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Donnell Clyde COOLEY

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 


A.K.A.: "Spade"
 
Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Parricide - American Western Swing musician, big band leader, actor, and television personality
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: April 3, 1961
Date of birth: December 17, 1910
Victim profile: His second wife, Ella Mae Evans
Method of murder: Beating and stomping
Location: Los Angeles County, California, USA
Status: Sentenced to life in prison. Died on November 23, 1969
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Donnell Clyde 'Spade' Cooley (December 17, 1910 November 23, 1969) was an American Western Swing musician, big band leader, actor, and television personality. His career ended when he was arrested and convicted for the murder of his second wife, Ella Mae Evans.

Show business career

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 of 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, 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 significant roles in several films, and starred in two film shorts: "King of Western Swing" and "Spade Cooley & His Orchestra".

He would often bill himself as the 'king of western swing'. His sound was closer to conventional dance-oriented pop orchestras than that of Bob Wills or others in the genre, which accounts for his work having been more popular with mainstream audiences during his 1940s and 1950s heyday, but at the same time not having enjoyed the continuing popularity of Wills.

Murder of Ella Mae Evans

In 1961, his wife expressed her wish to be divorced from him, and Cooley responded by beating her and stomping on her body until she died. During the trial Cooley suffered a heart attack while he was delivered his prison sentence.

After serving his time for a while, the state of California gave him a temporary release in order to play a benefit concert for the Deputy Sheriffs Association of Alameda County at the Paramount Theater in Oakland. After the performance, he suffered another heart attack in the backstage area. This time it was fatal.

In popular culture

John Gilmore has written an indepth portrait of Spade Cooley's life and tragic end in Shame on You, a segment of Gilmore's nonfiction work, L.A. Despair.

Cooley is also a recurring character in James Ellroy's fiction. It has been reported that Dennis Quaid plans to make a bio-pic about Cooley.

Spade Cooley is the grandfather of Mike Cooley, singer, guitarist, song writer and founding member of the psychobilly band Drive-By Truckers.

 
 

Spade Cooley...rich, famous, and a murderer

Bloodee.com

Spade Cooley is a name most have never heard of..but in his hey-day he was credited with being the King of Country Swing. He rose from being as dirt poor as anyone could be, and then one night in a fit of jealous rage murdered his beautiful wife viciously.

Born in 1910 in Oklahoma to Anglo-native American parents...Cooley fell in love with the fiddle at and early age and his father, who also played the fiddle, made sure the boy was taught well. In 1931 at the age of 21, Spade headed for Hollywood. Before long Cooley had a major gig with the Sons of the Pioneers. He was soon introduced to Roy Rodgers, and they became fast friends...Spade becoming a stand-in and sometimes stunt double for Rodgers as Rodgers had now moved on to movie stardom by this time.

Finally, Spade struck out on his own forming his own brand of country music called "Country Swing". While talent and his gregarious personality made him lots of friends...his increased liking for alcohol showed a darker side. Spade was a mean and, sometimes vicious, drunk. He would get drunk and start fights with his friends and band members...firing them many times. Next day when he was sober...he'd go and beg them to come back. Sometimes they did sometimes they didn't.

He was also married at this time and had been for about 11 years. Then, one day. Ella Mae showed up at the studio. Spade wanted her and proceeded to divorce his wife of 11 years and abandoned her and his 11 year old son. He and Ella Mae were married shortly after the divorce came final.

Cooley quickly got Ella Mae pregnant cutting her blossoming career short and moved her and their children out to the edge of the Mojave desert into a massive ranch style house on the huge tract of land he'd bought. Spade would more often stay in their mansion in Los Angeles while Ella was out in the ranch raising their kids. He was the cheatin' kind too.

Finally, in the early 50s, country swing was shoved out by rock 'n' roll but Spade was still sitting good. With 15 million in the bank he didn't need to worry about money. He was 50 years old and had a young and beautiful wife. But, things went bad...real bad.

As Spade got older his drinking increased and he got meaner.

He began to imagine that Ella was having affairs...probably because of his multiple infidelities....even though she was rarely ever allowed away from the extremely secluded ranch and was allowed no visitors. Even when she was allowed to go to the grocery store..he grilled her on every move she'd made. At one point he was so convinced that she'd been having an affair with two of his business associates, who were actually gay, that he shoved her from the moving car they were in.

Finally, one night, Cooley went into a murderous drunken rage. First he beat Ella unconscious, and about that time their 14 year old daughter came home. He made her watch as he killed her mother telling her that he'd kill her if she didn't. She watched in terror as her father stomped her mother guts out and burned her with cigarettes...and then shot her. Then the phone rang and he went to get it...while he was gone the girl ran for her life.

Cooley was convicted of the horrible murder of his wife, and sentenced to life in prison...9 years later, 3 months from being paroled, Spade Cooley dropped dead of a heart attack at 59. Fittingly, he spent the rest of his life in prison.

 

 

 
 
 
 
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