ROY  SPEAKS  #4  "Happy  Trails"  book  [1979]  with  Carlton  Stowers


The thundering success of "Under Western Star"s left little question that the familiar Republic eagle was going to fly quite nicely, even if Gene Autry never came to terms. He later did, of course, but the studio wasted little time getting four more Roy Rogers pictures into the movie houses in 1938.

Herb Yates, knowing a good thing when he saw it, instructed his director's to provide his newest singing cowboy with a strong cast of supporting actors and actresses, to see that the scripts were meaningful and that the songs were selected to best benefit the engaging style of his new star. So successful had been the previously unused twist of having a star play himself in his pictures (even the legendary Tom Mix never played a part which called for his real name to be used in the plot) that the studio made plans to keep it that way.

Roy's second starring role came in Billy the Kid Returns, an action-filled story which begins with the death of the legendary outlaw at the hands of Pat Garret and then switches to Roy Rogers who, by decree of the scriptwriters, had the misfortune of being the spitting image of the Kid. You can imagine the problems that causes an otherwise easygoing, clean-cut singing cowboy.

To add a touch of romance, Lynn Roberts was cast in the female lead, and again Gene Autry's old sidekick, Smiley Burnette, provided the comedy. The Rogers-Roberts combination was ideal, the Republic brain trust agreed, but the name of Roy's leading lady gave Yates problems. The story goes that Yates, an unabashed fan of the Broadway success of Rogers and Hart musicals, decreed that Lynn Roberts would henceforth be known as Mary Hart and that his own Western version of Rogers and Hart would be billed as the "Sweethearts of the West."

That lasted for six pictures. Then B-Westerns began to wear on Miss Hart, who decided to reclaim her old name and seek other avenues of artistic expression.

By 1939 Burnette was back playing fall guy to Gene Autry, and a search was on for a new sidekick for Rogers. The role, briefly filled by Raymond Hatton, eventually fell to George "Gabby" Hayes, who had finally managed to get out of a contract which called for him to play the role of Windy Halliday, an old codger teamed with Bill Boyd in the highly popular "Hopalong Cassidy" series. Deep personal conflicts had developed between Hayes and Boyd, however, and once released Hayes signed with Republic. He joined Smiley Burnette in a couple of Autry movies before the studio teamed him with Roy.

It would be the beginning of a fruitful professional relationship and, perhaps even more important, a longstanding friendship. They would remain close friends long after their movie partnership ended. Until his death at age eighty-four, Hayes was a frequent house guest of Roy and Dale.


Gabby was like a father—a buddy and a brother to me. People never realized what an exceptional actor he was. He was brn in Wellsville, New York, and was working vaudeville when he was just a kid. He and his wife, a dancer, married when they were sixteen or seventeen years old, and worked on the stage together for years before he ever came out to Hollywood.

The Gabby Hayes people saw on the screen and the real man weren't anything alike. 

I'll never forget the first time I saw him. He came driving onto the lot in this big Lincoln convertible, dressed to the teeth. In fact, he was easily one of the best dressed men in Hollywood. But he would go into his dressing room, take out his teeth, and put on his old western clothes and hat. He would come out walking stooped over and suddenly he was Gabby Hayes.

In his early film days, when he was working with people like John Wayne in his early Westerns, playing the heavy a lot, he was known simply as George Hayes and didn't have a trace of a chin whisker. But in his later years he really became quite proud of that bushy beard of his.

I remember once going on a fishing trip between pictures. I came back to find I had an urgent message to call Gabby as soon as possible. I called right away, and the first thing he said was, "Roy, there was almost a disaster while you were gone. For some dang crazy reason I got it into my mind to shave my beard off, and after I'd done it I almost died. I don't remember myself looking so ugly. But don't worry; things are getting better. It's growing out real fast. So don't get concerned if you don't see me for a while. I'm not even gonna stick my head out the door until the dang thing's grown back and I look myself again."

