December 2009

Gene Autry: A Life in Pictures

The figures of early Hollywood were stars in a completely different way then we might understand them today. So, instead of becoming infamous, folks gained notoriety for being talented in one way or another. Certainly, there was scandal. There always has been, but due to the quickness – or lack thereof – with which information then travelled, stars and starlets were safe.

Amongst the crop of famous folks in Hollywood during the ‘30s were a spate of singing cowboys. Easily the most famous, though, was Gene Autry. Despite coming to a semblance of fame prior to shooting a movie as a result of his singing career, Autry continued on an upward trajectory of stardom all the while attempting to maintain his identity.

Memphis Jug Band: Come and See Me Sometime

Depending upon how far one traces music back into the historical ether, it seems that the art form was just as frequently a mode of expression as it was a business. Expending effort to craft and disseminate a work, even from the earliest portions of the twentieth century very quickly made folks want to earn a dime. And obviously even before that there was minstrelsy and Vaudeville. Those latter two, though, just didn’t have 78s to hock, so too bad for the coffers.

Either way, there were disparate markets to reach – namely white and black. Only the most savvy song writers and business men were able to reach both. Will Shade was one of those guys.

Rocky Bill Ford: A Little Known Drunkard

For normal people, it seems odd for folks to believe that a career in music is anything other than a pipe dream. Even the most talented have a ridiculous journey to complete before being able to call themselves a musician and have it actually be appropriate. There’s surely someone right now, in some coffee shop, bookstore or bar figuring aloud that he’s a musician in order to impress whatever beautiful clerk is ringing up a purchase. It’s not a bad move, just completely disingenuous. That’s how life goes, but at least Rocky Bill Ford didn’t over compensate for his job as a barber in Texas.


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