Roy Rogers, King of the Cowboys

Leonard Slye is the real name of Roy Rogers, who came to California as a migrant farm worker picking fruit in 1929 at age 18. He also tried working in a shoe factory. Roy was born in Cincinnati and grew up in rural Ohio, “We were so far back in the woods, they almost had to pipe in sunlight.” He changed his name to Dick Weston and founded the singing group “Sons of the Pioneers,” which was heard on Los Angeles radio. He started in films with bit roles in 1935, sometimes with Gene Autry. By 1942, Roy was surpassing Autry as “King of the Cowboys,” starring in many westerns in the 1940s and 1950s with Gabby Hayes and Dale Evans, whom he married in 1947. Roy Rogers invested wisely in the 1950s in a TV production company, a chain of restaurants, Western products, real estate, cattle, a rodeo show and a string of thoroughbred horses. His personal fortune was estimated in 1975 by the Film Encyclopedia as being in excess of $100,000,000.

By the way, the horse that Roy was given by the studio to ride (Trigger), had previously been used by Maid Marian (Olivia de Havilland) in The Adventures Of Robin Hood (1938) under the name Golden Cloud just a few months earlier. Trigger aka Golden Cloud was stuffed and put on display in the Roy Rogers Museum when he died, as was Roy’s dog Bullet. Dale once joked that she was planning to outlive Roy because she was afraid he had a spot picked out for her in the museum.
He starred in “The Roy Rogers Show” on radio for a decade (1944-55, Mutual & NBC) then brought it to TV (NBC, 1951-57, and ABC, 1962.) The TV-series was set in the 1950s, with wife Dale singing the themesong, “Happy Trails,” sometimes as a duet with Roy. The radio show usually consisted of music, songs, and a cowboy drama with bad guys; with Gabby Hayes, Pat Brady, Forrest Lewis and Bob Nolan. Music was provided by Roy Williams & the Riders of the Purple Sage Orchestra, singing group The Whippoorwills, and vocalists “The Sons Of The Pioneers” led by Bob Nolan, composer of Tumblin’ Tumbleweeds. His first sponsor was Goodyear Tire & Rubber, later Quaker Oats/Mother’s Oats, Post Sugar Crisp, then Dodge automobiles the final two years on radio. “The greatest name in rubber, Goodyear, invites you to meet America’s greatest western star, Roy Rogers.” Intro with Quaker Oats ad (Real audio)

While Post was the sponsor, the themesong was “It’s Roundup Time on the Double R Bar” and one of the Post cereal premiums was a branding iron Double R Bar ring. Dodge changed the themesong back to Happy Trails. In the TV-series each week, Roy would fight western bad guys with help from Pat Brady, his horse Trigger, his dog Bullet, and a cantankerous jeep Pat named Nellybelle. Roy Rogers Show episode, courtesy The ABC series (September-December 1962) was a musical-variety with Brady, the Sons of the Pioneers, the Ralph Carmichael Orchestra, a folksinger, a rodeo rider-turned singer, and comic Cliff Arquette as Charley Weaver. It was replaced for the rest of the 1962/63 season by Art Linkletter’s Hootenanny, which featured pop and folk music from the Limelighters to the Smothers Brothers. The following Fall, The Outer Limits was in the timeslot (1963).
Roy Rogers films show up quite often on Encore's Westerns channel

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