Jimmy Wakely

James Clarence Wakely (February 16, 1914 September 23, 1982)[1] was an American actor, songwriter, country Western music vocalist, and one of the last singing cowboys. During the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s, he released records, appeared in several B-Western movies with most of the major studios, appeared on radio and television and even had his own series of comic books. His duet singles with Margaret Whiting from 194951 produced a string of top seven hits, including 1949's number one hit on the US country charts and pop music charts, "Slippin' Around." Wakely owned two music publishing companies in later years and performed at the Grand Ole Opry until shortly before his death.

Jimmy Wakely
Background information
Birth nameJames Clarence Wakeley
Born(1914-02-16)February 16, 1914
Howard County, Arkansas, U.S.
DiedSeptember 23, 1982(1982-09-23) (aged 68)
Mission Hills, California, U.S.
Genrescountry music, Western movies
Instrumentsvocals, guitar
Years active1939-1970s
LabelsDecca, Capitol, Coral, Dot
Associated actsRoy Rogers, Hopalong Cassidy


Early years

James Clarence Wakeley was born in Howard County, Arkansas but his family moved to Rosedale, Oklahoma by 1920. As a teenager, he changed his surname to Wakely, dropping the second "e".[2]

Country Western musician

In 1937 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma he formed The Bell Boys, a country Western singing group named after their Bell Clothing sponsor. The group performed locally, made some recordings, and did frequent radio broadcasts over Oklahoma City's WKY. Johnny Bond, Dick Reinhart, Scotty Harrell and Jack Cheney were members of the Bell Boys and later groups.[2] Over time, Wakely's groups were known as The Jimmy Wakely Trio, Jimmy Wakely and His Saddle Pals, Jimmy Wakely Trio and James Wakely.[3]

During a tour through Oklahoma, Western movie star Gene Autry invited Wakely to come to California. Autry felt the group might be a good addition to his new Melody Ranch radio show which debuted on CBS in January 1940. The Wakely Trio joined the show in mid-1940. He stayed for a couple of years, then left because of movie commitments and a recording contract with Decca Records that ran from 19411942 through 1947. Johnny Bond stayed with the show for most of its run (the show left the air in 1956).[2]

Personal life

Wakely married Dora Inez Miser on Friday the 13th, December 13, 1935. They had four children: Deanna, Carol, Linda and son Johnny. Their marriage lasted until his death in 1982.[2]

Western movie actor

In 1939, Wakely made his screen debut (with the Jimmy Wakely Trio) in a Roy Rogers Western, Saga of Death Valley.[4] In 1941, The Jimmy Wakely Trio appeared in Hopalong Cassidy films Twilight on the Trail and Stick to Your Guns, singing songs such as "Lonesome Guitar", "My Kind of Country", and "Twilight on the Trail". In the 1940s, Wakely groups provided songs and musical support for several B-western movies, including appearances with:

Wakely made only one film with Autry, Heart of the Rio Grande, at Republic in 1942.[2] He was sometimes referred to as a low-budget Autry in films. His response was, "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."[4] He appeared in 28 Westerns at Monogram between 1944 and 1949.[2][4]

Wakely also appeared in some non-Westerns, including I'm from Arkansas in 1944, a showcase for country and hillbilly performers who bring their comedy, tunes and yodeling to Pitchfork, Arkansas.[2]

Recording career

About 19411942, Decca gave Wakely a recording contract that ran until 1947.[2] After leaving films, he continued to record, switching to the Capitol label. Though most of his songs were country Western, some crossed over to the pop charts, including collaborations with singer Margaret Whiting and Karen Chandler, and for the Christmas song "Silver Bells".[4] He had a number one country hit with "One Has My Name (The Other Has My Heart)", a song originally released by Western singer Eddie Dean.

Comic books

Like other Western film stars of the era, Wakely had his own comic book series. DC Comics published 18 issues from Sept/Oct 1949July/Aug 1952, billing him as "HOLLYWOOD'S SENSATIONAL COWBOY STAR!"[2][4]

Radio and television appearances

In addition to Autry's Melody Ranch, Wakely had his own CBS Radio show and co-hosted other programs. He also made several appearances on television variety shows;[2] and in 1961 he was one of five rotating hosts on the NBC-TV program Five Star Jubilee.

