Smiley Burnette was born as Lester Alvin Burnett on March 18, 1911 in Summum, Illinois. Burnette sang as a child and learned how to play several instruments by ear. As a teen, Burnette worked in vaudeville. His national career took off in 1933 when Gene Autry asked him to play guitar on the Chicago radio station WLS-AM. During Burnette's musical career, he composed over four hundred songs. Burnette was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Western Music Association in recognition of his musical contributions. Burnette's radio and television appearances include The Grande Ole Opry, The Ozark Jubilee, and The Louisiana Hayride. He appeared in fifty-four Westerns with Gene Autry. In recognition of Burnette's contribution to films, he has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. His most famous role was Charley Pratt on the television series Petticoat Junction. On February 16, 1967, shortly after filming the fourth season, Burnett died of leukemia.