Roy Rogers For other meanings of Roy Rogers see Roy Rogers (disambiguation) Leonard Franklin Slye (November 5, 1911 - July 6, 1998), became famous as Roy Rogers, a singer and cowboy actor. He and his second wife Dale Evans, his "golden palomino" Trigger and his German shepherd "Bullet" were featured in over one hundred movies and The Roy Rogers Show which ran on radio for nine years before moving to television from 1951 through 1964. His productions usually featured two sidekicks, Pat Brady (who drove a jeep called "Nellybelle") and the crotchety bushwhacker Gabby Hayes. Roy's nickname was "King of the Cowboys". Dale's nickname was "Queen of the West." For many Americans (and non-Americans), he was the embodiment of the all-American hero.
Rogers was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, where his family lived on a house boat docked on the Ohio River. They later moved the houseboat up the river to Portsmouth, Ohio. The house boat was destroyed in the flood of 1913 and the Slye family moved to Lucasville just north of Portsmouth where Leonard spent his boyhood.
Rogers moved to California at eighteen 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," and a matinee idol, American legend, and competitor for Gene Autry was suddenly born. In addition to his own movies, Rogers played a supporting role in the John Wayne classic Dark Command (1940), a harrowing fictionalization of Quantrill's Raiders directed by Raoul Walsh, who'd discovered Wayne in 1929 and changed his name while casting him in 'The Big Trail, Wayne's first leading role. Rogers became a major box office attraction, and Dale Evans was cast in a movie with him in 1945. The following year, after Roy's wife, Arline, died in childbirth, Roy and Dale married. They were together everafter.
Rogers was an idol for many children through his films and television show. Most of his films were in color in an era when almost all other B-movies were black and white. There were Roy Rogers action figures, cowboy adventure novels, a comic strip, and a variety of marketing successes. 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.
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 and on TV.
Rogers and his first wife, Arline (Wilkins) had three children: an adopted daughter, Cheryl, and two birth children, Linda Lou and Roy Jr. Arline died of an embolism while giving birth to Roy Jr. in 1946. Dale and Roy had a daughter, Robin Elizabeth, who died of complications of Down Syndrome at age two. Evans wrote about losing their daughter in her book Angel Unawares.
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 and Dale's famous theme song, which Dale wrote and they sang as a duet to sign off their television show, was "Happy trails to you, Until we meet again...".
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.