with Mary Hart in Shine on Harvest Moon (1938)
|Birth name||Leonard Franklin Slye|
November 5, 1911|
Cincinnati, Ohio, USA
|Died||July 6, 1998
Apple Valley, California, USA
Roy Rogers, born Leonard Franklin Slye (November 5, 1911 – July 6, 1998), was an American singer and cowboy actor, one of the most heavily marketed and merchandised stars of his era, as well as being the namesake of the Roy Rogers Restaurants franchised chain. He and his wife Dale Evans, his golden palomino, Trigger, and his German Shepherd dog, Bullet, were featured in more than 100 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"), Andy Devine, or the crotchety George "Gabby" Hayes. Rogers's nickname was "King of the Cowboys" and Evans's nickname was "Queen of the West".
||This section needs additional citations for verification. (September 2010)|
Slye 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 Slye 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 traveled up 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 in Duck Run, located near Lucasville, Ohio about 12 miles north of Portsmouth. There they built a six-room home. Slye's father soon realized that the farm alone would provide insufficient income for his family, so he took a job at a shoe factory in Portsmouth. He lived there during the week and returned home on the weekends, bearing gifts for the family following paydays. One notable gift was a horse on which Slye learned the basics of horsemanship.
After completing the eighth grade, Slye attended high school in McDermott, Ohio. When he was 17, his family returned to Cincinnati, where his father began work at another 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.
Slye and his father felt imprisoned by their factory jobs. In 1929, his older sister, Mary, moved to 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 afterward, Slye 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. Slye 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 was told of a shoe factory hiring in Los Angeles and asked Slye to join him in applying there for work. Slye, 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, Slye, now known as "Len," met Lucille Ascolese while on tour. That same year, a palomino colt was foaled in Santa Cietro, CA, named "Golden Cloud", and later renamed "Trigger" in 1938 after he was acquired by Roy. In May 1933, Len, 21, proposed to Lucille, 19, via a radio broadcast. Len then went on tour with the "O-Bar-O Cowboys" and in June 1933 met Grace Arline Wilkins at a Roswell, New Mexico radio station. She traded Len a lemon pie for his singing "Swiss Yodel" over the air. 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 28, 1935, and became final on June 8, 1936. Having corresponded since their first meeting, Len and Grace Arline Wilkins were married in Roswell, New Mexico, on June 11, 1936.
In 1941, the couple adopted a girl, Cheryl Darlene. Two years later, Arline bore a daughter, Linda Lou.
Rogers and Arline had a son, Roy Jr. ("Dusty") in 1946, but Arline died of complications from the birth a few days afterward on November 3. Rogers had met Dale Evans in 1944 when she was cast in a film with Rogers. Following Arline's death, Rogers and Evans soon fell in love, and Rogers 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. Rogers and Evans remained married until Rogers's death in 1998.
Slye moved to California to become a singer. After four years of little success, he formed the Sons of the Pioneers with Bob Nolan and Tim Spencer, 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". Slye's stage name was suggested by Republic Picture's staff after Will Rogers and the shortening of Leroy. 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.
In the Motion Picture Herald Top Ten Money-Making Western Stars poll, Rogers was listed for 15 consecutive years from 1939 to 1954, holding first place from 1943 to 1954. He appeared in the similar Box Office poll from 1938 to 1955, holding first place from 1943 to 1952. (In the final three years of that poll he was second only to Randolph Scott.)  Although these two polls are really an indication only of the popularity of series stars, Rogers also appeared in the Top Ten Money Makers Poll of all films in 1945 and 1946.
Rogers was an idol for many children through his films and television shows. Most of his postwar films were in Trucolor during an era when almost all other B westerns were black-and-white. Some of his movies would segue into animal adventures, in which Rogers'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, and playsets, as well as a comic strip, 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 second only to Walt Disney in the amount of items featuring his name. The Sons of the Pioneers continued their popularity, and they have never stopped performing from the time Rogers started the group, replacing members as they retired or passed away (all original members are deceased). Although Rogers was no longer an active member, they often appeared as Rogers' backup group in films, radio, and television, and Rogers would occasionally appear with them in performances up until his death. In August 1950, Evans and Rogers had a daughter, Robin Elizabeth, who had Down Syndrome and died of complications with mumps 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. Rogers was an active Freemason and a Shriner, and was noted for his support of their charities.
Rogers and Evans's famous theme song, "Happy Trails", was written by Evans; they sang it 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. He also made numerous cameo or guest appearances on other popular television shows, starring as himself or other cowboy-type characters, such as in an episode of Wonder Woman called "The Bushwackers". 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.
In 1968 Rogers licensed his name to the Marriot corporation, which converted its Hot Shoppes locations to Roy Rogers Restaurants, with which Rogers otherwise had no involvement.
When Rogers died of congestive heart failure on July 6, 1998, he was residing in Apple Valley, California. He was interred at Sunset Hills Cemetery in Apple Valley, as was his wife, Dale Evans, three years later.
