“Cowgirl’ is an attitude really. A pioneer spirit, a special American brand of courage. The cowgirl faces life head-on, lives by her own lights, and makes no excuses. Cowgirls take stands; they speak up. They defend things they hold dear.”
~ Dale Evans
There are few well known western songs left today; Back In the Saddle Again, Don’t Fence Me In, Home On the Range might be the only ones many people can still sing at least a line or two. A few more maybe have name recognition like Tumbling Tumbleweeds, Cool Water, Red River Valley, Streets of Laredo, High Noon. Mostly though, the sun has set on the western song which feels like such a loss. In our hurry to go uptown we set aside these old bunkhouse blues to be forgotten and now when the occasion happens to dust them off they end up seeming a bit hokey and we wonder how anyone took those rhinestoned singers seriously with their lilting melodies and close harmony prairie croons.
It’s all the more outstanding then to have written one of the few western songs still widely known, still able to be sung. In 1950 Dale Evans had been married to Roy Rogers for three years and thought he needed a song that would call up the image of him riding off into the sunset on his horse Trigger. Ferde Grofe’s Grand Canyon Suite was a favorite and she used the passage On the Trail with it’s clip clopping as her musical inspiration.
Ferde Grofe’s Grand Canyon Suite: On the Trail, Aaron Copland
The words came easy when she looked at an autographed photo of Roy with his signature line “Many Happy Trails” written across it. Roy had picked up the line from a song cowboy singer and co-movie star Foy Willing had written for their movie Spoilers on the Plains, but Dale wrote a new song using the phrase, a simple song of sweet goodbye and longing and a gentle reminder that it’s how you ride the trail that matters in this world. The song never charted, was never a hit, but Roy and Dale sang it at the end of their western radio and TV show after that and you’d be hard pressed to find a more enduring American tune.
Two years after Roy hung up his spurs Dale followed in February 2001. She would have turned 99 today. Happy trails.
Happy Trails, Roy Rogers & Dale Evans
Post Script ~ Every childhood friendship has conflict. Superman or Batman, Ponch or John, John or Paul, N’ Sync or Backstreet Boys, well you get the point. My Mother was a Roy Rogers fan and her best friend liked Gene Autry. Somehow, as hard as it is to believe with such a potential riff, they still remain friends.
And talk about Happy Trails being an enduring classic:
Happy Trails, Van Halen