Gene Autry’s 1950 Cover of ‘Peter Cottontail’ May Still Be the Best Easter Song to This Day

by Joe Rutland

If you come along looking for an Easter song to fit your day, then take a hard look at Gene Autry‘s “Here Comes Peter Cottontail.”

Why? Autry, known as “America’s Favorite Singing Cowboy” along with Roy Rogers, saw his 1950 version of this classic song hit No. 3 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart. It hit No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Talk about one hoppin’ tune!

Country music fans already know Autry for his Christmas hits “Here Comes Santa Claus” and “Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer.” Well, songwriters Jack Rollins and Steve Nelson are responsible for “Peter Cottontail.” They thought Autry could strike holiday gold again with an Easter-themed song.

Songwriters Pitch ‘Peter Cottontail’ To Gene Autry

Therefore, the song was pitched to Autry, who liked it and recorded it. Mervin Shiner recorded a version of it in 1950 that reached No. 8 on Billboard’s Hot 10.

Still, when people hear “Here Comes Peter Cottontail,” the only version that sticks with them is the one by Gene Autry.

Where did “Peter Cottontail” come from in the cultural lexicon? Well, we have to get into the Wayback Machine and go to Beatrix Potter. She self-published a book titled “The Tale of Peter Rabbit” in 1901. That would turn into a series of books.

Naturalist Burgess Writes Book With Name Of Rabbit

American naturalist Thornton W. Burgess started writing his own series of tales, too. In a tip of the cap to Potter, Burgess wrote “The Adventures of Peter Cottontail” in 1917.

This is where that name originated and, eventually, found itself on the name of a song.

Obviously, a story about Gene Autry singing “Here Comes Peter Cottontail” has to include a clip of him doing so. You are in luck!

Here’s Autry from his 1951 movie, “Hills of Utah,” singing this Easter-themed song.