Roy Rogers

Roy Rogers (born Leonard Franklin Slye) (November 5, 1911 - July 6, 1998), was a singer and cowboy actor, as well as the namesake of the Roy Rogers Restaurants chain. He and his second wife Dale Evans, his golden palomino Trigger, and his German Shepherd Dog, Bullet, were featured in over one hundred movies and The Roy Rogers Show. The show ran on radio for nine years before moving to television from 1951 through 1957. His productions usually featured a sidekick, often either Pat Brady, (who drove a jeep called "Nellybelle") or the crotchety Gabby Hayes. Roy's nickname was "King of the Cowboys". Dale's nickname was "Queen of the West."

Early life

The baby who would become famous as Roy Rogers was born to Andrew ("Andy") and Mattie (Womack) Slye in Cincinnati, Ohio, where his family lived in a tenement building on 2nd Street. (Riverfront Stadium was constructed at this location in 1970 and Rogers would later joke that he had been born at second base.) Dissatisfied with his job and city life, Andy Slye and his brother Will built a 12-by-50-foot houseboat from salvage lumber, and, in July 1912, the Slye family floated on the Ohio River towards Portsmouth, Ohio. Desiring a more stable existence in Portsmouth, the Slyes purchased land on which to build a home, but the flood of 1913 allowed them to move the houseboat to their property and continue living in it on dry land.

In 1919 the Slyes purchased a farm about 12 miles north of Portsmouth, at Duck Run, near Lucasville, Ohio. They there built a six-room home. Leonard's father soon realized that the farm alone would provide insufficient income for his family and he took a job at a shoe factory in Portsmouth, living there during the week and returning home on the weekends, bearing gifts for the family following paydays, one of which was a horse on which Leonard learned the basics of horsemanship.

After completing the 8th Grade, Leonard Slye attended high school at McDermott, Ohio. When he was 17 his family returned to Cincinnati, where his father began work at a shoe factory. He soon decided on the necessity to help his family financially, so he quit high school, joined his father at the shoe factory, and began attending night school. After being ridiculed for falling asleep in class, however, he quit school and never returned.

Leonard and his father felt imprisoned by their factory jobs. In 1929, his older sister Mary was living at Lawndale, California with her husband. Father and son decided to quit their shoe factory jobs. The family packed their 1923 Dodge for a visit with Mary and stayed four months before returning to Ohio. Almost immediately, Leonard had the opportunity to travel to California with Mary's father-in-law, and the rest of the family followed in the spring of 1930.

The Slyes rented a small house near Mary. Leonard and his father immediately found employment as truck drivers for a highway construction project. They reported to work one morning, however, to learn their employer had gone bankrupt. The economic hardship of the Great Depression had followed them west, and the Slyes soon found themselves among the economic refugees traveling from job to job picking fruit and living in worker campsites. (He would later read John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath and marvel at its accuracy.) One day Andy Slye heard of a shoe factory hiring in Los Angeles and asked Leonard to join him in applying there for work. Leonard, having seen the joy that his guitar and singing had brought to the destitute around the campfires, hesitantly told his father that he was going to pursue a living in music. With his father's blessing, he and cousin Stanley Slye went to Los Angeles and sought musical engagements as The Slye Brothers.

In 1932 while performing in Long Beach with the Rocky Mountaineers, Len met Lucille Ascolese. That same year, a palimino colt was foaled in Santa Cietro, CA, named "Golden Cloud", and later renamed "Trigger". In May 1933, Len (21)proposed to Lucille (19) via a radio broadcast and they were married on May 8, 1933 in Santa Ana, CA. Len then went on tour with the "O-Bar-O Cowboys" and in June 1933 met Grace Arline Wilkins at a Roswell, NM radio station when she traded Len a lemon pie for his singing "Swiss Yodel" over the air. Len was sure to return the pie plates to Grace the next day. By August 1934 Len and Lucille had separated as she was reportedly jealous and tired of being a musician's wife. Len and Lucille's divorce was granted on May 28th, 1935, and became final on June 8th, 1936. Having corresponded since their first meeting, Len and Grace Arline Wilkins were married in Roswell, NM on June 11, 1936.