He was one of those actors who saw the need for a particular identity, and settled on the Gabby Hayes look. It made him a rich man before he finally called it a career.

There was only one critic to whom he paid any attention at all. As soon as one of our pictures would come out he would take his wife to see it. The next day, depending on her judgment, he would come around all excited or down in the dumps. "Maw really liked that one," he would say, or "Maw didn't really care much for that one."

He was always telling us about his angina problem but, for some reason, it never seemed to crop up until he had trouble with a scene or missed a cue or said his lines wrong. When that would happen—which was very seldom—he would grab his chest and say he had to rest for a few minutes. I'd always help him to a chair and say, "Take it easy for a few minutes, Pappy, and you'll be okay." The next thing you knew he was smiling and jumping around and ready to go.

When his wife died, Gabby died a little too. He just never had that old enthusiasm again. Once when I hadn't seen him for quite some time, I got word that he was pretty sick, so I drove over to his house. He was lying in bed—it was evident that he hadn't been eating—and he talked about how badly his angina was bothering him. At that point I honestly didn't know if he was really all that sick or just mourning Maw's death. So I got on him pretty good and told him to get up and get dressed because I wanted him to go out to the gun club and shoot a few skeet. He brightened up, smiled, and said, "Roy, I was beginning to think you never were gonna get here."

He became a very lonely man in the years after his wife died, though. I'll never forget one evening when he came over to have dinner with us. Sitting there at our table, looking around at our family, he just broke down and cried.

It didn't take me too many personal appearances, promoting the movies we were making, to learn one of the basic requirements a movie cowboy was duty-bound to fulfill before he would be completely accepted. William S. Hart, the pioneer Western star, had set the precedent when his pinto Fritz became almost as popular with audiences as he was. Hopalong had Topper, Tom Mix had Tony, Gene Autry had Champion, Ken Maynard would share billing with Tarzan, The Wonder Horse.

And I was renting Trigger at that time.

It was customary for most of the studios to lease horses for whatever picture they were shooting, and there were a number of stables in southern California turning a nice profit in the business. They had a large herd of stock horses which could be used for pulling wagons or standing around in corrals or serving as part of a wild horse herd. They had gentle horses for novice riders, more spirited ones for the actors able to handle them, and trained ones whose specialties went hand in glove with the tumbles and daredevil work of the stuntmen. The ones with the best breeding and classiest markings were leased for the benefit of the star of the picture. They were called cast horses.

ROY  BUYS  TRIGGER [The horse that would be called "Trigger"]

They went back to the rental stable after the filming was completed, so there I was making tours with no horse trailer in tow. At virtually every stop, people would ask, "Where's your horse, cowboy?" We rented my palomino from Hudkins, one of the stables Republic did considerable business with. So I drove out there one day and, after quite a bit of horse trading, bought him for twenty-five hundred dollars.

It was the beginning of a cowboy and horse partnership which lasted until the horse's death in 1965, at the age of thirty-three. 


His palomino registered name was Golden Cloud, but the Golden Cloud name went the way of Leonard Slye. I had already decided to name him Trigger.

I wanted Trigger to be able to run through a few simple tricks for a rodeo appearance in Baltimore scheduled just over a month away. So I got in touch with Glenn Randall, a former rodeo performer who had the reputation of being an expert horse trainer. Unlike so many trainers who reward horses with cubes of sugar after they have properly followed their cue, Glenn explained to me that a pat, a kind word, and perhaps an occasional carrot would get the trick done just as well. "And," he added, "once you've got the horse trained you don't have a beggar on your hands." He would later tell me he was amazed at the quickness with which Trigger learned.


I was learning a few things too. After I had more or less established myself as a Western actor, Herb Yates came to me with a script he wanted me to study. Republic was planning to shoot a movie entitled Front Page, and Yates wanted me to play the part of a cocky newspaper reporter. It just didn't make sense to me to suddenly switch my image just after I had begun to establish myself in Westerns. So we got into a pretty heated argument which resulted in my telling him in no uncertain terms that I wasn't going to do the part.

