Thursday, February 16, 2012

Musical Couples: Roy Rogers and Dale Evans

Roy Rogers and Dale Evans: Happy Trails to You


Roy Rogers and Dale Evans were one of Hollywood's most enduring couples. Rogers first gained fame in the mid-1930s as founder of the California-based Sons of the Pioneers. His western-music career catapulted him into movies, and he quickly became a featured player at Republic Pictures. In 1939, Gene Autry -- Republic's star attraction -- held out for more money, and Republic elevated Rogers. He soon supplanted Autry, not only as king of the cowboys but (to corral Howard Stern’s self-appellation) king of all media. Movies, radio, TV, records, lunchboxes, hamburger stands...Roy was everywhere.

And, for most of his career, everywhere Roy went, Dale Evans was close by. (And Trigger too...but that's for a different theme week.) On New Year's Eve 1947, a couple of years after his wife died in childbirth, Rogers wed the twice-divorced Evans, who played the love interest in his movies. In all, Roy and Dale appeared in more than 30 films together in the 1940s and 1950s. They won over a new generation of fans as stars of early television and continued to appear on the small screen well into the 1980s, introducing their old films on the now-extinct Nashville Network. Roy passed away in 1998 at age 87, Dale in 2001 at 88.

Their most famous collaboration is the song “Happy Trails To You,” written by Evans. Despite the couple's chipper demeanor and the song's seemingly cheery outlook, it stems from personal tragedy. Roy and Dale's only child together was born in 1950 with Down Syndrome and died in infancy. Evans wrote the song as a distraction while caring for her ailing child. "Happy Trails" became Rogers’ signature song, and the pair dutifully sang it on screen and at personal appearances for nearly a half-century.

Bonus track: Here's a quick cover of "Happy Trails" by another California couple, whose love has also transcended time -- Eddie Van Halen and David Lee Roth.

Van Halen: Happy Trails to You


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