This week I do not have any tangible news about the Australian film crew except that they did come to town and are still interested in the project. I will be giving you updates as soon as I learn more. In the meantime I will continue to post my weekly articles. I am getting ready to do some more traveling so I hope you’ll stay tuned.
Down The Road with the Original Buffalo Dale
Welcome back. Last week I mentioned the three day celebration held in Claremore to recognize what would have been Will Rogers’ 132nd birthday. Will was born on November 4, 1879 and on November 5th the birthday of another one of my idols rolled that I just couldn’t pass up writing about so this column is dedicated to him.
Leonard Franklin Slye was born on November 5, 1911 and would have turned 100 this year. Born and raised in Ohio, he worked alongside his dad as boy, doing farm work at first and then graduating to factory work and working as a shoemaker for the United States shoe factory in Cincinnati in 1920.
Looking for better work the family moved to California following the American dream but instead they ended up picking peaches for a nickel a load. The move did allow young Leonard to pursue his love of music and he joined his cousin Stanley Slye in his first musical group “The Slye Brothers.” Leonard had learned to yodel in Ohio which was unusual in California and after The Slye Brothers band broke up in 1933; he brought that talent to several other western bands. The Rocky Mountaineers, International Cowboys, O-Bar-O Cowboys all led up to the formation of the Pioneer Trio in late 1933. When KFWB Radio host Harry Hall mistakenly called the group “The Sons of the Pioneers” history was made.
The group was instantly popular and in 1935 they records a song written by Bob Nolan entitled Tumbling Tumbleweeds for a Republic Pictures soundtrack. The film starred Gene Autry and before long the Sons of the Pioneers were on the fast track in Hollywood. Leonard also began doing bit parts in Gene’s films and changed his name to Dick Weston. Then during production of Under Western Stars Autry suddenly dropped out and the directors were in a panic to find a new singing cowboy.
Leonard got the job and he gave himself a new stage name, taking the name of a man he admired who had just been killed in a plane crash in Alaska. It would only be a few years until Republic Pictures and the rest of the world would know Leonard as the “King of the Cowboys.”
By now I think you all know I’m talking about Roy Rogers and yes he would have been 100 years old on November 5th. When he met Dale Evans, his third and last wife, he was already quite famous. They married at the Flying L Ranch in Oklahoma in 1947 after Roy’s second wife Arline died giving birth to their son.
The Roy Rogers show on NBC starred both Roy and Dale and ran from 1951 to 1957. This is where Trigger “the smartest horse in the movies”. Bullet, Roy’s German shepherd, Buttermilk Dale’s horse and all the other characters came to be famous.
I’ve interviewed Roy’s son Dusty several times in Branson and he told me his dad spent close to thirty years working with Trigger every day. He also told me his dad had two other Triggers, one for stunts and one for traveling as the original Trigger aged.
When the Old Man, as Roy called his horse, died in 1965 at the age of 33, Dusty said his dad just couldn’t part with his friend so he had Trigger mounted. When Bullet and Buttermilk died they were mounted as well.
You may have read that Trigger and Bullet the Wonder Dog were recently sold to RFD-TV to be the centerpieces of the Happy Trails tour crisscrossing the country. In celebration of Roy’s 100th birthday they will also appear on a float in the 2012 Tournament of Roses parade lead by 100 golden palominos and featuring Dusty and Dustin Rogers, singing Happy Trails. Roy was a parade rider for years and in 1977
He and Dale served as the Grand Marshals for the parade so this is a fitting honor for his birthday.
Roy made his last movie in 1976 but he continued to make guest appearances both in person and on the big screen until his death in 1998. Dale died three years later in 2001 and the pair are buried in Apple Valley side by side under a simple headstone.
Before closing this week I’d like to wish Will Roger’s grand niece Coke Myers who was born ninety- two years ago on November 12th a big happy birthday too! Till next week I’ll see ya down the road…