After returning to the US in 1956,  Gene was with the military police at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, while waiting to attend the Army Helicopter School.  Gene had originally known Bill Mack while both were working in Amarillo, Texas, and this led to Gene playing steel with the Bill Mack Show out of Wichita Falls, Texas, and a Saturday night television show, also playing shows at schools, theaters and parks.  Bill Mack is known as the Midnight Cowboy for his long running nationwide night-time radio show and for  his syndicated television show, Country Crossroads.  Bill has written many songs, including the song "Blue" that was recorded by Leeann Rimes.  

The shows were classic tent-show style with the musicians selling Billís records walking through the audience during intermission , which he always kept a supply of in the trunk of his car.  One of the shows at Craterville Park, Lawton, Oklahoma, included  Smiley Burnett, who had been the comic Frog Millhouse in the old Gene Autry movies.  He was actually a very talented pianist and vocalist, and one of his numbers on the show was a medley of songs that he had written for the Gene Autry movies.  During intermissions between shows he told us that he never received writers credit for those songs because he had an agreement with Autry to sell all the songs that he could write to Autry for $5.00. Smiley thought it was a good deal at the time because in their early, lean years, they drove to personal appearances by automobile and he wrote those songs primarily for something to do to fill the time traveling.  My childhood hero Gene Autry was apparently already becoming an astute business man, which is probably why he died a multi-millionaire.


Gene Jones -  1956

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