Vignettes weaving together the stories of six individuals in the old West at the end of the Civil War. Following the tales of a sharp-shooting songster, a wannabe bank robber, two weary traveling performers, a lone gold prospector, a woman traveling the West to an uncertain future, and a motley crew of strangers undertaking a carriage ride.
While the audience watches a black and white horse opera, a narrator's voice wonders what such a movie would be like today. Rex O'Herlehan, The Singing Cowboy, finds himself in color and enters a cliche ridden town, in which the evil cattle baron (Andy Griffith) and the new Italian cowboys (who always wear raincoats no matter how hot it gets) join forces to get him and the sheep ranchers to leave.
John Wayne portrays Singin' Sandy Saunders and has a reputation as the most notorious gunman since Billy the Kid. That's somewhat ironic though, since it's later revealed that he's a special Secret Service agent sent from Washington to investigate a land swindle scheme under the direction of town boss James Kincaid (Forrest Taylor).
In his starring debut, Roy gets elected to Congress in order to bring water to the ranchers in his district. In Washington, he learns he needs the backing of a key congressman and gets that man to go west for an inspection trip. When the congressman is initially unimpressed, Roy gets the inspection party stranded without water to show the true conditions.
After Pat Garrett kills Billy the Kid, Billy's look-alike Roy Rogers arrives and is mistaken for him. Although a murderer, Billy was on the side of the homesteaders against the large ranchers. As Billy's death is unknown, Roy gets Garrett to let him pose as Billy to continue the fight, but without the killing.
Bad guys plot to trick a newly arrived Eastern girl out of a ranch which belongs to her infant ward. Roy, of course, saves the ranch for the girl. Songs include "I'm Headin's for the Home Corral," "He's a No Good Son of a Gun," "Sandman Lullaby," "Song of the San Joaquin," and "I'm a Cowboy Rockefeller."
Roy is a newspaper reporter. He goes to Cheyenne to cover the activities of supposed bad guy Arapahoe Brown. Roy, of course, discovers who the real bad guy is.
Tom is a cowboy boot-wearing cat at a Texas dude ranch. When a beautiful female cat comes for a visit, Tom takes time from his regular torturing of Jerry to use the mouse as a way to impress the dame. Naturally, Jerry gives Tom his comeuppance.
Hidden Valley has managed to retain its Old Western atmosphere, free of modern-day corruption, until escaped convict Smitty arrives with plans of taking over and opening the town up as a gambling resort. It's up to Rex Allen and his pals to put a stop to it and sing a few songs along the way.
To bring water to their valley, ranchers have raised money to build a dam. When that money is stolen, Allison suggests the ranchers sell their stock to a friend of his thereby getting the money needed to complete the dam. Roy has a clue that Allison was involved in the robbery and is out to get control of the valley. So Roy and the boys try to delay the sale of the stock while they look for proof against Allison.
Finding Indians stealing from his ranch, Gene learns they are suffering from malnutrition. Store owner Martin is cheating them and now he is after the Chief's valuable necklace. When the dying chief is found, having been attacked and robbed, Martin blames Lakhona who would become the new chief. When Gene helps Lakhona they soon find themselves fleeing from the law.
To get the Delaney ranch Cole's henchman Anders has started a phony range war between the cattlemen and sheepmen. After killing Delaney, he tries to kill his daughter Jill and then Roy who was sent to investigate the war. But the failed attempts gives Roy the information he needs.
When asked about the Ghost Riders song he sings, Gene Autry tells this legend: Gene is about to resign as an investigator for the county attorney and go into the cattle business with his pal Chuckawalla Jones but decides instead to help Anne Lawson clear her father, rancher Ralph Lawson, of a false murder charge. He looks for the three witnesses who can testify that Lawson shot only in self defense in killing a gambler, but the witnesses are terrorized by another gambler, town boss Rock McCleary, who shoots witness Pop Roberts Morgan. Fatally wounded, Pop gives Gene the information needed to clear Lawson, then dies crying the "Ghost Riders" are coming for him. Gene then heads for a showdown with McCleary.
Roy returns home to fine a range feud between the cattlemen and the sheepmen. When his friend is killed he finds the rifle had a defective pin. He learns the rifle belongs to a ranch hand named Barker and that a third party has caused the feud. When he captures outlaws trying to blow up a dam, he claims Barker was the killer. But Barker has switched rifles and the outlaws now accuse Roy and Roy finds himself in trouble.
Diamonds are being smuggled across the border from Mexico in a specially made shoe of a palomino mare. One of the smugglers is killed when the mare runs off. The sheriff blames Trigger for the death. To keep his horse from being destroyed, Roy confesses and goes to jail. The smugglers buy Trigger and put him to work smuggling diamonds. The mare, who had earlier heard a trist with Trigger, foals Trigger, Jr. who Roy, finally out of jail, uses to help capture the smugglers.
Young Joe is paralyzed as he is bucked by a wild horse, a strawberry roan. Angered, his father, Walt, tries to shoot the horse but is stopped by his foreman, Gene Autry. The roan escapes and Autry, told to leave the ranch by Walt, finds and trains the horse, now named Champ, in hopes that by returning it to Joe it will provide him with the will to overcome his disability.
As the sheriff of a small western town, Autry sings his way into a relationship with Eleanor, a singer from a Chicago nightclub who earlier witnessed a murder.
Scanlon is pulling off a land swindle by selling lots in a ghost town claiming the power company is bringing in a line. As a bonus he throws in shares in a worthless gold mine. Gene is on to Scanlon and tries to get him to buy back the deeds by salting the mine with gold. But when a new vein is really discovered Gene has to stop the sales but is trapped in the mine by Scanlon's men.
A singing entomologist (Roy Rogers) acts meek to help a juggling sheriff (George "Gabby" Hayes) solve ranch raids.
Frank Sr. sells his supplies to Hook, but then Hook has the Bannion Boys bushwhack his wagon to get the money back. Frank is murdered, but Junior gets away. He comes back 10 years later to settle the score as the Singing Cowboy. He finds that Hook is still doing his dirty deeds on the unsuspecting people. Along the way, Frank meets the lovely Jen, who came out in the same wagon train 10 years before.