On this page...
sure to check out the family's
Smiley worked on a local radio station and in Vaudeville after high school.
Always interested in music, he was friends with Gene Autry and worked with him on the radio show "The National Barn Dance".
When Westerns became a big draw with sound, the studios were always on the lookout for singing cowboys.
In 1934, both Gene and Smiley would debut in 'In Old Santa Fe (1934)'.
Smiley became well known as Gene's plump sidekick Frog Milhouse and would work together in over 80 Westerns.
Smiley would provide the comic relief for other cowboy stars at Republic such as Sunset Carson and Charles 'Durango Kid' Starrett.
He also provided a lot of the music as he wrote over 300 western songs and sang quite a few in the films. Smiley was the first supporting actor to regularly appear on the Top Ten Western money-maker list.
He became well known for his white horse with the black circle around one eye. When he used a team of white horse as when he was 'Spec Specialist' Smiley Burnette each white horse had one black circle around one eye.
When the 'B' movie Western reign ended in 1953, Smiley retired from the screen. He would make occasional appearances on television including being a regular on the music show "Ozark Jubilee (1959)". His last performance would be as railroad engineer Charlie Pratt on "Petticoat Junction" from 1963-67.
In his later years, he was a part-time resident of Springfield, Missouri. In Springfield, he taped a radio program for RadiOzark Enterprises, and frequently appeared on the television program Jubilee USA. During one of his stays, he had his name legally changed to Smiley. Smiley's real name was Lester Alvin Burnette but fans knew him as "Ole Frog."
He appeared in the TV series, Petticoat Junction from 1963-70 as Charley Pratt.
He died of leukemia, February 16, 1967, in Encino, California.
Check out the Smiley Burnette organization link above, run by some of his family members, for much more!