Homages and influence
For his contribution to the motion picture industry, 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. Rogers and Evans were inducted into the Western Performers Hall of Fame at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, in 1976 and Rogers was inducted again as a member of the Sons of the Pioneers in 1995. Rogers 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. In 2001, a Golden Palm Star on the Palm Springs, California, Walk of Stars was dedicated to him and Dale Evans.
Rogers was mentioned in the Lyle Lovett single "If I Had A Boat", Elton John's 1973 album "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" contained the escapist ballad "Roy Rogers", and Toby Keith's "Should've Been A Cowboy".
Cheryl Rogers Barnett, a daughter of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, has written with Frank Thompson; Cowboy Princess: Life with My Parents, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans'.
- 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) – U.S. Representative the Hon. Roy Rogers (first lead role)
- 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 Rogers
- 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) – Border Investigator 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
- The Fall Guy (1983) Season 2, Episode 11 "Happy Trails" – Roy Rogers, King of the Cowboys
|1970||The Country Side of Roy Rogers||40||—||Capitol|
|1971||A Man from Duck Run||34||—|
|1975||Happy Trails to You||35||—||20th Century|
|US Country||CAN Country|
|1946||"A Little White Cross on the Hill"||7||—||Singles only|
|1947||"My Chickashay Gal"||4||—|
|1948||"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)
|1970||"Money Can't Buy Love"||35||—||The Country Side of Roy Rogers|
|1971||"Lovenworth"||12||33||A Man from Duck Run|
|1972||"These Are the Good Old Days"||73||—||Single only|
|1974||"Hoppy, Gene and Me"A||15||12||Happy Trails to You|
|1980||"Ride Concrete Cowboy, Ride"
(Roy Rogers and the Sons of the Pioneers)
|80||—||Smokey & the Bandit II (soundtrack)|
|1991||"Hold on Partner" (w/ Clint Black)||42||48||Tribute|
- A"Hoppy, Gene and Me" also peaked at number 65 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number 38 on the RPM Adult Contemporary Tracks chart in Canada.
|1991||"Hold on Partner" (with Clint Black)||Jack Cole|
Popular songs recorded by 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)
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Roy Rogers|
- Phillips, 13-15
- Hardy, Phil (1984). The Encyclopedia of Western Movies. Minneapolis, MN: Woodbury Press. ISBN 978-0-8300-0405-8.
- "Motion Picture Herald and Boxoffice Polls". B-westerns.com. Retrieved October 31, 2011.
- Top Ten Money Making Stars. Quigley Publishing. Retrieved October 31, 2011.
- Phillips, 38
- Enss/Kazanjian, 132
- "Wonder Woman : Pilot: The New Original Wonder Woman". Thewb.com. Retrieved October 31, 2011.
- "Triggairo Horse Pedigree". Pedigree Online Thoroughbred Database. Retrieved October 31, 2011.
- Flippo, Chet. Dale Evans, Queen Of The West, Dead At 88 last access February 22, 2007.
- Palm Springs Walk of Stars by date dedicated
- Rogers-Barnett, Cheryl; Thompson, Frank (2003). Cowboy Princess: Life With My Parents, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans (1st Taylor Trade Pub. ed. ed.). Lanham [Md.]: Taylor Trade Pub. ISBN 1-58979-026-X.
- Whitburn, Joel (2011). Top Pop Singles 1955–2010. Record Research, Inc. p. 762. ISBN 0-89820-188-8.
- Rogers, Roy; Evans, Dale; Stowers, Carlton (1979). Happy Trails: The Story of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans. Waco, Texas: Word Books. ISBN 0-8499-0086-7.
- Enss, Chris; Kazanjian, Howard (2005). The Cowboy and the Senorita: A Biography of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans (1st ed.). Guilford, CT: TwoDot. ISBN 978-0-7627-3830-4.
- Phillips, Robert W. (1995). Roy Rogers : A Biography. Jefferson, NC [u.a.]: McFarland. ISBN 0-89950-937-1.
- Zwisohn, Laurence. (1998). "Roy Rogers". In The Encyclopedia of Country Music. Paul Kingsbury, Editor. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 456–457.
- Roy Rogers at the Internet Movie Database
- Official family website
- Database and Cover gallery of Roy Rogers comic book appearances
- Interview with Delores Chapman who had a bit part with Roy Rogers in North of the Great Divide
- Profile at Turner Classic Movies
- Roy Rogers at the Internet Broadway Database
- Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum
- Dusty Rhoads: Cowboy Bassist and vocalist who toured with Roy Rogers; original member of the Whippoorwills
- I Love Comix Archive: Roy Rogers
- The Ackerman Collection of Historical Photographs
- RFD-TV Trigger and Bullet Happy Trails Tour
- Public domain Roy Rogers media at Internet Archive
- "Roy & Dale 100th Anniversary"