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Popular radio singing cowboy Gene Autry is honored by his home town of Torpedo with an offer to act as the honorary sheriff at the Frontier Day celebration. Gene is reluctant to accept the honor from his old friend, Pop Laramie, but his sponsor, Tommy Summerville, convinces him that the publicity will boost his audience. Gene and Tommy travel to Torpedo with announcer Cornelius J. Courtney, as well as Julie Shelton, Gene's radio co-star and frequent adversary away from the microphone. Back home, Gene arrives to find that the Wildhacks, three brothers who were his boyhood nemeseis, are now running the town. The inevitable confrontation between the boyhood enemies occurs when Bud Wildhack foolishly practices shooting in his brother Mark's saloon and shoots a bullet through the wall that separates it from the school house. When Gene, who is in the middle of the ceremony making him honorary sheriff, sees what happened, he confronts the Wildhacks and, in his capacity of honorary sheriff, arrests Bud. His attempt to send Bud to prison for the offense is foiled by corrupt judge "Skinny" Henderson, who does whatever the Wilhacks tell him. This so angers Gene that he decides to record his radio broadcast from Torpedo and include a sketch that features characters based on the Wildhacks. When Bud and his brother Jasper see what is going on, they grab the microphone and start to sing a song, then humiliate Gene by besting him in a fight. Before the program ends, however, Gene tells the audience to tune in again next week to see what happens when a softened radio cowboy learns how to take care of himself again. Under the guidance of Pop, Gene begins training and toughening himself at Pop's Melody Ranch, where Gene grew up. When the broadcast comes around the next week Gene has gotten the better of the Wilhacks and ties Bud and Jasper up while they sing a tune that Gene has written for them. The show is a success and the people of Torpedo are so impressed, that Pop asks Gene to run for the real job of sheriff and displace the corrupt current holder of the job. Gene then tells Tommy and Julie that he wants to stay in Torpedo. Tommy returns home, but Julie, whose antagonism for Gene has really been disguising her attraction for him, stays in Torpedo. On the eve of the election, Jasper and Bud ambush Gene, but kill his friend Slim instead. Realizing that if Gene wins the election they all will hang for Slim's murder, Mark decides to prevent the citizens from voting. In response, Gene rounds up the ranchers on horseback, while Pop's streetcar gathers up the rest of the townspeople and they arrive at the Wildhack's barricade. Although Mark has ordered his brothers only to shoot over people's heads, Bud wounds a man and a shootout among all of the men on both sides breaks out. Gene's side finally wins and, after admitting to Julie that he loves her, too, the two plan a life together in Torpedo.