Along with Gene Autry, Roy Rogers (1911-1998) was one of the all-time great singing cowboy movie stars. Although his music might seem too corny for young, hip, alt-country snob-types to get into, Rogers is a twangstar to be reckoned with. Roy Rogers was Mr. Showbiz back in the 1940s and '50s, a one-man entertainment industry, with dozens of movies, a weekly television show, a monthly comic book, and product endorsements out the wazoo. Equally iconic was his wife and co-star Dale Evans, as well as sidekicks such as Gabby Hayes and of course his old pal, Trigger the horse. Rogers is one of those, the-more-I-listen, the-more-I-like great old artists, a delightfully corny nostalgia trip every time I put him on. You might dig it, too!
Roy Rogers "Happy Trails" (Box Set) (Rhino, 1999)
Surper-groovy! As with Rhino's Gene Autry box, this 3-CD collection reveals the depth of Rogers' mainstream pop sensibility -- in the middle of a schmaltzy version of "Pistol Packin' Mama," the orchestra bursts in with a full-on Tommy Dorsey-style swing arrangement. Dale Evans alternates between a Jo Stafford-style fake-hick twang and gorgeous, sotto voce Peggy Lee pop balladry. Rogers himself had a natural, easy delivery which is comparable to the suave sincerity of fellow icon, Bing Crosby, and he could croon or call a square dance with equal aplomb. Add to this the masterful harmonies and instrumentation of the Sons of The Pioneers (who accompanied Rogers on most of his best performances), and it's hard to go wrong. More than anything else, though, this compilation of big hits, rehearsal outtakes, and broadcast transcriptions brings back the incredible strengths of his ensemble cast. Even the skits with Gabby Hayes, although blatant schtick, are still vivid and enjoyable, perhaps even because it's so obvious and plain. This is the height of show biz slick, but way back when, before all the morphs, quick edits and bells and whistles of today. And it's a lot of fun. Plus, the typically lavish Rhino packaging makes this a real class act.
Roy Rogers "Country Music Hall Of Fame Series" (MCA, 1992)
A beautiful set of "western" songs -- sentimental pop material from old cowboy films. Rogers has a fine voice, and joined here by Bob Nolan and the Sons of the Pioneers, he's got it made. The band is really what makes these tracks wonderful, with the perfect balance of sincerity and polish.
Roy Rogers "Columbia Historic Edition" (Columbia, 1984) (LP)
Roy Rogers "The Best Of Roy Rogers" (Curb, 1990)
Roy Rogers "Songs Of The Old West" (MCA, 1998)
Roy Rogers "The King Of Cowboys" (ASV Living Era, 1999)
Roy Rogers "King Of The Singing Cowboys" (Collector's Choice, 2004)
Because they performed so frequently on radio and in the movies, the silver screen "singing cowboys" all have a wealth of live material for reissue labels to plow through. This disc is an especially fine, fun selection of Roy Rogers material from 1943-44 (with a couple of later tunes from the 1954 Roy Rogers Show) Laced in with all the cowpoke corn is some might fine, mighty jazzy musicianship, giving these songs a special little bounce that makes 'em as irresistible today as they were decades ago. If you haven't checked Roy Rogers out yet because you think he's hokey and square... well, that's an easy mistake to make. But if you want to hear "western" pop music at its best, this disc is a fine place to start.
Roy Rogers "A Man And His Song" (BACM, 2005)
Roy Rogers "Hazy Mountains" (BACM, 2005)
With Dale Evans...
Roy Rogers "A Lonely Ranger Am I" (BACM, 2005)
Roy Rogers & Dale Evans "Sweet Hour Of Prayer" (RCA, 1957) (LP)
Roy Rogers & Dale Evans "Song Wagon" (Golden Records, 1958)
Reissued as 16 Great Songs Of The Old West.
Roy Rogers & Dale Evans "Jesus Loves Me" (RCA, 1959) (LP)
Roy Rogers "The Bible Tells Me So" (Capitol, 1962) (LP)
Roy Rogers & Dale Evans "Peter Cottontail" (Golden, 1962)
One of many, many children's records
Roy Rogers "The Lore Of The West And Favorite Western Songs For Growing Boys And Girls" (RCA, 1966)
Roy Rogers "Christmas Is Always" (Capitol, 1967) (LP)
Roy Rogers "A Man From Duck Run" (Capitol, 1970)
I gotta say, for a guy like Roy Rogers, whose western-themed glory days were long behind him, and who had long since retreated into the country gospel ghetto, his early 1970s push towards the top of the charts was petty impressive. Okay, so most of these songs are pretty sluggish, but "Lovenworth," his last big hit (#12 in '71) was a fun little song, and the sunshine-country arrangements on many of these tracks are kind of a hoot. Country Side features covers of other folks' hits -- "Okie From Muskogee," "Washed My Hands In The Morning Dew," etc. -- and it's kind of a mixed bag. Yeah, there's plenty of better country stuff out there you could listen to instead of this, but you still gotta give Roy credit for trying... and for doing as well as he did!
The Country Side Of Roy Rogers" (Capitol, 1971)
Roy Rogers "Take A Little Love And Pass It On" (Capitol, 1972) (LP)
Roy Rogers & Dale Evans "In The Sweet By And By" (Word, 1973) (LP)
Roy Rogers "The Best Of Roy Rogers" (RCA-Camden, 1975)
Roy Rogers "Happy Trails To You" (20th Century Fox, 1975) (LP)
Roy Rogers & Dale Evans "The Good Life" (Word, 1975) (LP)
Roy Rogers/Various Artists "ROY ROGERS TRIBUTE" (RCA, 1991)
Hick Music Index