Smiley Burnette

Induction Year: 1971

Birth Name: Lester Alvin - Smiley Burnette
Birth Date: March 18, 1911
Place of Birth: Summum, IL
Deceased: February 17, 1967
Place of Death: Knoxville, TN


"Some folks worry about the cost of life without knowing the value of it. Way I figure it, happiness is like a butterfly. You can chase it, but if you just settle down it'll light on you."

Former Occupations:
Canning factory employee
Taxi driver
Hotdog vendor on the University of Illinois campus during football season
Truck driver
Motorcycle delivery boy


Discography / Career Highlights

Career Milestones:
1920 - performing debut at age 9 at a Y.M.C.A. banquet in Carthage, IL; paid $3.00
1928 - announcer and entertainer at WDZ (then in Tuscola, IL)
1933 - hired for Christmas Eve WLS National Barn Dance in Chicago by Gene Autry
1934 - went to Hollywood with Gene Autry to try luck at film career; made "The Phantom Empire"
1934 - first Hollywood film role in "In Old Santa Fe" with Ken Jaynard for Mascot
1935 - appeared in "Tumbling Tumbleweeds" with Gene Autry
1955-1963 - toured the U.S. doing comedy routines and singing his own songs, accompanying himself on guitar or accordion
early 1960s - starred on nationally syndicated radio show produced by RadiOzark in Springfield, MO
1963-1966 - appeared in CBS-TV's "Petticoat Junction"

Catalog Highlights:
"Riding Down the Canyon" - Co-writers: Gene Autry - Artists: Gene Autry, Willie Nelson & Leon Russell, Riders in the Sky, Johnnie Lee Wills

"It's My Lazy Day" - Artists: Merle Haggard & Willie Nelson, Bob Wills & the Texas Playboys

"Hominy Grits" - Artists: Red Foley

"Mama Don't 'low No Music Playin' in Here"

"Catfish, Take a Look at that Worm"

"Jackass Mail"

"My Home Town"

Seldom took him more than 30 minutes to write a song; occasionally, he did it in 10 minutes while his family waited breakfast, and then would sell it to the studio by reading or singing the lyrics over the telephone; wrote the type of songs he sang best - children's, western novelty and hillbilly (country) songs

Credited with coming up with the name "Trigger" for Roy Rogers' horse

Became known as "Frog" (Ole Frog Millhouse), Gene Autry's sidekick in the westerns they made for Republic Pictures


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