Over the course of his acting career, Roy Rogers appeared in close to 200 motion pictures and television programs. The “King of the Cowboys,” as he became known, passed away in 1998 at the age of 86, but his legacy lives on.
This is the story of how Roy Rogers met his first wife thanks to his love of lemon cream pie.
Roy Rogers was born Leonard Slye on November 5, 1911, in Cincinnati, Ohio. He was brought up on the family farm in Duck Run, Ohio, and showed his love of animals even as a young boy.
With his pet pig Evangeline, Rogers won a 4H competition at a county fair in Scioto, Ohio, when he was 12 years old. He would travel to Columbus, the state capital, and would experience seeing a large metropolis for the first time.
“That was the first time I had ever been ten miles off the farm,” he recalls. “I had never even seen an elevator before. I spent the whole first day just riding up and down the elevator in the Old Neil House Hotel.”
During the height of the Great Depression, Roy Rogers was raised. It was a trying time for millions of Americans, and finding work was challenging.
He had aspirations of becoming a doctor or a dentist while he was attending school in McDermott, Ohio. To support his family, he quit school before receiving his diploma to work in a shoe factory.
He was raised with music all the time. He started off playing the mandolin and calling square dances. Then, one scorching July day in 1930, everything would change.
The family spotted an opportunity while traveling to California to see one of Roy’s sisters. Although it didn’t turn out to be the grand American dream the family had hoped it would be, the pleasant weather and the prospect of a better future with more employment convinced his family to relocate to Los Angeles.
Even though it was still difficult to find work, Roy did his fair part by picking fruit and driving a gravel truck to help support the family.
Roy had also picked up the guitar at the time. His main passion, which drove him to sing and perform music for years to come, was to entertain others.
But Roy’s phobia of public speaking prevented him from achieving his goals.
“I was shy from my boyhood days when we lived on the Ohio River in a three-room houseboat built by my father. Our family–Mother, Dad, and three sisters–later settled on a farm outside Portsmouth, Ohio. Dad worked in a shoe factory, while my sisters and I helped Mother run the farm,” Rogers remembers.
His sister suggested that he perform on a local radio show where amateurs may receive a chance at 15 Minutes of Fame because he was a gifted musician. Roy soon received an invitation to join The Rocky Mountaineers, a country music group, as both a singer and a guitarist after giving it a go.
Roy sang in several country music ensembles for two years, but in 1933 he desired to pursue other ventures. He subsequently brought together Bob Nolan, Tim Spencer, and himself to form The Pioneer Trio. They started creating songs and soon found themselves traveling as well, rising to national fame.
It was at this period that he first met Lucille Ascolese, whom he later married, everything starting from a pie.
“In 1931 or 1932, you didn’t think of yourself as anybody. You were just worried about getting enough to eat,” Rogers said.
“We got to Roswell, New Mexico, in 1933, and we didn’t have any money; we went to this little motel and were playing at the local theater. We went on the local radio station and asked the man if he had a little .22 or something, we liked to hunt, and I didn’t like telling him that we were hungry.”
When Roy and his bandmates would joke about their favorite foods, folks would occasionally start bringing them meals like fried chicken. In addition to liking lemon cream pies, Roy once received a call asking him to sing A Swiss Yodel. He was gonna be compensated with… two large lemon meringue pies.
Rogers sang as he’d never sung before. A young woman and her mother arrived at the motel later that evening to deliver the pies.
“It was two of the most beautiful lemon meringue pies. We couldn’t wait for them to leave so we could eat those things. The young lady that brought the pies over turned out to be my first wife”.
The fame of Roy Rogers and his band members quickly began to rise. They were originally signed to a number of radio transcriptions and eventually joined the illustrious record company Decca.
The music of the ensemble at the time was ideal for numerous movies. The Pioneer Trio began to appear in various films in 1935 and 1936, singing, which eventually led to Roy also becoming an actor.
We all know now that Roger’s life would change as a consequence of acting. But at the moment, he only needed employment. He was really excellent at it, too!