He also had one of the last live network radio programs at the NBC radio studios at the corner of Sunset and Vine in Hollywood, California in 1958. Excerpts of the program appear on Wakely's albums and CDs.

Recording company

In the 1960s and 1970s, Wakely developed Shasta Records and owned two music publishing companies. He converted part of his California ranch into a recording studio, producing recordings for himself as well as for other country Western performers, including Tex Williams, Merle Travis, Eddie Dean, Tex Ritter and Rex Allen.[3][2] For his recording work, Wakely has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on Vine Street.[5]

Later years

Later in life, Wakely performed at the Grand Ole Opry and National Barn Dance. His nightclub act visited Las Vegas, Reno and other venues. He did a Christmas USO Tour with Bob Hope. He made a few recordings on the Coral, Decca/Vocalion and Dot labels. He made appearances at Western film nostalgia conventions and continued personal appearances and stage shows, often with his daughter Linda and son Johnny in the act.[2]


After contracting emphysema, Wakely died of heart failure at Mission Hills, California on September 23, 1982.[3] He and his wife, who died in 1997, are interred next to each other in the Court of Remembrance at Forest Lawn Memorial Park (Hollywood Hills), Los Angeles, California.[2]

Awards and honors

Wakely was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1971 and the Western Music Association Hall of Fame in 1991.



Year Album Label
1954 Songs of the West Capitol
Christmas On the Range
1956 Santa Fe Trail Decca
1957 Enter and Rest and Pray
1959 A Cowboy Serenade Tops
Country Million Sellers Shasta
Merry Christmas
1960 Jimmy Wakely Sings
1966 Slippin' Around Dot
Christmas with Jimmy Wakely
1967 I'll Never Slip Around Again Hilltop
1969 Heartaches Decca
Here's Jimmy Wakely Vocalion
1970 Big Country Songs
Now and Then Decca


Year Single Chart Positions
US Country US
1943 "There's a Star-Spangled Banner Waving Somewhere" 14
"Standing Outside of Heaven"
1944 "I'm Sending You Red Roses" 2
1946 "Somebody's Rose"
"Everyone Knew It But Me"
"One Little Teardrop Too Late"
1948 "Signed Sealed and Delivered" 9
"One Has My Name (The Other Has My Heart)" 1 10
"I Love You So Much It Hurts" 1 21
"Mine All Mine" 8
1949 "Forever More" 10
"Till the End of the World" 9
"I Wish I Had a Nickel" 4
"Someday You'll Call My Name" 10
"Tellin' My Troubles to My Old Guitar" 14
1950 "Peter Cottontail" 7 26
"Mona Lisa" 10
1956 "The Call of the Canyon"


Year Single Artist Chart Positions
US Country US
1949 "Slippin' Around" Margaret Whiting 1 1
"Wedding Bells" 6 30
"I'll Never Slip Around Again" 2 8
1950 "Broken Down Merry-Go-Round" 2 12
"The Gods Were Angry with Me" 3 17
"Let's Go to Church (Next Sunday Morning)" 2 13
"A Bushel and a Peck" 6 6
1951 "My Heart Cries for You" Les Baxter 7 12
"Beautiful Brown Eyes" 5 12
"When You and I Were Young Maggie Blues" Margaret Whiting 7 20
"I Don't Want to Be Free" 5



This is a partial list of his movie credits, most of them are Westerns:[3][2]


  • The Jimmy Wakely Show (1952–1958)[3][2]
  • Melody Ranch (1940–1942)[2]
  • CBS Hollywood Barn Dance (1945–1947)[2]


Wakely appeared as himself on several TV shows including:


  1. Krampert, Peter (2016). The Encyclopedia of the Harmonica. Mel Bay Publications. p. 179. ISBN 9781619115774. Retrieved 25 December 2017.
  2. Wakely, Jimmy. "B-Westerns". Retrieved 2007-12-08.
  3. Wakely, Jimmy. "IMDb". Retrieved 2007-12-08.
  4. Wakely, Jimmy. "All Movies". Retrieved 2007-12-08.
  5. Wakely, Jimmy. "Hollywood Walk of Fame Directory". Archived from the original on 2007-10-19. Retrieved 2007-12-08.


  • Seemann, Charlie (1998). "Jimmy Wakely". In The Encyclopedia of Country Music. Paul Kingsbury, Editor. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 566.
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