The Singing Cowboy

Gene Autry

Reading Comprehension for September 29

"You know Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen, Comet and Cupid and Donner and Blitzen. But do you recall the most famous reindeer of all?"

It was Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, of course. What you may not have known is that the song introduced Rudolph to the world. The song became a hit way back in 1949. It was sung by a man named Gene Autry. His recording made the song a Christmas classic. Over 30 million copies of his recording have been sold.

Gene Autry was a superstar for over three decades. He started out a country boy, born September 29, 1907, in Texas. He grew up in Oklahoma. His grandfather was a church minister. As a boy, Gene sang in the choir. He also learned to play a guitar his family bought by mail order. After high school, he worked as a telegraph operator for the railroad. He still played and sang.

By the time he was 20, Gene sang on a Tulsa radio station in his spare time. He was called "Oklahoma's Yodeling Cowboy." Yodeling is a musical sound made by fast changes between medium and very high notes. It is usually sung in nonsense syllables such as "yodel ee ah lay he yodel ee ah lay he hoo." It is heard almost no place else but in cowboy music.

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