A hero to many young baby boomers, singing cowboy Roy Rogers died at the age of 86. Elizabeth Farnsworth leads a discussion on his life and impact on America's youth.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Roy Rogers, who died today at age 86, was the number one western star at the box office between 1943 and '54, according to a magazine poll of theater operators at the time. Rogers was also a television star. His Roy Rogers show ran for 100 episodes in the 1950's. And he helped found Sons of the Pioneers, whose recording songs like "Tumbling Tumbleweeds" and "Cool Water" remain country western favorites. Here he is with his wife, Dale Evans in the 1950 movie "Trigger Junior."
ROY ROGERS AND DALE EVANS: (singing) May the Good Lord take a likin' to you-
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: For more we're joined by Michael Stern, who helped Roy Rogers and Dale Evans write their autobiography "Happy Trails, Our Life Together," and by Bill Malone, a retired Professor of History at Tulane University and author of "Singing Cowboys and Musical Mountaineers." Michael Stern, how did Roy Rogers become such a big star?
MICHAEL STERN, Biographer: It wasn't by design. As a young child, growing up in extreme poverty, in Duck Run, Ohio. Roy's dream, his fondest wish as a boy was to become a dentist. That didn't happen, but he went West, as so many people did during the Great Depression. He picked fruit. He started singing with the Sons of the Pioneers. Movies went to sound, and suddenly they realized that westerns, which were all action and very little talk, if you added music to them, were a whole new wonderful genre, and Roy was perfectly suited for this new genre, and that's how he got into the movies in the first place.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And Bill Malone, he was actually quite a good musician, wasn't he? It wasn't just a sideline.
BILL MALONE, Historian/Author: Well, he was a wonderful singer. In fact, I think he's about the best yodeler that we've ever had in American popular culture. He became such a large presence in American popular entertainment that I think it was easy to forget just how good a musician he was.
And he-of course, as a musician, I think he's helped to inspire this whole singing cowboy vogue that still is very much with us. You know, fifteen or twenty years ago if anybody had asked me if we would still be listening to singing cowboys today in 1998, I would have said certainly not. But they're still very much with us. There are just a tremendous number of people out there singing and yodeling cowboy songs, and they all-you know-can trace their lineage right back to Roy Rogers and Gene Autry.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Michael Stern, you worked with him when you were writing-helping him and Dale Evans write their autobiography. What was he like?
MICHAEL STERN: The great thing about Roy Rogers is that in person he was very much like the man on the screen. There was that exuberance, that zest for life, that joy at riding and shooting and being outdoors. To listen to Roy talk about his adventures with Trigger or the time he proposed to Dale, which, by the way, he did while he was riding Trigger, and she was riding her horse, is to hear somebody who had a kind of zest for life that was truly boyish, and I think that was part of his charm as king of the cowboys in all the movies, was that he had such a joy in living, such a sense of adv