In 1941 the couple adopted a girl, Cheryl Darlene. In 1942, they legally changed their names to Roy and Grace Arline Rogers. The following year, Arline bore a daughter, Linda Lou.

In 1944 Dale Evans was first cast in a movie with Roy. Roy & Arline had a son, Roy Jr. ("Dusty") in 1946, but Arline died of complications from the birth a few days afterward on November 3, 1946. Roy and Dale soon fell in love, and Roy proposed to her during a rodeo at Chicago Stadium. They married on New Year's Eve in 1947 at the Flying L Ranch in Davis, Oklahoma, where a few months earlier they had filmed Home In Oklahoma. Roy and Dale remained married until Roy's death in 1998.


Publicity photo of Gabby Hayes and Roy Rogers from the early 1940s. Hayes also had his own children's television program, The Gabby Hayes Show.

Leonard Slye moved to California to become a singer.

After four years of little success, he formed Sons of the Pioneers, a Western cowboy music group, in 1934. The group hit it big with songs like "Cool Water" and "Tumbling Tumbleweeds".

From his first film appearance in 1935, he worked steadily in western films, including a large supporting role as a singing cowboy while still billed as "Leonard Slye" in a Gene Autry movie. In 1938 when Autry temporarily walked out on his movie contract, Slye was immediately rechristened "Roy Rogers" and assigned the lead in Under Western Stars. Rogers became a matinee idol and American legend. A competitor for Gene Autry as the nation's favorite singing cowboy was suddenly born. In addition to his own movies, Rogers played a supporting role in the John Wayne classic Dark Command (1940). Rogers became a major box office attraction.

Rogers was an idol for many children through his films and television shows. Most of his postwar films were in Trucolor in an era when almost all other B-movies were black-and-white. Some of his movies would segue into animal adventures, in which Roy's horse Trigger would go off on his own for a while, with the camera following him.

With money from not only Rogers' films but his own public appearances going to Republic Pictures, Rogers brought a clause into a 1940 contract with the studio where he would have the right to his likeness, voice and name for merchandising. There were Roy Rogers action figures, cowboy adventure novels, a comic strip, playsets, a long-lived Dell Comics comic book series (Roy Rogers Comics) written by Gaylord Du Bois, and a variety of marketing successes. Roy Rogers was only second to Walt Disney in the amount of items featuring his name.

The Sons of the Pioneers continued their popularity through the 1950s. Although Rogers was no longer a member, they often appeared as Rogers' backup group in films, radio, and television.

In August 1950, Dale and Roy had a daughter, Robin Elizabeth, who died of complications of Down Syndrome shortly before her second birthday. Evans wrote about losing their daughter in her book Angel Unaware.

Rogers and Evans were also well known as advocates for adoption and as founders and operators of children's charities. They adopted several children. Both were outspoken Christians. In Apple Valley, California, where they made their home, numerous streets and highways as well as civic buildings have been named after them in recognition of their efforts on behalf of homeless and handicapped children. Roy was an active Freemason and a Shriner, and was noted for his support of their charities.

Roy and Dale's famous theme song, "Happy Trails," was written by Dale and they sang as a duet to sign off their television show.

In the fall of 1962, the couple co-hosted a comedy-western-variety program, The Roy Rogers and Dale Evans Show, aired on ABC. It was cancelled after three months, losing in the ratings to The Jackie Gleason Show on CBS.

Rogers also owned a Hollywood production company which handled his own series. It also filmed other undertakings, including the 1955-1956 CBS western series Brave Eagle starring Keith Larsen as a young peaceful Cheyenne chief, Kim Winona as Morning Star, his romantic interest, and the Hopi Indian Anthony Numkena as Keena, Brave Eagle's foster son, Keena.

For his contribution to the motion picture industry, Roy Rogers has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1752 Vine Street, a second star at 1733 Vine Street for his contribution to radio, and a third star at 1620 Vine Street for his contribution to the television industry.

Roy and Dale were inducted into the Western Performers Hall of Fame at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, in 1976 and Roy was inducted again as a member of the Sons of the Pioneers in 1995. Roy was also twice elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame, first as a member of The Sons of the Pioneers in 1980 and as a soloist in 1988.

