Film Music Review
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Cowboy Songs Corral

This is another in the series celebrating one singer


"Happy Trails"

A Centennial Tribute to Roy Rogers

On July 6, 1998, we lost another great B-western star of the past. He was known as "King of the Cowboys" and during his long career he made many movies and had a popular TV show from 1951 to 1957.

Like William Boyd (Hopalong Cassidy), Roy Rogers was born in Ohio. Roy was born as Leonard Slye in Cincinnati on November 5, 1911. After temperantly calling himself Dick Weston and forming the singing group, Sons of the Pioneers (with Bob Nolan and Tim Spencer), Leonard went to Hollywood to try and get into movies.

In 1937, he signed as a $75 a week actor at Republic Studio. Between the 1930s and 1950s, he made 87 western movies.

Along with Gene Autry, Roy was the most famous of all singing cowboys.

In 1950, his wife (Dale Evans) noticed that Roy signed his name with two words: "Happy Trails." Dale in only one afternoon wrote a song based on those words and it became Roy's theme song for his TV show.

But how many people know that one of his first recorded songs was the first western song to be nominated for an Oscar? It was also his first starring role. This song was featured in two films starring Roy Rogers...


The Films

Under Western Stars


Roy Rogers began his movie career at Republic Pictures as a supporting character, including several in the Gene Autry series: THE OLD CORRAL (1936) and THE OLD BARN DANCE (1938).

In 1938, because of dispute by Gene Autry, Republic gave Roy Rogers the opportunity to star for his first western movie. The film was titled UNDER WESTERN STARS, a topical story in the 1930s about the dust storms out West which resulted from lack of water.

Ten years later after his first starring role, Roy Rogers celebrated his 10th anniversary in films with a similar titled feature: UNDER CALIFORNIA STARS. In that film he sang the same hit song as in his first feature in 1938. Do you know the song title?



The Song

In UNDER WESTERN STARS (1938) there are 7 songs, 4 of them sung by Roy Rogers. The song that had the most popularity had a one word title,

"Dust" -- music & lyrics by Johnny Marvin

This song was the first one from a B-western to be nominated for an Oscar. But the winner that year was "Thanks For The Memory" from THE BIG BROADCAST OF 1937, sung by Bob Hope and Shirley Ross, and also in that film was Grace Bradley, who was then married to William Boyd of Hopalong Cassidy fame.

The only other song from a B-western to be Oscar-nominated was "Be Honest With Me" from RIDIN' ON A RAINBOW (1941), sung and co-written by Gene Autry.

In the years that followed, "Dust" has been credited to Gene Autry as co-writer. That's because Gene had also recorded this song and liked it. So he bought the rights to the song and gave himself co-writer credit with Marvin. Gene often bought songs and put his name on them.

"Dust" was recorded by Roy Rogers as a Vocalion single in March of 1938. That is the best version of the song. The song was also recorded by other singers including Gene Autry and Jimmy Wakely.

Nine years later, Roy sang the song again, this time accompanied by the Sons of the Pioneers. They were featured on March 22, 1947 on a radio program, "Saturday Night Roundup." It is available on this highly recommended 3 CD Set from Rhino, with deluxe illustrated booklet:


Happy Trails: The Roy Rogers Collection, 1937-1990

The song is available as a download from at this link:


Read more about UNDER WESTERN STARS at

Internet Movie Dababase (Imdb)



UNDER WESTERN STARS is also available on this DVD
from Alpha Home Entertainment:

Under Western Stars



Film Stars and Singing Cowboys

Read these multimedia books by Roger Lee Hall:

"Following the Stars": Music and Memories of Hopalong Cassidy --songs and scores from Hopalong Cassidy films plus memories from the young fan who met Hopalong Cassidy in 1950. Includes extra pictures and music files.

"Free As The Breeze" - Confessions of a Struggling Songwriter --
-- featuring a song poll of singing cowboys and memories of Hopalong Cassidy, Gene Autry, Tex Ritter, and Roy Rogers. Also original song lyrics, poems and music files.

For other information, click on this link:

Cowboy Songs Corral

Tune Week

Pick some of your favorite Roy Rogers or other western singers for the annual week known as Carry A Tune Week.


National Carry A Tune Week





AMP Links

Cowboy Songs Corral

"Hoppy, Gene and Me"

Hopalong Cassidy Music

"Back in the Saddle Again" - A Centennial Tribute to Gene Autry

"Do Not Forsake Me (High Noon)" - Song and Score

"The Last Roundup" -- A Tribute to Songwriter Billy Hill

"On the Banks of the Sunny San Juan" -- A Centennial Tribute to Eddie Dean

"River of No Return" -- A Centennial Tribute to Ken Darby

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