May 9, 2008
Back when they used to call it Country & Western music, Dale Evans was the most iconic female artist for the latter half of the genre. She’ll forever be known as the wife and partner of singing cowboy legend Roy Rogers, but she also made history with her songwriter’s pen.
One of the only women on this list who wasn’t known primarily as a recording star, Evans became a country legend in front of the camera. She began to pursue her musical dream at the age of fifteen. By then, she was already a divorced single parent, and she made ends meet by singing and playing piano on local radio stations in Memphis. One disc jockey suggested the stage name Dale Evans, and it became her official moniker. She worked her way up to Chicago, where she performed in front of big bands before becoming a staff singer for radio station WBBM.
It was there that talent scouts for Paramount Studios discovered her and arranged a screen test. She was up for a starring role in Holiday Inn, but didn’t get the job because her dancing skills couldn’t quite match those of the lead actor, Fred Astaire. Her agent took the screen test to 20th Century Fox instead, and they signed her to a one-year film contract. She would go on to small parts in several movies, and a stint on the nationwide radio broadcast Chase and Sanborn Show.
When the musical Oklahoma became a huge Broadway hit, Hollywood developed an interest in Westerns. Republic Studios decided that the genre would be perfect for their biggest star, Roy Rogers, and that Dale’s southern background would make her the ideal female co-star. They clicked instantly, both on and off screen. They went on to star in 28 films together, and became husband and wife.
In 1950, they entered the new television age, starting up their own production company and establishing the weekly series that would make them both icons, The Roy Rogers Show. Evans had always been a songwriter, and she penned what would become the closing theme to the show, “Happy Trails to You.” The show ran for most of the fifties, and helped establish a high demand for their public performances. She also wrote more western songs, including the classics “Hazy Mountains” and “I Wish I Never Met Sunshine.”
After the show ended, Evans would go on to several other successful ventures. Her songwriting career dovetailed with her blossoming Christianity, and she wrote the gospel standard “The Bible Tells Me So.” She recorded several gospel albums and wrote children’s books. She received no less than three stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and was inducted into the Cowgirls Hall of Fame in 1995. She passed away in 2001, three years after Rogers.
- “Happy Trails to You” (Roy Rogers & Dale Evans)
- “I Wish I Never Met Sunshine” (Gene Autry)
- “The Bible Tells Me So” (Various Artists)