Rogers also owned a Thoroughbred racehorse named Triggairo who won 13 career races including the 1975 El Encino Stakes at Santa Anita Park.

Rogers was mentioned in the Lyle Lovett single "If I Had A Boat".


Rogers died of congestive heart failure on July 6, 1998. Rogers was residing in Apple Valley, California at the time of his death. He was buried at Sunset Hills cemetery in Apple Valley.


Slightly Static (1935) (uncredited) .... Member of Sons of the Pioneers
The Old Homestead (1935) (as Leonard Slye) .... Sons of the Pioneers
Way Up Thar (1935) (as Leonard Slye) .... Band Member
Gallant Defender (1935) (uncredited) .... Nester (Sons of the Pioneers)
The Mysterious Avenger (1936) (as Len Slye) .... Musician Len
Song of the Saddle (1936) (uncredited) .... Sons of the Pioneers Guitarist
Rhythm on the Range (1936) (uncredited) .... Leonard (Sons of the Pioneers)
California Mail (1936) (uncredited) .... Square Dance Caller & Guitarist
The Big Show (1936) (uncredited) .... Sons of the Pioneers guitar player
The Old Corral (1936) (uncredited) .... Buck O'Keefe
The Old Wyoming Trail (1937) (uncredited) .... Guitar player/Singer/Cowhand
Wild Horse Rodeo (1937) (as Dick Weston) .... Singer
The Old Barn Dance (1938) (as Dick Weston) .... Singer
Under Western Stars (1938) .... Roy Rogers
Billy the Kid Returns (1938) .... Roy Rogers/Billy the Kid
A Feud There Was (1938) (uncredited) .... Egghead/Elmer Singing Voice
Come On, Rangers (1938) .... Roy Rogers
Shine On, Harvest Moon (1938) .... Roy Rogers
Rough Riders' Round-up (1939) .... Roy Rogers
Southward Ho (1939) .... Roy
Frontier Pony Express (1939) .... Roy Roger
In Old Caliente (1939) .... Roy Rogers
Wall Street Cowboy (1939) .... Roy Rogers
The Arizona Kid (1939) .... Roy Rogers/The Arizona Kid
Jeepers Creepers (1939) .... Roy
Saga of Death Valley (1939) .... Roy Rogers
Days of Jesse James (1939) .... Roy Rogers
Dark Command (1940) .... Fletcher 'Fletch' McCloud
Young Buffalo Bill (1940) .... Bill Cody
The Carson City Kid (1940) .... The Carson City Kid
The Ranger and the Lady (1940) .... Texas Ranger Captain Roy Colt
Colorado (1940) .... Lieutenant Jerry Burke
Young Bill Hickok (1940) .... 'Wild' Bill Hickok
The Border Legion (1940) .... Dr. Stephen Kellogg, aka Steve Kells
Robin Hood of the Pecos (1941) .... Vance Corbin
Arkansas Judge (1941) .... Tom Martel
In Old Cheyenne' (1941) .... Steve Blane
Sheriff of Tombstone (1941) .... Brett Starr
Nevada City (1941) .... Jeff Connors
Bad Man of Deadwood (1941) .... Brett Starr aka Bill Brady
Jesse James at Bay (1941) .... Jesse James/Clint Burns
Red River Valley (1941) .... Roy Rogers
Man from Cheyenne (1942) .... Roy Rogers
South of Santa Fe (1942) .... Roy Rogers
Sunset on the Desert (1942) .... Roy Rogers & Deputy Bill Sloan
Romance on the Range (1942) .... Roy Rogers
Sons of the Pioneers (1942) .... Roy Rogers
Sunset Serenade (1942) .... Roy Rogers
Heart of the Golden West (1942) .... Roy Rogers
Ridin' Down the Canyon (1942) .... Roy Rogers
Idaho (1943) .... Roy Rogers
King of the Cowboys (1943) .... Roy Rogers
Song of Texas (1943) .... Roy Rogers
Silver Spurs (1943) .... Roy Rogers
Hands Across the Border (1944) .... Roy Rogers
Cowboy and the Senorita (1944) .... Roy Rogers
The Yellow Rose of Texas (1944) .... Roy Rogers
Song of Nevada (1944) .... Roy Rogers
San Fernando Valley (1944) .... Roy Rogers
Lights of Old Santa Fe (1944) .... Roy Rogers
Hollywood Canteen (1944) .... Roy Rogers and Trigger
Utah (1945) .... Roy Rogers
Where Do We Go from Here? (1945) (scenes deleted)
Bells of Rosarita (1945) .... Roy Rogers
The Man from Oklahoma (1945) .... Roy Rogers
Along the Navajo Trail (1945) .... Roy Rogers
Sunset in El Dorado (1945) .... Roy Rogers
Don't Fence Me In (1945) .... Roy Rogers
Song of Arizona (1946) .... Roy Rogers
Rainbow Over Texas (1946) .... Roy Rogers
My Pal Trigger (1946) .... Roy Rogers
Under Nevada Skies (1946) .... Roy Rogers
Roll on Texas Moon (1946) .... Roy Rogers
Home in Oklahoma (1946) .... Roy Rogers
Out California Way (1946) .... Roy Rogers
Heldorado (1946) .... Nevada State Ranger Roy Rogers
Apache Rose (1947) .... Roy Rogers
Bells of San Angelo (1947) .... Roy Rogers
Springtime in the Sierras (1947) .... Roy Rogers
On the Old Spanish Trail (1947) .... Roy Rogers
Pecos Bill (1948) .... Roy Rogers
The Gay Ranchero (1948) .... Sheriff Roy Rogers
Under California Stars(1948) .... Roy Rogers
Eyes of Texas (1948) .... U.S. Marshal Roy Rogers
Night Time in Nevada (1948) .... Roy Rogers
Grand Canyon Trail (1948) .... Roy Rogers
The Far Frontier (1948) .... Roy Rogers
Susanna Pass (1949) .... Roy Rogers
Down Dakota Way (1949) .... Roy Rogers
The Golden Stallion (1949) .... Roy Rogers
Bells of Coronado (1950) .... Roy Rogers
Twilight in the Sierras (1950) .... State Parole Officer Roy Rogers
Trigger, Jr. (1950) .... Roy Rogers
Sunset in the West (1950) .... Roy Rogers
North of the Great Divide (1950) .... Roy Rogers
Trail of Robin Hood (1950) .... Roy Rogers
Spoilers of the Plains (1951) .... Roy Rogers
Heart of the Rockies (1951) .... Roy Rogers
In Old Amarillo (1951) .... Roy Rogers
South of Caliente (1951) .... Roy Rogers
Pals of the Golden West (1951) .... Border Patrolman Roy Rogers
Son of Paleface (1952) .... Roy Barton
Alias Jesse James (1959) (uncredited) .... Roy Rogers
Mackintosh and T.J. (1975) .... Mackintosh

