Janet Lynn and Will Zeilinger and a ’50s Big Band Leader

If you like old-school noir, you’ll probably like the Skylar Drake series, by my friends Janet Elizabeth Lynn and Will Zeilinger. More fun is that they love doing the research, and you can tell because they come up with fun bits like the below.

My husband, Will Zeilinger and I co-write the Skylar Drake Murder Mystery series, a hardboiled  series that takes the reader to 1950s Los Angeles and other areas of the west. Our new book, Slick Deal, begins News Year’s Eve 1956 at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, The first murder and clues lead to Avalon, Catalina. During our research we find the most amazing historical pieces we try to use in our books.

Donnell Clyde (Spade) Cooley was an American Western swing musician, big band leader, actor, and television personality. He was also sentenced to life in prison.

Spade Cooley played fiddle with one of the groups that performed at the Venice Pier Ballroom in Venice, California, led by Jimmy Wakely. When Wakely got a movie contract at Universal, Cooley replaced him as bandleader.

Cooley’s 18-month engagement at Santa Monica’s Venice Pier Ballroom in the early half of the 1940s was record-breaking. His recording Shame, Shame on You, was recorded in December 1944, and was No. 1 on the country charts for two months. The song was the first in an unbroken string of six Top Ten singles including Detour and You Can’t Break My Heart.

Cooley appeared in 38 Western films, both in bit parts and as a stand-in for cowboy actor Roy Rogers.

June, 1948, Cooley began hosting a variety show on KTLA-TV in Los Angeles, broadcast from the Santa Monica Pier Ballroom and the show won local Emmy awards in 1952 and 1953. The Hoffman Hayride was so popular that an estimated 75 percent of all televisions in the L.A. area were tuned into the show each Saturday night. However, by 1956  Cooley’s ratings dropped and was eventually replaced with Lawrence Welk.

His career came to a halt when Cooley beat his second wife, Ella Mae Cooley, to death on April 3, 1961.

Cooley was indicted for the murder and convicted of first-degree murder. He was sentenced to life in prison.

Cooley had served nearly nine years of a life sentence, and was in poor health from heart trouble. When, on November 23, 1969, he received a 72-hour furlough to play a benefit concert for the Deputy Sheriffs Association of Alameda County. During the intermission, after a standing ovation he died of a heart attack.

For a trip down memory lane, listen to Shame, Shame on You by Spade Cooley on YouTube

You can find Slick Deal at BarnesandNoble.com and Amazon.com. Enjoy!

Anne Louise Bannon

Please talk to me. I'd love to hear from you.

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