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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A Spade Cooley list..........

Spade Cooley

Donnell Clyde Cooley
(December 17, 1910–November 23, 1969), better known as Spade Cooley, was an American Western swing musician, big band  leader, actor, and television personality. His career ended in 1961 when he was arrested and convicted for the murder of his second wife, Ella Mae Evans.

One of the groups which played at the Venice Pier Ballroom in Venice, California was led by Jimmy Wakely  with Spade Cooley on fiddle. Several thousand dancers would turn out on Saturday night to swing and hop. "The hoards of people and jitterbuggers loved him." When Wakely got a movie contract at Universal, Cooley replaced him as bandleader.

To capitalize on the success of the Bob Wills–Tommy Duncan pairing, Cooley hired vocalist Tex Williams who was capable of the mellow deep baritone sound made popular by Duncan. Cooley's 18-month engagement at Santa Monica's Venice Pier Ballroom was record-breaking for the early half of the 1940s. His "Shame on You", released on Columbia's OKeh label, was recorded in December 1944, and was No. 1 on the country charts for two months. "Shame on You" was the first in an unbroken string of six Top Ten singles including "Detour" and "You Can't Break My Heart".

Cooley appeared in 38 Westerns films, both in bit parts and as a stand-in for cowboy actor Roy Rogers. Billed as Spade Cooley and His Western Dance Gang, he was featured in the soundie Take Me Back to Tulsa released July 31, 1944 along with Tex Williams and Carolina Cotton. Corrine, Corrina was released August 28, 1944 minus Cotton.   In 1950, Cooley had significant roles in several films, and starred in two film shorts: King of Western Swing and Spade Cooley & His Orchestra.

Beginning in June 1948, Cooley began hosting a variety show on KTLA-TV in Los Angeles, California broadcast from the Santa Monica Pier Ballroom. The show became a mainstay of television in the area, and won local Emmy awards in 1952 and 1953. Guests included Frankie Laine, Frank Sinatra and Dinah Shore.  The Hoffman Hayride was so popular that an estimated 75 percent of all televisions in the L.A. area were tuned into the show each Saturday night. Making use of video transcriptions, The Spade Cooley Show was viewed coast-to-coast via the Paramount Television Network.

Although by 1956 Lawrence Welk was achieving increasing success at the nearby Aargon Ballroom, Cooley's show ended in the same year as ratings continued to drop.

After a "battle of the bands" with Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys at the Venice Pier Ballroom, which Cooley won, he began to promote himself as the King of Western Swing. Evidently Western swing, not used prior to 1942 for this style of music, was a term thought up by Cooley's then promoter, Forman Phillips.

Cooley's music was like that of the then-current big band orchestras, and its sound was drawn from those dance-oriented big bands.

In 1961, his wife expressed her wish to be divorced, and a drunken Cooley responded by beating her and stomping on her body until she died. They had three children: Melody, Donnell Jr. and John. Cooley was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison.

After he had served eight years, the state of California agreed to parole him on February 22, 1970. In November 1969, he received 72-hour furlough to play a benefit concert for the Deputy Sheriffs Association of Alameda County at the Paramount Theater in Oakland. After the performance, Cooley suffered a fatal heart attack in the backstage area on November 23.

John Gilmore has written an in-depth portrait of Cooley's life and tragic end in Shame on You, a segment of Gilmore's non-fiction work, L.A. Despair. Cooley is a recurring character in James Ellroy's fiction, including in the story "Dick Contino's Blues", which appeared in issue No. 46 of Granta magazine (Winter 1994) and was anthologized in Hollywood Nocturnes.

He is referenced in one of the Honeymooners episodes (from Art 'Ed Norton' Carney to Jackie 'Ralph Kramden' Gleason): "They wouldn't-a won that except some guy slipped in a Spade Cooley record."

Ry Cooder's 2008 album I, Flathead features a reference to Cooley on the track "Steel Guitar Heaven" ("There ain't no bosses up in heaven / I heard Spade Cooley didn't make the grade"), as well as a track named "Spayed Kooley", the name of the singer's dog.


Metropolitan News-Enterprise--Thursday, February 27, 2003


Spade Cooley…From KTLA, to KTTV, to the Prison at Vacaville


Spade Cooley, “King of Western Swing,” brought his bandleading, singing and fiddling to KTLA, Channel 5, on Thursday, Aug. 5, 1948. “The Spade Cooley Show” was soon moved to Saturday nights and, within just a few months, it was hogging 75 percent of the viewership in L.A. during its time slot.

The show was broadcast—live, of course—from the Santa Monica Ballroom at the pier. Other musical shows, originating from places outside the studio, were soon added to KTLA’s lineup. (They included “Harry Owens and his Royal Hawaiians,” launched in 1949, “Bandstand Review” with the Frank de Vol Orchestra and singer Harry Babbitt, started that same year, and “The Lawrence Welk Show,” kicked off in 1951—all emanating from the Aragon Ballroom at Ocean Park.)

Cooley’s program became known, for a while, as “The Hoffman Hayride,” named for the sponsor, a manufacturer of TV sets.

