The Official Website of Gene Autry, America's Favorite Singing Cowboy

I Toured with Gene Autry
by Alex Gordon

South of the Border

A letter from Gene was the highlight of each issue. The American Club, under Dorothy Crouse, was much larger and published the fine Autry Aces. During the Blitz on London in World War II, it became increasingly hard to travel due to bombs and many smaller cinemas being destroyed. I had just gotten out from South of the Border, having seen the other feature, when that cinema was completely demolished. The blackout and traffic stoppage from fires meant walking for two hours in the dark to get home after The Old Barn Dance. With the paper shortage it became a problem to continue publishing five thousand copies of The Westerner, and when I went into the Army there was no choice but to stop publication. But one final issue had to come out to explain the situation.

The sergeant at the Armored Division where I was stationed was not sympathetic. All mail was censored because of security regulations and his staff was not inclined to read 5000 fan club magazines. In vain I explained that they would have to read only one copy—the others were the same. No way. In desperation, I asked to see the chaplain, always a promising move when problems arose. He took me to a lieutenant, from where I continued to Captain, Major, Lieutenant-Colonel and finally Major General in charge of the entire Big Parade. As soon as I saw his Eisenhower-like face as I entered, quaking in my boots, I knew I had come to the right place. He understood. Two corporals were assigned to help me mimeograph the copies and stuff them into large envelopes, then to be mailed. Not snow, nor rain, or heat, nor gloom of night stayed these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds. This famed motto of the United States Postal Service thus applied to The Westerner magazine, as it would to Gene Autry himself on the road.

Typewritten Schedules

Click here to see larger versions of Alex's typewritten tour schedules.

"You don't have to join the navy to see the world; just sign up for one of Gene Autry's tours and you'll do plenty of traveling." Pat Buttram may have said it first. Gene was the only Hollywood performer keeping his shows on the road for as long as 85 days without any in between breaks.

Most entertainers figured that 30 days was about all they could take. The Gene Autry Show played everything from the 13,000 seat Coliseum in Indianapolis, the 14,008 seater at the St. Louis Arena and the 15,438 seat exhibition in Toronto, Ontario, to arenas, auditoriums and school gymnasiums with lesser capacity. There was an afternoon and evening show in every location.

Gene Autry and Herb Green would take turns flying the Beechcraft and several members of the company would take turns flying with Gene. Once I found myself the only passenger, sitting beside Gene in the cockpit as he put the plane on automatic control and moved inside to take a nap. Sequences from all the movie epics I had seen from Wings to The Dawn Patrol flashed through my mind as I anxiously waited for his return before another plane, space ship or flying saucer would come rushing towards us from another direction.

When remaining in a town awaiting the show's arrival, I would carry a glossy photo of Gene stepping out of his Beechcraft at the local airport for use by the newspaper in time for their deadline. The 'arrival story' would then accompany the picture. In Sioux City, Iowa, one cold January 15th in 1951, eleven year old Robert Klingbeil had been severely burned in an accident six months earlier and had asked Don Stone, local disc jockey of radio station KSCJ, to see if there was a chance of contacting Gene, as he would be unable to attend the show. When I heard about it and informed Gene, he immediately agreed to see the boy on arrival and I handed the arrival picture to the editor of the Sioux City Journal.