"In that case," he said, "maybe we'll just have to put some other cowboy on Trigger and let him do your next movie."

Like I said, Herb Yates always had an angle.

"You may get someone to do the next picture," I told him, "but he won't be riding Trigger. I bought him."

Once aware that the horse belonged to me, Mr. Yates signed Lloyd Nolan for the part in Front Page, and I went on about my business of being a singing cowboy.

Herb Yates never really gave up the idea of my working in other pictures, though, and we would go through the same old argument every time. I did do one in 1940 that was a far cry from being a B-Western, playing a hot-headed scalawag in a movie entitled Dark Command, directed by Raoul Walsh. Gabby, who also had a strong role in the movie, had a part in persuading me to do the picture. We were in pretty good company, with a cast that included John Wayne, Walter Pidgeon, Claire Trevor, and Marjorie Main.


I felt far more comfortable in the saddle, however, and was back to films like Red River Valley and Carson City Kid long before Dark Command premiered to good reviews and packed houses.

Trigger liked me back in Westerns, too, since he was being billed as the "Smartest Horse in the Movies" and was even being written into many of the scripts. In years to come, in fact, he would receive as many as two hundred pieces of fan mail a week, and would be insured for one hundred thousand dollars.


After my first couple of years in the movie business, Arlene and I were still counting our pennies, living in a little frame house, and wondering where the money we had heard movie stars were supposed to be making was. I had tried to supplement my income by opening a Western apparel store called The Hitching Post in Studio City, but about all that venture had proven was that as a businessman I made a pretty fair cowboy.


It was the end of 1939. I had made thirteen pictures, and was constantly worried about making it to the next paycheck. If, when I first met a man named Art Rush, I had known what he would be able to do for me in the years to come, I would probably have given him a big hug rather than a skeptical handshake.

My luck with agents had been holding—all bad—when I received a call at the studio from a man who identified himself as a specialist in talent management. He suggested it might be beneficial to us both if we could meet at lunch. At the time I had already had a couple of informal discussions with a representative from the William Morris Agency, and had pretty well decided to sign a contract with them whenever we could work out the details. But Art Rush persisted, so I suggested we meet at Eaton's, a restaurant just across the street from Republic.

I didn't see that I had anything to lose, since he promised to pick up the tab.

Art Rush was one of those people who arrived on the West Coast with his sleeves rolled up and wasted no time making a mark for himself. By age twenty-five, he was already the youngest executive in the RCA Victor organization, producing records for a virtual Who's Who in the music industry— Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, Arthur Rubinstein, Nelson Eddy, Jeanette MacDonald. You get the idea; there were no O-Bar-0 Cowboy castoffs in his stable.

In 1937 he founded and became managing director of Columbia Management of California. A subsidiary of the Columbia Broadcasting System, Columbia Management combined eight New York talent agencies and the CBS Artists Bureau into one of the world's largest talent agencies providing musical stars for motion pictures, radio, recordings, and concerts. At one point over two hundred of the nation's biggest names in music fell under Rush's direction.

And here he was trying to convince me he was interested in becoming my manager.

Art would later explain to me that, having tired of the corporate rat race, he had decided to go into business for himself, maintaining a small group of performers to represent. At the time he called me he was managing Nelson Eddy, a star at MGM and of the famous Chase and Sanborn radio show. Also, he had the Sportsman Quartet on the Jack Benny radio program. He explained to me that he needed a Western singer-actor to make the list complete. It occurred to me that he needed me about like he needed a hole in the head. I mean, there's a pretty wide stretch of ground between a Nelson Eddy and a one hundred fifty-dollar-a-week singing cowboy.

"I'm familiar with your work," he said, "and I like it. My intention is to not have any clients whose careers would be in conflict. I have no one remotely in your kind of work, and I understand you are looking for a manager . . ."

