In the 1960s, I watched many cowboy shows with my dad. It was then that my love for westerns, cowboys, and horses was birthed. One of my dad’s favorites and mine was Roy Rogers.
Rogers started out as Leonard Franklin Slye, born November 5, 1911 in Cincinnati, Ohio. His family relocated to California in the late 1920s, where Slye held jobs as a fruit picker and factory worker. His first venture into the music world was playing at square dances and local theaters with his cousin, Stanley. Slye soon met Bob Nolan and Tim Spencer, and they began playing music together. They called their group the O-Bar-O Cowboys. The band went through various name changes, performing as the Pioneer Trio and the Sons of the Pioneers. They even appeared together in several motion pictures.
|The Carson City Kid|
|Roy Rogers & Trigger|
Slye went through more than one name change himselft. During his early stint in the Sons of the Pioneers, he went by Dick Weston, which is how the credits read for his first film, Slightly Static (1935). In 1937, Republic Studios offered him a seven-year contract, and Leonard Slye became Roy Rogers for eternity. His big break came the next year when he replaced Gene Autry, who was involved in a contract dispute, to star in Under Western Stars (1938). The movie was a huge hit, and Rogers went on to star in an average of seven singing B-Westerns every year until the early 1950s, all of which featured his trusty palomino, Trigger, and his dog, Bullet.
Gene Autry and Roy Rogers were often rivals for starring roles, but Rogers later out scored Autry in box office sales. During the era of western musicals, Roy Rogers became known as the "King of the Cowboys" after appearing in a film of the same name.
Advocating patriotism and heroism, Rogers gained an enormous following of mostly young fans. With his endorsement of a multitude of products—from children's toys to cereal brands—Roy Rogers and Trigger, and later Dale Evans, evolved into pop cultural icons.
Roy Rogers appeared in his first film with actress Dale Evans in 1944. The Cowboy and the Señorita sparked an irresistible on-screen chemistry between the two, quickly gaining Evans the nickname, "Queen of the Cowgirls.” From 1944 to 1951, they appeared in nearly 30 films together, including The Yellow Rose of Texas (1944), Utah (1945) and Apache Rose (1947). From 1951-1957, Rogers starred in his own popular television series, The Roy Rogers Show, which also featured Dale Evans, who wrote the show's theme song, Happy Trails. Following a revamping, the show re-aired as The Roy Rogers and Dale Evans Show in 1962.
Rogers had two previous marriages before he wed Dale Evans on New Year's Eve in 1947. Several years later, they had a daughter, Robin, who was born with a heart defect and Down syndrome. Sadly, little Robin died in 1952. Evans later wrote about her in her book, Angel Unaware, which is written in Robin's point of view as she recounts her life as she looks down from heaven. As she speaks to God about the mission of love she just completed on earth, the reader sees how she brought her parents closer to God and encouraged them to help other children in need.
After their marriage, both Rogers and Evans became out-spoken advocates of their Christian faith. Beginning in 1949 they were part of the Hollywood Christian Group founded by their friend and Bel Air Church's Organizing Pastor, Louis Evans, Jr. Billy Graham and Jane Russell were also part of the Hollywood Christian Group.
Throughout his life, Roy Rogers was known as much for his kindness as for his movie roles. For instance, he appreciated his fans so much that he attempted to respond personally to every piece of mail he received, despite the fact that his film studio refused to pay for postage, and the cost came out of his own pocket. He will forever be known as an honorable man and the King of the Cowboys.
Do you remember watching Roy Rogers on television or in the movies?
When Sarah Worley rejects Luke McNeil’s marriage proposal to pursue property in the Oklahoma Territory land lottery in 1901, the ranch hand pulls up stakes and goes after her. But he’s the last person she wants to see. The land lottery gives Sarah the chance to realize her dream of independence and a home of her own. But with it comes challenges she never considered. When her dream becomes a nightmare, she must decide whether to stay on her land or give up and return to the life she left. Luke hopes that by winning a claim, he can give Sarah the home she’s always wanted. How can he prove his love and show the stubborn woman that he’s the right man for her?
Bestselling author Vickie McDonough grew up wanting to marry a rancher, but instead married a computer geek who is scared of horses. She now lives out her dreams penning romance stories about ranchers, cowboys, lawmen, and others living in the Old West. Vickie is an award-winning author of more than 40 published books and novellas. Over a million copies of her books have been sold worldwide. Her novels include the fun and feisty Texas Boardinghouse Brides series, and End of the Trail, which was the OWFI 2013 Best Fiction Novel winner. Whispers on the Prairie was a Romantic Times Recommended Inspirational Book for July 2013. Song of the Prairie won the 2015 Inspirational Readers Choice Award. Her latest series, Land Rush Dreams, focuses on the Oklahoma land runs. Vickie has recently stepped into independent publishing with Frontier Hearts and The Bull Rider's Bride.
Vickie has been married over forty years to Robert. They have four grown sons, one of whom is married, and a precocious ten-year-old granddaughter. When she’s not writing, Vickie enjoys reading, antiquing, watching movies, and traveling. To learn more about Vickie’s books or to sign up for her newsletter, visit her website: www.vickiemcdonough.com