A musician and actor whose often sordid private life tended to overshadow his career as an entertainer, Spade Cooley was the self-proclaimed King of Western Swing, an innovator who at his peak led the largest band ever assembled in the annals of country music. The product of a multi-generational family of fiddle players, Donnell Clyde Cooley was born in Oklahoma in 1910, and at the age of four, his family moved to Oregon. Despite his impoverished background, Cooley was a classically trained fiddler, and by the time he was eight years old, he was performing professionally at square dances with his father John. In 1930, Cooley (who received his nickname thanks to his poker skills) moved to Los Angeles, playing with a number of western-oriented acts. By the mid-'30s, he was working as an actor, with bit parts in several Westerns; for Republic Studios, he served as Roy Rogers' stand-in. He also toured with Rogers as a fiddle player, and handled vocal duties with the Riders of the Purple Sage.