I explained to him that I had already spoken with the William Morris Agency and felt a moral obligation to go with them. To my surprise and relief, he pressed the issue no farther. Instead, we spent the rest of lunch just talking. Agent or no agent, he was one of the most likable people I had come in contact with in the business.

As we got ready to leave I reached in my pocket for a tip and asked, "Where are you from?"

"Ohio," he said. "I'm just a small-town boy. Even had a pony and horse myself when I was a kid. I can ride."

That did it. So much for William Morris and moral obligations. "Mr. Rush," I said, "we've got ourselves a deal."

To this day that handshake over a table at Eaton's is the closest thing to a contract Art Rush and I have ever had. It's been that way for thirty-eight years. In that time he not only has been the only manager I've ever had, but my best friend as well. Still, I've never let him forget that he wasn't altogether truthful on that day we shook hands for the first time.

To his credit, he did grow up in Ohio, but I would later find out he was actually brn in Pennsylvania.

"The first thing i had to do," Art Rush remembers, "was to find some way to begin making Roy some money. I couldn't believe it when I found out what the studio was paying him. Here was a young man who had already established himself as a star, yet was having a pretty hard time making ends meet.

"Since he had already signed a seven-year contract with Republic, there was nothing to do but see if we couldn't get him some public appearances other than the ones which were being set up through the studio. I went to Republic and they agreed.

"Then I got Roy a couple of half-hour transcription radio shows—a drama called Manhattan Cowboy—to be syndicated to radio stations across the country (the last we heard, they had been repeated ninety-three times on KFI in Los Angeles alone). Next I went to James Osborne, an investment counsellor who handled Nelson Eddy's affairs, and asked him to see what he could do about salvaging Roy's Hitching Post Western apparel store. James, I think, found it a little strange to be working on behalf of a client who appeared to have absolutely no need for an investment counsellor. 'Just give it a little time,' I told him."

The extra hundred dollars Roy earned from his efforts as the "Manhattan Cowboy" gave him reason to believe Rush was, indeed, the guiding spirit his career needed. When he launched into a series of personal appearances at rodeos across the country (Madison Square Garden being the first major one), earning fees he had never considered possible, he was certain of it.

In short order, the work that he was doing away from Republic Studio was earning him far more than his acting job. Still, he knew, his appearances in the movies were opening the doors on which Art Rush was so successfully knocking.

For Rush, it was exciting just to watch the eagerness and enthusiasm his new client brought to his work. His interest in Roy Rogers went far beyond the normal Hollywood client-agent relationship. "He was, and still is, the most genuine, down-to-earth person I've ever had the pleasure of knowing. Being associated with Roy and his family over the years has been the richest experience I could ever hope for."

The steady schedule of personal appearances was adding to an income now being watched over by James Osborne, a man who would eventually become Roy's personal business manager. Rush went to his client with good news.

"Roy," he said, "I think you're now in a position where you and Arlene can move out of that little frame house."

"How much do you think I can afford to spend?" Roy asked.

"Jim says you can afford something in the ten thousand dollar range."

Those were the words Roy had been wanting to hear for quite some time. He immediately began a search for the place he had in mind and finally located it in the San Fernando Valley. There was a small chicken ranch, complete with 3,500 chickens and a comfortable white bungalow on the property. He told a puzzled Jim Osborne to close the deal as quickly as possible.

Once all the papers were signed, Roy picked up Andy and Mattie Slye and drove them out to see it. As they stood on the porch, Roy handed his father the key to the front door. 'Welcome home, Dad," he said. "You're gonna be getting all the sunshine you want now, tending to all those chickens."

Inside Mattie found a large bolt of material. "I figured you would want to make your own curtains," her son said.

"He had never mentioned anything about it as far as I know," remembers Art Rush, "but buying that home for his folks was something he had planned for a long time. He didn't do it with a lot of fanfare, but he did it with class. The place hadn't taken all the ten thousand dollars I had told him he could afford, so he used the balance to fill a dozen sugar bowls with cash and put them in his mother's pantry where she would find them later.

