Fortunately, Roy Rogers had the good sense to change his name and move to California. Because it would have been impossible for a fellow born in Cincinnati and named “Leonard Slye” to become King of the Cowboys. No way, nohow.
Rogers started out as a singer, forming a group called the Sons of the Pioneers. They had a couple of very popular hits with “Cool Waters” and “Tumbling Tumbleweeds.” But Rogers got his big break when Gene Autry walked out on his movie contract, and Hollywood needed a new singing cowboy. Rogers starred in his first movie in 1938 called Under Western Stars. It was the first of his more than 100 Western movies.
You can’t talk about Roy Rogers, of course, without discussing his All-American wife, Dale Evans. She joined him in many of his movies as well as in The Roy Rogers Show, which ran for nine years on radio and six years on TV. That show also featured the jeep Nellybelle, the palomino Trigger, the German shepherd Bullet, and Pat Brady as Roy’s sidekick.
I remember watching TV on Saturday mornings, and one of the main staples was cowboy movies. Roy Rogers was always my favorite. In the summers, my family went to a state park where horseback riding was available. Whatever horse I rode, no matter what breed or color, I called Trigger. There was just something about that guy in the white hat that made me want to be like him.
Roy and Dale were huge advocates of adoption, and adopted several children themselves. They were the exceptional couple whose off-screen life of decency and integrity matched what they portrayed in their movies. We all miss them, but we do have solace in the words of the theme song that Dale wrote for their TV show: “Happy trails to you, until we meet again…”