Roy Rogers and Dale Evans the First Family of Singing Cowboys...
however few knew him by his real name Leonard Franklin Slye. You seldom hear the name of a legend, as he was, without hearing the name of his beautiful and loyal wife Dale Evans. She was born Lucille Wood Smith but raised as Frances Octavia Smith. Roy Born Nov.5,1911 and Dale Oct.31,1912.
Folks I don't know if it is because I am a Westerner at heart or because I think I have read every Western Paper Back book ever published but I just got to tell ya that the Roy Rogers and Dale Evans family lived under a microscope and no matter how hard you looked it was hard to see them as anything but the perfect family.
Sure they had their good and bad times but they were good Christians and never wavered in their faith that if they lived right good things would follow and they did. Being they lived such a public life there are simply tons of pages of material and I have to just skim the surface here in giving you this edited version of their life.
I hope to work with Roy's Son Dusty here in Branson and if they agree I would like to expand this page to give you a more complete story.
Roy Rogers married Arline Wilkins in 1936 (a year before I was born). After being married to Arline for a number of years they adopted a girl named Cheryl and a few years later Arline gave birth to a girl named Linda and in 1946 Arline gave birth to Roy Rogers Jr. and they called him Dusty. Arline died shortly after her first son was born.
Roy was discovered at a talent show in California where his sister had talked him into competing. He had learned to yodel and sing, play his guitar and his family said he did them all tolerably well. Not long after the talent contest he was offered his first job with a group called the Rocky Mountaineers. Being it was Aug of 1931 and times were tough for everyone he was happy to be working. During tough times and a failed tour he joined up with Tim Spencer and Bob Nolan and formed the Pioneer Trio. They performed on the Texas Outlaws Radio Program. Hugh and Karl Farr joined the group and they became the "
Sons of the Pioneers
Warner Brothers gave them their first taste of motion pictures and the later were featured in a film debut in the movie "The Old Homestead". He was told by the manager of the Sons of the Pioneer group that he still had several years of a contract and he would only be released from his contract if he found a replacement for himself on the Sons of the Pioneers which he did and the replacement later joined him in many movies as Roy's side kick Gabby. He then became one of the greatest Cowboys of the silver screen and a hero to every little boy the world over.
Later Republic Pictures signed him to a seven year contract. Roy replaced Gene Autry in a film in 1938 and the rest is history.
Roy named a golden Palomino "Trigger" and they rode together for many years before Trigger died at age 32 after performing in 80 films and 101 episodes of his television series Roy loved Trigger so much he could not bury him but rather had him stuffed. Roy worked with his sidekick Gabby Hayes in 40 films. In 1941 the Sons of the Pioneers rejoined Roy in Red River Valley. He had a leading lady "Dale Evans' in the The "Cowboy and the Senorita".
Roy Rogers proposed to Dale Evans during a show in Chicago and they were married on New years Eve in 1947. Roy Rogers , Dale Evans, Gabby and the Sons of the Pioneers continued to appear on the big silver screen for many years. Dale had her work cut out for herself balancing her singing and movie carrier and raising Roy's three children.
In 1950 he and Dale gave birth to a baby girl named Robin and shortly after she was diagnosed with Downs Syndrome. Robin never lived until her 2nd birthday. Her Christian parents grieved and later wrote a book about Robin called "Angel Unaware" (still in print). and it became a best seller.
In 1952 he and Dale adopted Mary Little Doe an Indian child and she was know as Dodie. They soon adopted a little brother for Dusty his name was John David and he was called Sandy. While on tour to Ireland they saw a girl at an orphanage and invited her to their home for the summer and she stayed as a ward and British rules would not allow the adoption by foreign parents. Her name was Marion Fleming and they called her Mimi.
In 1955 they adopted a Korean girl to be a playmate of Dodie. Her name was Deborah Lee and she answered to Debbie. When Debbie was 12 she and a friend died in a crash while on a church trip to Mexico. A year later Sandy died in his sleep while in the Army in Germany.
Early on in his carrier he was encouraged to endorse "stuff" everything from BB guns to clothing and it brought in extra money and he built it into a big business it was said he had over 400 products on the market and in 1960 he entered the restaurant business with a chain of Roy Rogers Family Restaurants. There is one here at 3950 Green Mountain Dr Branson, MO 65616.These restaurants numbered into the hundreds with his association with the Marriott Cooperation.
With all his products, movies, records and restaurants it could be said he was one of the biggest merchandisers of all times.
After retirement they moved to the California desert and opened the Roy Rogers Museum. He had collected everything he could get his hands on and had more that enough to fill the museum near Los Angeles they later moved into a larger facility with Dusty as the General Contractor and it was located in Victorville.
Early on the morning of July 6, 1998 Roy passed away and on July 11th 2,500 family, friends, fans, celebrities and media attend a public memorial service. Some time later the museum was moved here to Branson, Missouri and it can be located by looking at the huge statue of Trigger standing on his back legs in front of the Museum/Theater and it was run by Dusty and the family.
We are sorry to report the Museum was closed in Dec 2009 and it's contents put up for auction by the management non profit company established by Roy and Dale to manage their business assets.
Saddle up pardner!
If you're a Cowboy or Cowgirl at heart like me you can take in the Roy Rogers and Dale Evans remembered show during the 2010 season at the Mickey Gilley Theater at 10:00AM. You will hear all the favorite Cowboy music of Roy and Dale performed by (Rusty )Roy Rogers jr.(Son) and Dusty (Grandson). Much of the music was originally sung by Roy and the Sons of the Pioneers.
More Roy and Dale information here.