While Hoffman may have had his name in the title of the show, it was Cooley who was in the spotlight. This Oklahoma boy, born into poverty, who started his show business career at Republic Studios doing bit parts and acting as a stand-in for Roy Rogers, whom he resembled, had become a success. Even before launching his television career, “Spade Cooley and His Orchestra” had recorded some hit records, starting with “Shame on You,” in 1945. Now, he was a local celebrity.

The television show gained viewership rapidly as television sets became a must-have commodity. His recording career flourished.

It appeared, at that point, that Cooley, like Rogers, would be riding “happy trails.”

The March 31, 1956 issue of TV Guide (Southern California edition) contained an ad for Cooley’s show. It read:

“Spade Cooley’s formula for a show with top musical entertainment, a dash of western flavor, and a good sprinkling of comedy has proven to be just what the viewers ordered.

“The SPADE COOLEY SHOW, seen Saturdays at 8:00 P.M. on Channel 5, has been among the top-rated television shows in Los Angeles for many years. It features a host of talented and versatile performers, and reigning over the festivities each week is ‘The King of Western Swing’ himself. Seen with Spade are KTLA favorite Dick Lane, violin virtuoso Anita Aros, baritone Phil Gray, and singing sensation Kay Cee Jones. Hank Penny, Bobby Sargent, Mel Ryan, and Les Chatter see to it that the laughs are plentiful. A guest star is usually on hand to join in the fun.

“The Spade Cooley Show now originates from the new KTLA Sunset Studios at Sunset and Van Ness...”

Cooley was fired by KTLA the following year. He had become a heavy drinker.

 In late 1957, he landed a 15-minute show, aired Monday through Friday on KTTV at 5:30 p.m. (followed each night by a rerun of “Topper” and George Putnam’s 15-minute newscast). He also became co-host on KTTV’s Saturday late-night country-western show, “Town Hall,” along with Tex Williams and Doye O’Dell.

KTTV’s joining of Cooley and Williams was ironic. Eleven years earlier, Cooley had fired Williams, the vocalist with the “Spade Cooley Orchestra,” over a salary dispute. Williams took several of the musicians with him.

Cooley’s association with KTTV was of short duration.

My wife, Jo-Ann, met Cooley once in 1961. She was a teenager, accompanying her father to Cooley’s ranch in Mojave to transact some business. Just what it was her father was interested in buying, she doesn’t recall. He bought and sold all sorts of things, and had a particular interest in objects relating to the Old West. Cooley, she recounts, was agitated; he paced, taking short steps, almost scampering. It was the next day—April 3, 1961— that he brutally murdered his wife.

Donnell Clyde Cooley committed the slaying of former singer Ella Mae Cooley, kicking, beating and strangling her, even burning her with a cigarette, while forcing their 14-year-old daughter to watch. A jury found him guilty of first degree murder and on Aug. 22, 1961, a Kern Superior Court judge sentenced Cooley to life imprisonment.

The Fifth District Court of Appeal, in affirming on Dec. 20, 1962, declared: “We conclude readily that there was overwhelming evidence of killing by torture, and that the murder was of the first degree.”

Cooley, a model prisoner, left the penitentiary in Vacaville on a three-day leave in 1969 shortly before his parole date. On Nov. 23, he made a public appearance at a sheriff’s benefit concert in Oakland, went backstage, and had a fatal heart attack.

“Shame on You” had been his theme song during his television career, and became his epitaph.

Oh, and just for those with "true crime interests:

Hmmmmm............interesting. Anywhooo, I recently decided to start delving through some hard drives that I have....a lotta of western swing, rockabilly, and old country on one of 'em. I figured that being as interesting as Spade Cooley is, he'd be a good start. (interesting as in after his career, to most, I imagine). I don't always know how I view his music, most of his cowboy movies are amusing/good/bad/worse on viewing today, IMHO. I guess he is western swing, although I find him a bit too 'big-band-ish', and polished for my liking (I like mine a bit rougher, freewheeling, and down-homish). In any event, here are some tunes.....I'm gonna start to go back find some oddities after this post.....some off-the-beaten-path, different stuff, etc....stay tuned. :)

Three way boogie
Bogg's boogie
Carmen's boogie
One, two (radio intro)
Steel guitar rag
Topeka Polka
Down home rag
Money song
Oklahoma stomp
One sweet letter from you
Yodeling Polka
Forgive me one more time
Silver bell
Swinging the devil's dream
The trouble with me
Cowbell Polka
Better do it now
Rochester Schottische
There is no sunshine
I found a new baby
Stay away from my heart
Then you'll know what it means to be blue
Corrine, Corrina
Shame on you 2
Radio sign off
Bonaparte's retreat (b'cast)
Indian summer
Little Liza Lou
Miss Molly (from movie)
Not really (b'cast)
Shame on you
You never miss the water...(studio take)

Two more late additions to the list: (found these from ripped 78s at the site........I didn't have these sides and thought they'd round out the set nicely)

Mountain boys have fun with mountain girls
Nine-tenths of the Tennessee river

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