of his many big hits, “That Silver-Haired Daddy Of Mine.” When the record sold its first half-million copies, Autry’s label, American Records, presented the young star with a commemorative gold-plated copy of the disc—the first-ever Gold Record. A regular spot as “Oklahoma’s Yodeling Cowboy” on the National Barn Dance radio show out of Chicago soon followed, giving Autry the platform that made him a star nationwide. Then, in 1934, Autry made his first film appearance in a movie called In Old Santa Fe, which in turn led to his being cast as Himself in a B-movie serial called The Phantom Empire, a series that featured not only singing cowboys, but also an advanced civilization called Murania driven underground during the last Ice Age. The Phantom Empire also became one of the most successful film franchises of the first half of the 20th century, earning Gene Autry recognition as one of Hollywood’s top 10 box-office attractions.

Except during a hiatus for service in World War II, Autry continued an amazing career streak well into the 1950s, amassing a string of classic hits that includes not just country classics such as “Back In The Saddle Again,” but also numerous holiday standards including “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town,” which he wrote himself, and also the biggest hit of his career, 1949’s “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”

In later life, Gene Autry owned a record label, Challenge Records, and also became the original owner of Major League Baseball’s Los Angeles Angels. Born on this day in 1907, Gene Autry died shortly after his 81st birthday on October 2, 1998.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Lord Nelson born

Horatio Nelson, Britain’s most celebrated naval hero, is born in Burnham Thorpe, England. In the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars, he won a series of crucial victories and saved England from possible invasion by France.The son of the village rector, he entered the British ...read more

The Tylenol murders

Investigators soon determined that the tainted Tylenol capsules hadn’t been tampered with at the factories where they were produced. This meant that someone had taken the bottles from store shelves, laced them with poison and then returned them to grocery stores and pharmacies, ...read more

Babi Yar massacre begins

The Babi Yar massacre of nearly 34,000 Jewish men, women, and children begins on the outskirts of Kiev in the Nazi-occupied Ukraine.The German army took Kiev on September 19, and special SS squads prepared to carry out Nazi leader Adolf Hitler’s orders to exterminate all Jews and ...read more

American woman climbs Everest

Stacy Allison of Portland, Oregon, becomes the first American woman to reach the summit of Mount Everest, which at 29,035 feet above sea level is the highest point on earth. Allison, a member of the Northwest American Everest Expedition, climbed the Himalayan peak using the ...read more

Reporter Judith Miller released from prison

On this day in 2005, New York Times reporter Judith Miller is released from a federal detention center in Alexandria, Virginia, after agreeing to testify in the investigation into the leaking of the identity of covert CIA officer Valerie Plame. Miller had been behind bars since ...read more

Nazis and communists divvy up Poland

On this day in 1939, Germany and the Soviet Union agree to divide control of occupied Poland roughly along the Bug River–the Germans taking everything west, the Soviets taking everything east.As a follow-up to the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact, (also known as the Hitler-Stalin Pact), ...read more

Charges dropped against Green Berets

Secretary of the Army Stanley Resor announces that the U.S. Army, conceding that it is helpless to enlist the cooperation of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), is dropping the murder charges (of August 6) against eight Special Forces accused of killing a Vietnamese ...read more

Willie Mays makes catch

On September 29, 1954, Willie Mays, centerfielder for the New York Giants, makes an amazing over-the-shoulder catch of a fly ball hit by Cleveland Indians first baseman Vic Wertz to rob Wertz of extra bases in Game 1 of the 1954 World Series. The catch has gone down as one of the ...read more

Miguel de Cervantes is born

Miguel de Cervantes, author of Don Quixote, is born this day near Madrid.Cervantes led an adventurous life and achieved much popular success, but he nevertheless struggled financially throughout his life. Little is know about his childhood, except that he was a favorite student ...read more

“Message filmmaker” Stanley Kramer is born

On this day in 1913, Stanley Kramer, the director and producer whose best-known “message” movies–including The Defiant Ones,Judgment at Nuremberg and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner–tackled controversial political and social themes, is born in New York City. During his career in ...read more

Trains collide in Pakistan

A passenger train collides with an oil-tanker train in the Gambar province of western Pakistan, killing 300 people and seriously injuring another 150 on this day in 1957.The passenger train, bound for Karachi from western Pakistan, was overcrowded, which was not unusual at the ...read more

Cyanide-laced Tylenol kills six

Flight attendant Paula Prince buys a bottle of cyanide-laced Tylenol. Prince was found dead on October 1, becomingthe final victim of a mysterious ailment in Chicago, Illinois. Over the previous 24 hours,six other people had suddenly died of unknown causes in northwest Chicago. ...read more

Russians want the American dream

An article in the New York Times claims that Russian citizens want the “American dream”: private property and a home of their own. The article was one of many that appeared during the 1950s and 1960s, as the American media attempted to portray the average Russian as someone not ...read more