Rogers and Evans Sing-A-Long
Part of a Series: Exploring the Roy Rogers and Dale Evans Archive The Autry Institute is currently processing the generously donated business archive of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans. At the beginning of each month, the Autry Libraries blog will feature highlights from the collection in anticipation of the processing’s completion.
The latest phase of processing the Roy Rogers and Dale Evans Archive involves rehousing and describing the extensive sheet music series. Although some of the sheet music consists of commercially published songs with eye-catching, colorful covers, the bulk of the sheet music is handwritten or less decorative and labeled “professional copy.” Regardless of its packaging, the sheet music has a lot to say about the presentation and maintenance of Roy and Dale’s image as professionals.
Though the song “Happy Trails” often conjures up images of Roy Rogers riding Trigger across the range, it was Dale Evans’s very own creation. Her early career was shaped by her interest and talent in songwriting, and much of the published sheet music in the Archive reflects her success as a songwriter. Beyond the iconic “Happy Trails,” Evans’s compositions also include lyrics for “Ave Maria” and words and music for “Buckeye Cowboy” and “Aha, San Antone.”
Many pieces of sheet music show signs of editing that tailored the songs for performance by Rogers and Evans. For example, the edits on a copy of Irving Berlin’s song “Anything You Can Do” from Annie Get Your Gun reflects the commitment of Roy and Dale to maintain their image while still singing popular standards. The lyrics printed on the sheet music read (with Roy singing as Frank and Dale as Annie), “Frank I can drink my li-quor fast-er than a flick-er Annie I can do it quick-er and get e-ven sick-er.” But such lyrics were censored, along with the word girdle, likely because they didn’t reflect Roy and Dale’s personas or their audience.
Instead of using the original lyrics, several extra lyrics were written in, probably to sub for the censored ones. Potentially offensive lines are replaced with activities that better fit the Rogers and Evans Western universe. Instead of singing about drinking, the line was edited for Roy to declare, “Anything you can rope I can rope faster, I can rope anything faster than you.”
The themes of the sheet music also reflect developments in the public personas Rogers and Evans projected. Later in their careers, Christianity played a more visibly dominant role in their television and public performances. Much of the later music reflects this and focuses on religious themes, as with Evans’s contribution of lyrics or music for “The Bible Tells Me So,” “Christmas Is Always,” and “Get to Know the Lord.”
On its own, each individual piece of sheet music in the Rogers and Evans Archive is a fascinating slice of musical history. Together, as part of the Archive’s sheet music series, these individual pieces tell an even bigger story about the musical choices that shaped the performances and public image of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans.