He was the king of the singing cowboys, and when Roy Rogers died, a little bit of the music died with him. A show was canceled in Branson, there was gloom in Nashville, and fans flocked to a museum in California's high desert.
Rogers' old singing group, the Sons of the Pioneers, canceled Monday's show after hearing of their founder's death."We decided with respect to Roy it would be too tough to perform right now," Dale Warren, the group's leader, said quietly from the Braschler Theatre in Branson, his voice thick with emotion. "It's a sad day for all of us, for all of America."
Rogers was a pioneering singing cowboy who accented the western in what used to be called country and western music.
"He and Gene Autry WERE the cowboy sound. They were on the side of angels, Americanism, good wins over evil," said Ronnie Pugh, a historian with the Country Music Foundation, which runs the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville.
Rogers connected the early days of country with today's mega-stars. One of his standards was a Johnny Mercer tune - "I'm an Old Cowhand (From the Rio Grande)." In 1991, he recorded a nostalgia-filled album, "Tribute," with country stars Willie Nelson, Randy Travis, Clint Black, Marty Stuart and others.
"In a world full of bad guys, the good ones really shine. We just lost the best good guy of them all," Stuart said.
Dale Evans, Rogers' wife and singing partner for a half-century, was at home at the time of his death Monday. "What a blessing to have shared my life together with him for almost 51 years," she said.
A memorial service was planned Saturday at the Church of the Valley in Apple Valley.