|Donnell Clyde 'Spade' Cooley (December 17, 1910 – November 23, 1969) was an American Western Swing fiddle player, big band leader, actor, and television personality. His career ended after he murdered his second wife.
Cooley was the product of a multi-generational family of fiddle players. Despite the family’s poverty, Cooley was a classically trained fiddler. By the time Cooley was eight years old he was performing professionally at square dances with his father John.
In 1930, Cooley (who got the nickname thanks to his poker skills) moved to Los Angeles, playing with a number of western-oriented acts. He also got work as an actor.
Cooley appeared in thirty-eight westerns, both in bit parts and as a stand in for cowboy actor Roy Rogers. He also hosted a Los Angeles based syndicated television show from 1949 until 1959.
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.
In 1950 Cooley had major roles in several films, and starred in two film shorts: "King of Western Swing" and "Spade Cooley & His Orchestra."
|In 1961, his second wife asked for a divorce. Cooley, drunk and enraged, savagely beat her to death. At the trial Cooley suffered a heart attack when the judge delivered his prison sentence. After serving eight years he was given a temporary furlough in order to play a benefit concert. After the performance he died of a fatal heart attack backstage.
Cooley is a recurring character in James Ellroy's fiction. Ellroy is best known for the book L.A. Confidential (which was also made into a movie). Ry Cooder's 2008 album 'I, Flathead' features several references to Spade Cooley.