Roy Rogers Centennial


Roy Rogers was one of my childhood heroes. I grew up watching his TV show with his wife, Dale Evans, and Pat Brady with the jeep Nellybelle.

Roy was born as Leonard Slye on 5 Nov. 1911 in Cincinnati, Ohio. He worked in a few factory jobs before deciding to take up a musical career. He was in a few groups before settling in with the Sons of the Pioneers.  That group got to perform in a few western movies including a few starring Gene Autry. In one of those movies, someone says “Len get up here and sing a song.” In another Gene Autry movie, he is knocked off his horse by Gene and taken to jail. Gene Autry had a contract dispute and Len was selected to replace him but in the first two films he was billed as Dick Weston. After that began being billed as Roy Rogers and eventually adopted that name. Roy appeared in about 100 western movies in most of which he sang.

Roy was married early and divorced his first wife. Roy and his second wife, Grace, adopted a daughter, had their own daughter and a son, Roy Rogers Jr. (commonly called Dusty). Grace died of complications of child birth. Roy had been paired with Dale Evans in a movie a couple of years before. They married and were paired in many more movies. In a lot of those movies, Dale was the sophisticated lady that didn’t like Roy at first but grew to like by the end of the movie.

Roy recorded a radio show in his home in the late 40s and early 50s. This lead to the TV show in 1952. In that show, Dale and Roy weren’t married but even as a kid, I knew that they were married. The show ended with them singing their theme, Happy Trails. That song was written by Dale. Roy had been signing “Happy Trails” with his autograph for years before the song was written. There were 100+ episodes of the TV show. After that Roy and Dale had a short lived variety show and appeared on occasional shows.

Roy’s horse Trigger was billed as “the smartest horse in the movies”. He appeared in most of Roy’s movies and all of the TV shows. When Trigger died in 1965 Roy had him stuffed and he was placed in the Roy Rogers Museum in Apple Valley, Cal. That museum had Roy and Dale memorabilia. It ran into hard times as it was far from any metropolitan area. It moved Branson, Missouri  but only survived there for a few years before being sold off.

I am not sure when it was but probably sometimes in the 1980s Roy, Dale and friends did a series called Happy Trails Theatre in which they would introduce and show Roy’s old movies. The best part was that they included all the songs that sometimes had been cut out to show on TV.

Roy died 6 July 1998 of congestive heart failure. Dale died 7 Feb. 2001. Dusty Rogers sings western songs in a live show in Branson with his son, Dustin.

All of Roy Rogers movies are on DVD but a lot of them are out of stock. Only about half of the TV shows are on DVD. Search on both Amazon and e-Bay for both new and used DVDs. And most important, remember Roy as the genuine  hero that he was.