Donnell Clyde Cooley, better known as Spade Cooley, was an American Western swing musician, big band leader, actor, and television personality. His career ended in 1961 when he was arrested and convicted for the murder of his second wife, Ella Mae Evans.
One of the groups which played at the Venice Pier Ballroom in Venice, California was led by Jimmy Wakely with Spade Cooley on fiddle. Several thousand dancers would turn out on Saturday night to swing and hop. “The hoards of people and jitterbuggers loved him.” When Wakely got a movie contract at Universal, Spade replaced him as bandleader.
To capitalize on the success of the Bob Wills–Tommy Duncan pairing, Cooley hired vocalist Tex Williams who was capable of the mellow deep baritone sound made popular by Duncan. Cooley’s 18-month engagement at Santa Monica’s Venice Pier Ballroom was record-breaking for the early half of the 1940s. His “Shame on You”, released on Columbia’s OKeh label, was recorded in December 1944, and was No. 1 on the country charts for two months. “Shame on You” 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 Westerns films, both in bit parts and as a stand-in for cowboy actor Roy Rogers. Billed as Spade Cooley and His Western Dance Gang, he was featured in the soundie Take Me Back to Tulsa released July 31, 1944 along with Tex Williams and Carolina Cotton. Corrine, Corrina was released August 28, 1944 minus Cotton. In 1950, Cooley had significant roles in several films, and starred in two film shorts: King of Western Swing and Spade Cooley & His Orchestra.