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Gene Austin

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Gene Austin (June 24, 1900 - January 24, 1972) was an American singer and songwriter who is considered to have been the first “crooner”.

Austin was born as Lemeul Eugene Lucas in Gainesville, Texas (north of Dallas), to Nova Lucas (died 1943) and the former Serena Belle Harrell (died 1956). He took the name “Gene Austin” from his stepfather, Jim Austin, a blacksmith. Austin grew up in Minden, the seat of Webster Parish in northwestern Louisiana, located east of Shreveport. There he learned to play piano and guitar. He ran away from home at fifteen and attended a vaudeville act in Houston, where the audience was allowed to come to the stage and sing. On a dare from his friends, Austin took the stage and sang for the first time since singing as a Southern Baptist choir boy. The audience response was overwhelming, and the vaudeville company immediately offered him a billed spot on their ticket.

Austin joined the U.S. Army at the age of 17 in hopes of being dispatched to Europe to fight in World War I. He was first stationed in New Orleans, where he played the piano at night in the city’s notorious vice district. His familiarity with horses from helping his stepfather in his blacksmithing business also prompted the Army to assign Austin to the cavalry and send him to Mexico with General John Pershing’s Pancho Villa expedition, for which he was awarded the Mexican Service Medal. Thereafter, he served in France in the Great War.

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  • vickevlar

    For some reason I had this baseless image of him as something of an odious, doughy, dixiecrat, but reading about his life makes him seem like a pretty cool guy. Minus the twin devils of drunkenness and debauchery. Anyway, amazing music regardless.

    23 Feb 2013 Reply
  • vaughnvhalen

    }{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{}{ Good Times !!:":":":":":":":":":":":":":":":":":":":":":":":"

    23 Jul 2011 Reply
  • LoveNotLust

    Heard his version of "Did You Ever See A Dream Walking?" in The Green Mile. Loved it.

    3 Mar 2010 Reply
  • zrsullivan

    The picture I posted looks a tad less pulpy. Give it your vote.

    23 May 2008 Reply
  • NeverSurrender

    There.

    19 Dec 2006 Reply

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