Selected discography

Charted albums
Chart Positions
US Country
The Country Side of Roy Rogers
A Man from Duck Run
Happy Trails to You
20th Century
Charted singles
Chart Positions
US Country
CAN Country
"A Little White Cross on the Hill"
Singles only
"My Chickashay Gal"
"Blue Shadows on the Trail"

(Roy Rogers and the Sons of the Pioneers)
"(There'll Never Be Another) Pecos Bill"

(Roy Rogers and the Sons of the Pioneers)
"Money Can't Buy Love"
The Country Side of Roy Rogers
A Man from Duck Run
"Happy Anniversary"
"These Are the Good Old Days"
Single only
"Hoppy, Gene and Me"
Happy Trails to You
"Ride Concrete Cowboy, Ride"

(Roy Rogers and the Sons of the Pioneers)
Smokey & the Bandit II (soundtrack)
"Hold on Partner" (w/ Clint Black)

Popular songs recorded by Roy Rogers

Don't Fence Me In
"Hold That Critter Down"
"Little White Cross On The Hill"
"One More Ride"
"Ride Ranger Ride"
"That Pioneer Mother Of Mine"
"Tumbling Tumbleweeds"
"Way Out There" (singing and yodeling)
"Why, Oh Why, Did I Ever Leave Wyoming?"
"Hold On Partner" (duet with Clint Black)

See also

Roy Rogers Restaurants
Roy Rogers cocktail
Earl W. Bascom, cowboy artist who worked with Roy Rogers
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Original Wikipedia article: Rogers