Personalities | Spade Cooley | West Coast Scene | Country
(Violin, vocals, bandleader, 1910–69)
When Bob Wills set up business in the San Fernando Valley, he found strong competition from Spade Cooley, an Oklahoma-born fiddle player who initially worked as a singing-cowboy stand-in and musician before becoming bandleader in the Venice Pier Ballroom. There he attracted sell-out business with his band, which numbered 22 members at times. ‘Shame On You’ (1944) gave him his biggest hit. A masterful arranger, Cooley brought a rich, full sound to his brand of western swing and furthered his popularity with appearances in over three dozen movies and a television show, the Hoffman Hayride. Great success was overtaken by even greater tragedy, as he was sentenced to life for the murder of his wife, Ella Mae, in 1961. Eight years later he suffered a massive heart attack and died, after performing at a police benefit.
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