Inman was born in Florence, Alabama, and was performing on local radio station WLAY by age 14. He used his middle name "Autry" (or "Autrey") as his stage name. After completing school he worked as a reporter for the Lauderdale Co. Law & Equity Court.
Shortly thereafter he was tapped to join Cowboy Copas's band, the Oklahoma Cowboys, as a bassist. Aside from this he also played in George Morgan's Candy Kids until 1952. He released his first solo singles on the small label Bullet Records; in 1952 he signed with Decca Records, for whom he recorded over 40 country songs.