The Big Show (1936) and The Old Coral (1937) both featured Roy Rogers and Gene Autry as the lead actors. Autry was appropriately dubbed “America’s Favorite Singing Cowboy.” Later on, Rogers rose to fame as “The King of the Cowboys,” and he, of course, married Dale Evans, “The Queen of the West.”
Over the years, Autry and Rogers became close friends and frequently crossed paths. After Roy and Dale passed away, the Autry National Center even acquired their archives, which contained significant items that represented they are more than 50-year careers in show business.
The relationship between Dale Evans and Rogers, who costarred in Cowboy and the Senorita in 1944, was widely praised and noted by viewers, the studio, and the two actors themselves. Sadly, shortly after the birth of their third child in 1946, Rogers’ first wife passed suddenly.
He married Evans a year later, and they immediately began to collaborate more often. They starred in their own NBC network TV series, which rapidly became a Sunday night favorite for many families.
The marriage surprised everyone, including Roy’s daughter Cheryl Rogers.
“It wasn’t until after they got married that he brought her home and said: ‘this is your new mother,’”
“I didn’t think I needed a new mother, so I really gave her a bad time, but she was a saint.”
Rogers gradually shifted from cinema to television through their program. He hosted The Roy Rogers Show in the 1950s, which ran for more than 100 episodes.
In many ways, Rogers’ life was changed by his marriage to Dale Evans. Dale’s spouse was impacted by her strong evangelical Christian religion because she was well-known for it. He received the invitation to know God from her.
“We hadn’t been married but a few days when she started one morning with ‘It’s a beautiful day to go to church!’
Rogers’ connection with God deepened as a result of meeting Dale Evans, and it would benefit him much. Dale Evans frequently urged her husband to pray before speeches, which assisted him in overcoming his fear of public speaking, a problem he had struggled with since he was a little boy.
” Going to Sunday School and Church is one of the greatest privileges we have. I only wish I had been smart enough to know this earlier in my life.”
Roy appeared not just with his wife but also riding Trigger, the golden palomino stallion he adored. In the end, Trigger gained almost as much fame as Rogers.
“He was without a doubt the greatest horse that ever came along,” Rogers stated.
“I got him when I made my first picture; he was four years old. I took my first picture with him in January 1938. He was like an iron horse; if there’s a heaven for horses, that’s where Trigger is. He was something else; he could do anything.”
Rogers received three stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in February of 1960. one each for radio, television, and motion pictures.
Roy Rogers and Dale Evans stayed together for the remainder of their lives. Despite raising numerous adopted children, three of whom Roy had adopted during his previous marriage, they only had one biological daughter together.
The famous pair, however, unfortunately, went through a terrible tragedy. Their newborn daughter Robin, who was born with Down syndrome, perished suddenly. The measles caused complications that led to Robin’s death just before her second birthday.
Following that, the couple adopted three girls, Mimi, Dodie, and Debbie, as well as one adoptive boy, Sandy.
Twelve years after Robin’s demise, in 1964, Roy experienced another tragedy. Deborah, a different daughter, died in a vehicle accident.
Later, Roy would develop into a successful businessman and launch Roy Rogers Restaurants, a chain of quick service restaurants. Roy “Dusty” Rogers Jr., one of his son Roy and Dale’s admirers, recounted how they always treated fans like family, signing pictures and answering fan letters despite the fact that they had been well-known for decades.
Throughout his whole life, Roy Rogers sang his way into the hearts of many people. Throughout hundreds of films and television shows he starred in, he played the hero. And that was something that the young cowboys of the next generation could undoubtedly identify to.
He died at the age of 86 in his home in Apple Valley, close to Victorville, California, in 1998, 60 years after the release of his debut movie.
Congestive heart failure was the death’s cause. According to reports, the famed cowboy singer was accompanied by his wife Dale Evans and other family members. “Dusty” Rogers Jr. remembered what his father did last.
“He stood up in bed and said: ‘well, Lord, it’s been a long, hard ride,’” he said.
Roy Rogers was unquestionable “The King of the Cowboys.” Many people sincerely mourn him; he is gone but never forgotten.