As a Western Figure in old time radio, Roy Rogers wasn't the gruff Matt Dillion on Gunsmoke or stern Luke Slaughter. The public was well aware that Roy Rogers wasn't really rounding up cattle in turquoise fringed western shirts. However, Roy Rogers glamorized the representation of American Cowboy and created an icon with a trick horse, a beautiful cowgirl, an amazing dog, a bumbling sidekick, and lighthearted songs.
Roy Rogers was born Leonard Franklin Slye on November 5, 1911 in Ohio. When he was a year old, his family moved onto a houseboat built by his father and blind uncle. Four years later, the family moved to a rural cabin. To make ends meet, his father lived away during the week and the young Len only saw his father on weekends. With a strong sense of curiosity, Len spent his days "figuring out things" such as raising livestock, hunting, farming, plowing, teaching animals tricks, play musical instruments, and riding a race horse.
About 4 years after coming to California, Len Slye got his break singing with the western music group Sons of the Pioneers and changed his name to Dick Weston. In 1935, he appeared in his first film and continued working in the western genre. Len Slye became "Roy Rogers" after Gene Autry temporarily walked off the set and the director needed a new star (Gene Autry came back to the set). Roy Rogers was born and was soon dubbed The King of The Cowboys.
What would a King be without his Queen? Roy Rogers met Dale Evans on the set of The Cowboy and the Señorita. Soon after the death of Roy Roger's wife, he and Dale Evans married and she was soon dubbed The Queen of the West.
Roy Rogers had other important sidekicks. He purchased the golden palomino Trigger in 1938. No stranger to stardom, himself, Trigger already performed in The Adventures of Robin Hood. Roy Rogers used his animal training experience from childhood to train Trigger Billed as "The Smartest Horse in the Movies." Trigger knew 60 tricks and could walk 150 steps on his hind legs; he starred alongside Roy Rogers in 87 movies and had a starring role in The Roy Rogers Show. His German Shepherd Dog, billed Bullet The Wonderdog, could run next to Trigger and often saved the day by untying Roy Rogers and Dale Evans.
The Roy Rogers Radio show changed shape and format during it's ten year run. It was originally a western music and variety show. The shows from the early 50's are still in the earlier mode of some action in a storyline, whether it be outlaws, or tall tales, or a good old-fashioned deed to the ranch cliffhanger. Somewhere the story is broken up by song, with "The Sons of the Pioneers" and Roy and Dale. The music was always first rate Hollywood-style western music, excellently played. Roy featured other singers as well, some not country or western. Sidekicks included the great Gabby Hayes, then Pat Brady, who went on to TV with Roy and Dale, and for a time in 1951, Forrest Lewis. Roy was a fine singer, actor, and riding Trigger, a pretty good cowboy, too.
A brilliant marketer, Roy Rogers' image was on everything including lunchboxes, comic books, playsets, folding knifes, cookie jars, cap guns, watches, and much more. The Roy Rogers old time radio show had a number of sponsors by Post Grape Nuts Cereal (Roy's Favorite Cereal), Goodyear Tires, Quaker Oats, among others.
The show closed with Happy Trails (written by Dale Evans) and performed in harmony with Roy and Dale.
Happy trails to you, until we meet again.
Happy trails to you, keep smilin' until then.
Who cares about the clouds when we're together?
Just sing a song and bring the sunny weather.
Happy trails to you, 'till we meet again.
For kid's favorite cowboys, listen to Tennessee Jed, Tales from the Diamond K, The Cisco Kid,
and Wild Bill Hickok.
For western adventure, there are a bunch, including
Gun Will Travel, Frontier
Gentleman, and Six
Shooter. See also the "Mexican Roy Rogers": Tito Guizar.