Rarely have any performers been as beloved as Roy Rogers and Dale Evans. Starting in films and continuing on radio, television, records and personal appearances, they were the idols of millions of chil-dren throughout the world and were just as popular with adults.
Roy Rogers grew up on a farm in Duck Run, Ohio. When he was 18 he and his family drove to Los Angeles to visit his oldest sister who had moved there after marrying. The family spent several months in southern California before returning to Ohio but a combination of the Depression and cold weather led to their permanent move to Los Angeles the following year.
Roy’s family had always loved music and had provided their own entertainment by playing guitar and mandolin and singing. Recognizing her brother’s talent, Roy’s sister suggested he go on a local radio program that featured amateur talent. That appearance led to his being asked to join a group called the Rocky Mountaineers and it was while with them that Roy met Bob Nolan and Tim Spencer who became lifelong friends. Over the course of the next few years Roy worked with several groups before deciding to organize a group of his own and the two fellows he wanted with him were Nolan and Spencer. Their group, the Sons of the Pioneers, achieved immediate success with their superb harmonies and the brilliant original songs written by Nolan and Spencer. Still, this was during the desperate days of the Depression, which meant that suc-cess didn’t translate into significant income so when Roy heard that Republic Pictures was auditioning for a new singing cowboy he decided to try for it. Although he didn’t have an appointment, good fortune smiled on Roy when one of the studio’s producers recognized him and gained him entrance through the studio gates. Roy made a screen test and was signed by Republic. When Gene Autry went on strike for more money, the studio put Roy in the starring role of what was scheduled to be Autry’s next film. “Under Western Stars,” was a smash and it launched Roy on the path to becoming the King of the Cowboys.
Dale Evans, who was born in Uvalde, Texas, never dreamed of a career in western films. Music was her great love. Dale was working as a secretary at an insurance agency in Memphis when her boss heard her singing at her desk one lunch hour. When he asked it she’d like to sing on the agency’s radio program, he found he didn’t have to ask twice. A few days later Dale made her radio debut at the age of 16. During the next few years she worked at sta-tions in Louisville and Dallas before settling in Chicago where she sang with several big bands before being signed by the CBS radio affiliate. Just like a scene out of a Hollywood film, an agent heard one of Dale’s broadcasts and asked if she’d like to come to Hollywood for a screen test. At first Dale didn’t take the offer seriously, but she finally accepted and wound up with a short-term contract with 20th Century-Fox. From there it was back to radio where she became the female vocalist on the top rated Edgar Bergen-Charlie McCarthy program. Dale was signed by Republic Pictures, and after appearing in several musicals, she was cast in “The Cowboy and the Senorita” star-ring Roy Rogers. It was the perfect pairing. Roy and Dale had tremendous on screen chemistry and Dale quickly became Roy’s regular leading lady. Fourteen months after Roy’s wife passed away follow-ing childbirth, Roy and Dale were married.
Late in 1951 “The Roy Rogers Show” debuted on NBC television and quickly became essential viewing for millions of kids (and parents, too). During the next four decades Roy and Dale made countless television appear-ances on their own shows and as guests on all the top rated variety programs as well as making countless personal appearances around the country. Both Roy and Dale came to be admired not only as performers but for their many charitable endeavors and for the integrity with which they led their lives. They were heroes both on screen and off screen.
In 1948 book publisher Simon & Schuster began their Golden Records division, the first label devoted exclusively to producing children’s records. At the start they used studio singers and groups but as the market for children’s records grew they began attracting major stars starting with Roy Rogers and Dale Evans followed by artists like Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye and Jimmy Durante. Early in 1956 Roy and Dale recorded the album “16 Great Songs of the Old West” for Golden Records. The album featured a baker’s dozen of traditional cowboy songs including “Home On The Range,” “Red River Valley” and “The Streets of Laredo.” Although they weren’t written in the days of the old west, no album of cowboy songs would be complete without “Cool Water” and “Tumbling Tumbleweeds,” both of which were written by Bob Nolan, when he and Roy were two of the original members of the Sons of the Pioneers. As a bonus several of Roy and Dale’s Golden Records singles have been added to this CD including “Hoofbeat Serenade, “A Cowboy Needs A Horse” and “Chicki Wicki Choctaw” which Dale wrote for their adopted daughter Dodie. Also included is “Roy Rogers Had A Ranch” sung by Pat Brady who was Roy’s sidekick on his television series. And, just as on their television shows and personal appearances, the CD ends with Roy and Dale singing their theme song, “Happy Trails,” which was written by Dale Evans. The enduring popularity of “Happy Trails” has helped turn it into a part of Americana.
So sit back and enjoy yourself as Roy and Dale sing classic songs of the west. It'll bring a smile to your face and remind you of just why so many people still love the King of the Cowboys and the Queen of the West. Happy Trails to you.