The singing cowboy movie star craze began officially with Gene Autry’s mid-’30s films, and persisted for more than 20 years, arguably setting the stage for Elvis and other 6-string slingers, and firmly establishing the image of the guitarist as a cool, sexy, heroic figure. Along the way, dozens of singing cowboys—from major stars such as Roy Rogers and Tex Ritter to relatively obscure figures like Donald Grayson and Fuzzy Knight—sang, whistled, and yodeled their way into the hearts of Depression-era America. Even John Wayne and Bing Crosby were briefly associated with the genre, as were several women, including “The Singing Cowgirl” Dorothy Page, and “The Queen of the West” Dale Evans.
This lavishly illustrated hardcover relates the saga of the singing cowboy throughout 144 oversized pages. But rather than a chronological narrative, you get individual biographies of dozens of cowpersons and groups (including the Riders of the Purple Sage, the Cass County Boys, and the Hoosier Hot Shots), organized alphabetically, making Singing Cowboys more of a coffee-table leisure read than a cover-to-cover exposition. Despite the lighter presentation, however, the book is chockablock with facts and historical photos, making it one of the most authoritative treatments of this fascinating slice of Americana available. Gibbs Smith.