"I knew right then that this man Roy Rogers was going to be a pleasure to do business with. He had purchased the ranch for his Mom and Dad before he bought a home for Arlene and himself "

Art made sure no grass grew under my feet. If I wasn't working on a picture or on the road promoting one or doing my radio show, he had me doing personal appearances somewhere.

In 1941, one of those trips took me several places. In Louisville, Kentucky, I was entertaining at an orphanage. A beautiful little girl about three years old hung onto my neck all the way through the place. When I got ready to leave, she was still clinging to me, and as the nurse took her away she was crying, "Take me with you, take me with you!"

I never got over that. Arlene and I had been wanting very much to begin a family, but things didn't seem to be working out. We had, in fact, already begun to talk some about adoption. So on my way home from Louisville, I stopped at the Republic Pictures Exchange in Dallas, Texas, and I asked Bob O'Donnell and Bill Underwood if they knew where I could adopt a child.

They said, "You came to the right place." They were on the Board of Directors of Hope Cottage, a home for orphaned and abandoned children. We arranged to meet Mrs. Carson that afternoon.

There were forty-two babies at the Cottage at that time. I started through and got to about the fifth bed, where a pair of little eyes looked right at me. I never had to look any further. I knew God had worked in a wondrous way and had given us our first child—a beautiful little girl with curly blonde hair and the prettiest brown eyes you ever saw. I told Mrs. Carson on the spot that I wanted the baby.

As soon as I returned to the hotel from Hope Cottage I called home. Arlene was just as excited as I was, asking if I was going to be able to bring her home with me right away. "No," I said, "we have to wait until she's four months old. And the people here have to check some things out; make sure we're going to provide her a good home."

We talked for some time, laying plans, laughing, and discussing what it was going to be like to have a child around the house. I was preparing to hang up when Arlene asked a question that had skipped her mind in the excitement: "Roy, what's her name?"

"Cheryl Darlene," I said. "Pretty, isn't it?"

"It most certainly is," she replied.

The people at Hope Cottage were cooperative, kind—and more thorough than bank examiners. They sent a representative to California to meet Arlene and look at our home—she stayed two weeks with us. We answered question after question, hoping to assure the representative that we were the right parents for little Cheryl, that we weren't the "motion picture type" people so many expect to find in Hollywood.

When Cheryl was four months old, Arlene and I drove to Dallas to pick her up. Anxious to play the proud father role, I suggested a stop in Lubbock, Texas, on the way home to say hello to Tim Spencer's wife Velma, who was there visiting her parents.

Velma, of course, was delighted about the adoption. Others, however, weren't. Republic Studio's publicity department threw up its hands and immediately predicted the death of Roy Rogers at the box office as soon as a couple of columnists §pt wind of the adoption. Until the news appeared that Cheryl had joined our family, no publicity had even mentioned the fact that I was married. For reasons I'll never be able to explain, it was the unwritten Code of Hollywood that stars—male and female alike—should be presented as unmarried and eligible, that otherwise nobody would buy tickets to see their movies. It was and is one of the business's most phoney notions.

The way I saw it, we had just gained another Roy Rogers fan.

With the release of Red River Valley, a film which saw Roy Rogers reunited with the Sons of the Pioneers, he had completed his twenty-sixth starring role. And while attendance at the nations movie houses remained good, there was a real-life action drama unfolding which was the primary concern of Americans everywhere.

The bombing of Pearl Harbor on a December Sunday in 1941 turned everyone's world upside down.

Like so many other members of the entertainment industry, Roy Rogers immediately began making appearances at rallies designed to help sell war bonds and build national morale. He worked tirelessly in behalf of the Red Cross and the Community War Fund Drives. During one tour of Texas for the Eighth Service Command, Roy and Trigger made one hundred thirty-six appearances in the course of a twenty-day period. The United States Department of the Treasury issued him a citation for his efforts, which had resulted in the sale of a million dollars' worth of War Bonds.

