He and his brother Johnny often worked as a duo in those early years. Frankie played guitar, washboard and steel guitar. He can be seen on screen in B-western movies playing other instruments as well, but eventually, the steel guitar was to play a key role in his long-term success in western music. Frankie composed a number of western songs, e.g. the classics "There's an Empty Cot in the Bunkhouse" & "Cowboy's Heaven," as well as "Oh, For the Wild and Wooly West" and " Oklahoma Blues," and he was the co-composer (with Joe Marvin ) of "The Two-Gun Cowboy" & "Oklahoma, Land of the Sunny West." Gene Autry, Jimmy Wakely and others recorded the best-known of these, and Marvin recorded all of them. In 1928, when young Gene Autry was planning his first trip to New York in search of a recording contract, he met Frankie's mother in a cafe she was managing in Butler.
When she learned about Gene's plans, she asked him to look up her sons in NY. Gene did, and Frankie, Johnny & Gene became close friends. One story even has them sharing an overcoat in the cold NY winter! Frankie did more than let Gene use his winter coat. He introduced Gene Autry to recording executives in NY, to get him started professionally.
Gene's first attempts at recording were not well-received, so Frankie advised him to change his style, suggesting that he learn some yodel songs. Autry took the advice. It paid off, and Frankie and Johnny Marvin played on Gene's first recordings (The first song Gene ever recorded was a Frankie Marvin composition, "My Dreaming of You." Gene couldn't yodel well enough yet, so Frankie did the yodels on those first records). Later, when Gene went to Hollywood to begin work in movies, he took Smiley Burnette and Frankie Marvin with him and Nat Levine, head of Mascot Studios, signed all three. Frankie appeared in most of Gene's films and on his radio & TV shows and recordings, and on records made by Tex Ritter, Eddie Dean and The Jimmy Wakely Trio.
Frankie produced many of Gene Autry's recording sessions. Art Satherley was the line producer, but the person responsible for getting the musicians and arrangements together was Frankie Marvin. Frankie played steel guitar on those sessions, and the style he developed on that instrument set him, and Gene Autry's music, apart. Frankie's smooth approach, easing his way into the notes rather than striking them forcefully, played an important part in establishing a style of western music that is easy to distinguish from the country music recorded East of the Mississippi. In so doing, he paved the way for others who played steel guitar on western ballads in the genre's Golden Era.
You can hear it reflected in Jerry Compton's work with the Reinsmen, some of Noel Boggs' work with Jimmy Wakley, Bonnie Dodd's recordings with Tex Ritter, a couple of Charles Roberts' early records with The Sons of the Pioneers (Joaquin Murphy also applied the technique on the Pioneers' record of "Room Full of Roses") and others. Frankie Marvin retired from the Gene Autry organization in 1955, and passed away in Frazier Park, California, in January 1985. Read more on Last.fm. User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply..
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