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Spade Cooley

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Spade Cooley (Donnell Clyde Cooley, Grand, Oklahoma, December 17, 1910 – Oakland, California, November 23, 1969) was an American, Western Swing fiddler, singer and big band leader and also songwriter, actor, and television personality. His career ended in 1961 when he was arrested and convicted for the murder of his second wife, Ella Mae Evans.

Cooley, being part Cherokee, was sent to the Chemawa Indian School in Salem, Oregon to be educated. Around 1930 his family fled the Dust Bowl for California.

One of the groups which played at the Venice Pier Ballroom in Venice, California, was led by Jimmy Wakely with Spade Cooley on fiddle. Several thousand dancers would turn out on Saturday night to swing and hop. When Wakely got a movie contract at Universal, Cooley replaced him as bandleader.
To capitalize on the pioneering success of the Bob Wills–Tommy Duncan pairing, Cooley hired vocalist Tex Williams who was capable of the mellow deep baritone sound made popular by Duncan. Cooley’s 18-month engagement at Santa Monica’s Venice Pier Ballroom was record-breaking for the early half of the 1940s. His “Shame on You”, released on Columbia’s Okeh label, was recorded in December 1944, and was No. 1 on the country charts for two months. A Red Foley / Lawrence Welk collaboration issued by Decca (18698) was No. 4 to Cooley’s No. 5 on Billboard’s “Most Played Juke Box Folk Records” listing in September 1945. Soundies Distributing Corp. of America issued one of their “music video like” film shorts of Cooley’s band titled “Shame on You” in the fall of 1945.

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