Roy Rogers, born Leonard Franklin Slye (November 5, 1911 – July 6, 1998), was an American singer and cowboy actor, one of the most heavily marketed and merchandised stars of his era, as well as being the namesake of the Roy Rogers Restaurants franchised chain. He and his wife Dale Evans, his golden Palomino, Trigger, and his German Shepherd Dog, Bullet, were featured in more than 100 movies and The Roy Rogers Show. The show ran on radio for nine years before moving to television from 1951 through 1957. His productions usually featured a sidekick, often either Pat Brady (who drove a Jeep called "Nellybelle"), Andy Devine, or the crotchety George "Gabby" Hayes. Rogers's nickname was "King of the Cowboys". Evans's nickname was "Queen of the West."
Leonard Franklin Slye was born to Andrew ("Andy") and Mattie (Womack) Slye in Cincinatti, Ohio, where his family lived in a tenement building on 2nd Street. (Riverfont Stadium was constructed at this location in 1970 and Leonard would later joke that he had been born at second base.) Dissatisfied with his job and city life, Andy Slye and his brother Will built a 12-by-50-foot houseboat from salvage lumber, and, in July 1912, the Slye family floated up the Ohio River towards Portsmouth, Ohio. Desiring a more stable existence in Portsmouth, the Slyes purchased land on which to build a home, but the flood of 1913 allowed them to move the houseboat to their property and continue living in it on dry land.
Leonard Slye moved to California to become a singer. After four years of little success, he formed The Sons of the Pioneers with Bob Nolan and Tim Spencer, a Western Cowboy Musical group, in 1934. The group hit it big with songs like "Cool Water" and "Tumbling Tumbleweeds". From his first film appearance in 1935, he worked steadily in Western films, including a large supporting role as a singing cowboy while still billed as "Leonard Slye" in a Gene Autry movie. In 1938, when Autry temporarily walked out on his movie contract, Slye was immediately rechristened "Roy Rogers." Slye's stage name was suggested by Republic Picture's staff after Will Rogers and the shortening of Leroy. and assigned the lead in Under Western Stars. Rogers became a matinee idol and American legend. A competitor for Gene Autry as the nation's favorite singing Cowboy was suddenly born. In addition to his own movies, Rogers played a supporting role in the John Wayne classic Dark Command (1940). Rogers became a major box office attraction.