Gene Austin Biography

Eugene Lucas, 24 June 1900, Gainseville, Texas, USA, d. 24 January 1972, Palm Springs, California, USA. A singer, pianist, songwriter, and all-round entertainer, Austin was known as a ‘soft-voiced’ performer, with an intimate, appealing style. He joined a circus while in his teens, and then served as a bugler in the US Army during World War I. Later, he worked in vaudeville with Roy Bergere, and in 1924 they collaborated on ‘How Come You Do Me Like You Do?’, which was popularized by Marion Harris, and eventually featured in the films That’s The Spirit (1945) and Three For The Show (1955). In the same year, Austin teamed with Jimmy McHugh and Irving Mills for the enduring ‘When My Sugar Walks Down The Street’, a hit for Warner’s Seven Aces, and Ella Fitzgerald. The song also gave Austin himself, duetting with the lively vocalist Aileen Stanley, his first record success. During the late 20s he had many more, including George Whiting and Walter Donaldson’s ‘My Blue Heaven’, which is reputed to have sold more than five million copies. Among the rest of his varied and immensely popular output were ‘Yearning (Just For You)’, ‘The Flapper Wife’, ‘Way Down Home’, ‘The Only, Only One For Me’, ‘Yes Sir, That’s My Baby’, ‘Everything Is Hotsty Totsy Now’, ‘Let It Rain, Let It Pour’, ‘I Never Knew’, ‘Five Foot Two, Eyes Of Blue’, ‘Sleepy Time Gal’, ‘Bye Bye Blackbird’, ‘Ya Gotta Know How To Love’, ‘Tonight You Belong To Me’, ‘Sunday’, ‘I’ve Got The Girl’, ‘Forgive Me’, ‘Someday, Sweetheart’, ‘Ain’t She Sweet?’, ‘The Sweetheart Of Sigma Chi’, ‘My Melancholy Baby’, ‘There’s A Cradle In Caroline’, ‘Ramona’, ‘Girl Of My Dreams’, ‘Without You, Sweetheart’, ‘So Tired’, ‘Just Like A Melody Out Of The Sky’, ‘Jeannine (I Dream Of Lilac Time)’, ‘Memories Of France’, ‘She’s Funny That Way’, ‘Carolina Moon’, ‘Weary River’, ‘Wedding Bells Are Breaking Up That Old Gang Of Mine’, ‘Little Pal’, ‘I’ve Got A Feeling I’m Falling’, ‘Ain’t Misbehavin’’ and ‘Please Don’t Talk About Me When I’m Gone’ (1931).

Austin also enjoyed success on radio where he was known as ‘The Voice of The Southland’. His other compositions included ‘The Lonesome Road’ (with Nat Shilkret), which was sung in the 1929 film of Show Boat by Jules Bledsoe dubbing for Stepin Fetchit. It turned up much later in the Latin American-styled film Cha-Cha-Cha-Boom (1956). Austin’s star faded somewhat in the 30s, but he was still very active, working in clubs, and writing songs such as ‘Ridin’ Around In The Rain’ (1934, with Carmen Lombardo), which became popular for Earl Burnett and Bing Crosby, and ‘Occidental Woman’ (‘In an Oriental mood for love’), sung by Mae West in the 1936 movie Klondike Annie. Austin wrote both words and music for that song, but composed the rest of the film’s score with James Johnson. One of his last songs to register was ‘You, Marvelous You’ in the film Moon Over Las Vegas (1944). After appearing in the all-star movie Gift Of The Gab (1934), Austin retired from showbusiness for a spell, but was back on radio in the late 30s, and opened his own club, Blue Heaven, in California. His last public appearance is said to have been in 1971 on US television.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.