Despite his 1-A classification, he would never enter active service. Just as Art Rush was closing out his affairs and cancelling further bookings prior to his client's anticipated induction, word came that the age limit of servicemen had been lowered. Thus Roy remained stateside, appearing at benefits, urging his fans to help with scrap metal drives and the multitude of other civilian responsibilities the war had created.

Still there was time for him to continue his motion picture work. And to finally purchase a new home for himself and Arlene—a quiet six-acre spot in the San Fernando Valley which, at one time or another, had been owned by such entertainment world luminaries as W. C. Fields and Martha Raye.

When he signed the papers in 1942, the name he used for legal purposes was no longer Leonard Slye. It was in that year that he had his name legally changed to Roy Rogers. From that day on, only Mattie Slye would refer to him as Leonard. Mothers are that way about things.


One of the things I had really missed since coming to California was having some good hunting dogs around. As far back as I can remember, there had always been plenty of dogs around, ready to spend the night chasing foxes or treeing raccoons at the drop of a whistle. So one of the first things I did when we moved was get in touch with some people I knew to be avid hunters and start rounding up some dogs. It wasn't hard. Counting the sizable number of strays that wandered up looking for a handout and wound up staying, the number grew to almost twenty before I knew it.

They would be far less trouble than the young man who was to become my number-one hunting partner.

Aside from the people directly associated with the motion picture business, I doubt that you could find many people who can tell you who Carl Switzer was. On the other hand, ask if they are familiar with Alfalfa, the gangly, freckle-faced kid in the "Our Gang" and "Little Rascals" comedies, and it would probably be hard to find anyone who didn't know who he was.

Few people, in fact, even called him Carl. To everyone he was Alphie. When I met him he was sixteen or seventeen, his days as a child star behind him. But, believe me when I tell you he was still a rascal. Lovable, friendly, a great guy to be around—when you weren't seriously considering wringing his neck.

For instance: There was the time he came to me all excited about a bear hunt he had organized. A sizable group of hunters had, he explained, agreed to pay him a hundred dollars apiece if he would lead their expedition and furnish the dogs. "Roy," he said, "I can make a killing on this deal if you'll loan me your dogs."

Not only did I agree to loan him the dogs; I suggested he take my Jeep. Somewhere along the way Alphie met a girl, fell madly in love (something he did with great regularity), and found it necessary to sell not only my Jeep but my best lead dog to finance his romance. It was a while before Alphie came around after that.

But, as always, he eventually did, apologizing profusely, and I wound up telling him it was okay. Like I said, he was one of my best hunting buddies.

Like so many highly successful child actors who were supposed to come into big money when they turned twenty-one, Alphie found out when the time finally came that the money was already gone. He had quite a few small parts in movies during his adult years, and even did a couple of episodes of the television show Dale and I later did. But he was never happy for any length of time. Except when we were out hunting. That, to him, was the greatest thing in the world.

We were friends and hunting companions for fifteen years before he died in 1959, shot to death in an argument over thirty dollars he thought some guy owed him for taking care of his dogs. I guess you could say he was like a knot-headed kid you love in spite of his knot-headedness. There was just no way to not like him, no way to stay mad at him.

I was out of town when he died. To this day I can't help but wonder if maybe I'd been around to talk to him before he barged into that man's house and got himself killed for a lousy thirty dollars, things might have turned out differently. Every now and then, when I get the hunting urge, I miss oLl' Alphie. Thirty dollars. Such a waste.

There must have been something about the San Fernando Valley air that agreed with Arlene. Just before Trigger and I were to leave for New York to take part in a victory parade connected with the war effort, I was telling her that the city of New York had waived a longstanding no-horse regulation so I could ride Trigger right between the cars of the governor and mayor.


In retrospect, it was pretty mild news compared to hers. She was, at long last, pregnant. On April 18, 1943, the Rogers family grew to include a sister for Cheryl. With the arrival of Linda Lou, I was outnumbered by females three-to-one.

Considering they were three of the best-looking women in Hollywood, however, I had absolutely no complaints.