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Roy Rogers TRIBUTE TO ROY ROGERS

1911 - 1998


A SHORT SYNOPSIS ON THE LIFE OF ROY ROGERS


Contents

BORN LEONARD FRANKIN SLYE IN 1911, IN CINCINNATI, OHIO. HIS PARENTS, ANDY AND MATTIE SLYE, BOTH PLAYED FIDDLE AND PASSED ALONG THEIR LOVE OF MUSIC TO THEIR SON AND HIS SISTERS, MARY, CLEDA, AND KATHLEEN. GROWING UP ON A FARM NEAR DUCK RUN, OHIO, LEN LEARNED TO RIDE HORSES, SHOOT PISTOLS AND PLAY THE GUITAR FOR LOCAL DANCES.

IN 1930, THE SLYES MOVED TO CALIFORNIA LOOKING FOR A BETTER LIFE BUT LEN AND HIS DAD DROVE TRUCK AND EVEN BECAME MIGRATORY FRUIT PICKERS. LEN, HIS DAD AND THEIR COUSIN STANLEY WOULD ENTERTAIN AND SING AROUND CAMPFIRES AND PLAY FOR LOCAL DANCES.

AROUND 1933, SLYE JOINED BOB NOLAN AND TIME SPENCER TO FORM AN OFFSHOOT OF THE TEXAS OUTLAWS ,THEY CALLED THE PIONEER TRIO. THEY PRACTICED FOR HOURS TO PERFECT THEIR HARMONY. A LOCAL DJ CALLED THEM THE SONS OF THE PIONEERS AND THE NAME BECAME A HOUSEHOLD WORD.

A PERFORMANCE AT THE TEXAS STATE CENTENNIAL IN 1936 WAS AN ACCLAIMED ENGAGEMENT FOR THEM. SLYE STOPPED OFF IN NEW MEXICO LONG ENOUGH TO MARRY ARLENE WILKINS, A YOUNG LADY HE'D MET ON AN OTHERWISE UNSUCCESSFUL TOUR. THE MARRIAGE WOULD LAST UNTIL 1946, WHEN ARLENE DIED FROM COMPLICATIONS RESULTING FROM THE BIRTH OF THE COUPLE'S THIRD CHILD.

A DECCA RECORDING IN 1934 INCREASED THE BAND'S POPULARITY. IN ADDITION TO WORKING IN FILMS WITH THE PIONEERS, LEN BEGAN TO LAND SOME BIT PARTS ON HIS OWN, SOMETIME USING THE NAME DICK WESTON. THEN, IN 1937, GENE AUTRY'S CONTRACT DISPUTE WITH REPUBLIC PICTURES GAVE SLYE HIS BIG BREAK. THE STUDIO CHANGED SLYE'S NAME TO ROY ROGERS, GAVE HIM STAR BILLING IN HIS FIRST MOVIE, "UNDER WESTERN SKIES." THE SONS OF THE PIONEERS PROVIDED THE MUSICAL INTEREST AND SMILEY BURNETT AND GABBY HAYES ADDED THE COMIC RELIEF.

ROGERS FAME MOUNTED STEADILY AS HIS FILM WORK CONTINUED. REPUBLIC BILLED HIM AS 'KING OF THE COWBOYS' FOR "RIDIN' DOWN THE CANYON" IN 1942. DURING THE 1950'S, IN PARTNERSHIP WITH HIS SECOND WIFE, DALE EVANS, ROGERS MOVED INTO TELEVISION, MAKING MORE THAN 100 HALF HOUR SHOWS.

ROGERS HAS ACQUIRED VAST REAL ESTATE HOLDINGS. THROUGH IT ALL, HE AND DALE HAVE OVERCOME THE LOSS OF THREE CHILDREN. ROY IS THE ONLY PERSON TO BE ELECTED TWICE TO THE COUNTRY MUSIC HALL OF FAME; ONCE FOR THE SONS OF THE PIONEERS AND IN 1989 AS AN INDIVIDUAL. THE KING OF COWBOYS IS DESTINED TO LIVE FOREVER IN MOVIES AND MUSIC.