Jimmy Wakely

Induction Year: 1971

Birth Name: James Clarence Wakely

Birth Date: 02-16-1914

Place of Birth: Mineola, Arkansas

Death Date: 09-23-1982

Place of Death: Sylmar, California

Thirty years before the Beatles inspired kids everywhere to pick up guitars and sing, cowboy star Gene Autry did the same thing. Except instead of "Yeah yeah yeah," the rallying call was "Yipee-i-Yay."

One of the youngsters caught up in the singing cowboy fever was James Clarence Wakeley. Born in Arkansas and raised in Oklahoma during the Dust Bowl era, Wakeley sang in gospel groups and played piano as a teenager. Along the way, he dropped the extra "e" and simplified the spelling of his last name to "Wakely."

By 1937, Wakely had formed a trio, the Bell Boys (they wore pillbox hats and bellboy uniforms), with Johnny Bond and Scotty Harrell, and was performing three times a week on the radio in Oklahoma City. Gene Autry discovered the trio when he passed through Oklahoma on tour and invited them to California to appear on his Melody Ranch CBS network radio show. Now known as the Jimmy Wakely Trio, the act moved to Los Angeles in 1940 to take Autry up on his offer. Wakely and his group became regulars on Autry's Melody Ranch, sang backup for the star and made more appearances on the silver screen.

By 1944, Wakely was regularly riding the celluloid range in his own cowboy serial pictures, eventually starring in 28 Westerns. His biggest movie was Song of the Sierras in 1946. Though Wakely never matched box-office receipts with Autry, on the Billboard charts he was one of the most successful of all singing cowboys. Records like "One Has My Name (The Other Has My Heart)," his self-penned "Beautiful Brown Eyes" and "I Love You So Much It Hurts," plus duets with pop singer Margaret Whiting, including "Slipping Around" and "A Bushel and a Peck," were all crossover country and pop hits. As a songwriter, Wakely's best-known titles were "Too Late" and "I'll Never Let You Go" (which was covered by Elvis Presley).

From 1952 to 1957, Wakely had his own CBS radio show and appeared on TV as well as in Las Vegas supper clubs. He even had his own comic book between 1949 and 1952. In the '60s and '70s, he ran a recording studio, a mail-order record label and publishing company, while remaining active as a performer and a passionate advocate of singing-cowboy music.

Wakely died of complications from emphysema in 1982 at the age of 68.

"Beautiful Brown Eyes"

Jimmy Wakely1951 #5 country, #12 pop

"Blind Alley"

(written with Johnny Bond, Fred Stryker)

Johnny Bond1948 


(written with Joseph Gershenson)

Jimmy Wakely1957 

"Foreign Love Affairs"

(written with Charles Dant)

Jimmy Wakely1951 
Guy Mitchell1966 

"I'll Never Let You Go (Little Darlin')"

Jimmy Wakely & His Rough Riders1941 
Gene Autry1941 
Elvis Presley1956 

"I'm Casting My Lasso Towards the Sky"

(written with Lee White)

Jimmy Wakely1948 
Slim Whitman1954 

"It Wouldn't Be the Same Without You"

(written with Fred Rose)

Al Rogers1950 
Elvis Presley1954 
Willie Nelson1981 
Chris Isaak2001 

"Keep Your Cotton Pickin' Hands off My Gal"

(written with Johnny Bond, Conrad Brady)

Johnny Bond1951 

"Keeper of Boothill"

Tex Williams1960 

"Lonely Is the Hunter"

(written with Howie Horwitz)

Jimmy Wakely1958 

"Moon Over Montana"

(written with Oliver Drake)

Jimmy Wakely1948 

"Oklahoma Blues"

Jimmy Wakely1947 

"Song of the Sierras"

Jimmy Wakely1947 

"That's Santa Claus"

Jimmy Wakely1957 

"Those Gone and Left Me Blues"

(written with Johnny Bond)

Justin Tubb1957 

"Too Late"

Jimmy Wakely1940 
Ray Price1966 
Hugh X. Lewis1966 
Hank Cochran1978 

"Walking the Sidewalks of Shame"

(written with Jack Rivers, Chuck Rogers)

Jimmy Wakely1948 

"You Can't Break the Chains of Love"

(written with Lew Porter, Franklin Tableporter)

Jimmy Wakely1944 
Jean Shepard1958 
Wilburn Brothers1969 
Merle Haggard & Leona Williams1983 

Jimmy Wakely

Induction Year: 1971