Jimmy Wakely

Active - 1939 - 1984  |   Born - Feb 16, 1914   |   Died - Sep 23, 1982   |   Genres - Western, Action

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Biography by Hans J. Wollstein

"Wakely," says one modern critic, "just never seemed comfortable as a movie cowboy." Yet, there he was in 1944, as low-budget Monogram's answer to Republic Pictures' singing cowboy sensations Gene Autry and Roy Rogers. Wakely, in fact, had reportedly been discovered by Autry and he later made his screen debut (with the Jimmy Wakely Trio) in a Rogers Western, Saga of Death Valley (1939). As a country & western balladeer, Wakely certainly had his merits and he would eventually be topped only by Autry in the amount of pop hits delivered. He was not a natural actor and although Monogram added several well-known sidekicks to their Jimmy Wakely music Westerns, the series remained decidedly also-ran in nature. Wakely was awarded no less than two sidekicks in his first two films -- Dennis Moore and elderly Lee "Lasses" White -- then counted on White alone to deliver comedic punch to the following ten. With Ridin' Down the Trail, White was replaced by Dub Taylor, who previously had rescued other, less-than-stellar cowboy heroes. Taylor, whose bucolic antics remain purely a matter of taste, stayed with Wakely for the duration of his Monogram contract, 16 Westerns in all. Leaving films in 1949, Jimmy Wakely continued to record and is perhaps best remembered for his collaboration with singer Margaret Whiting and for the Christmas song "Silver Bells." Jimmy Wakely comic books survived until 1952, but Wakely himself could never escape having once been Monogram's low-budget answer to Gene Autry. The performer, however, opted for a philosophic attitude: "Everybody reminds somebody of someone else until they are somebody. And I had rather be compared to Gene Autry than anyone else. Through the grace of God and Gene Autry, I got a career."

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