Dale Evans Biography

Along The Navajo Trail
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Lucille Wood Smith, 31 October 1912, Uvalde, Texas, USA, d. 7 February 2001, Apple Valley, California, USA. Her name was changed to Frances Octavia during her childhood, which was spent in Texas and Arkansas. Smith’s first 15 years included some major traumas, having a nervous breakdown at 11, being married at 14 (by lying about her age), becoming a mother at 15, and divorced at 17. After unsuccessfully seeking a singing career in Chicago and Memphis (with a new husband and baby to look after), she moved to WHAS Louisville. Although she auditioned as Marion Lee, she found herself named Dale Evans by the station manager and in spite of her own reservations, the name stuck. She divorced her second husband before marrying pianist Robert Dale Butts from WHAS. Still harbouring aspirations towards a singing career, she returned to Chicago as a jazz singer. She toured the Midwest as vocalist with an orchestra and sang with Fats Waller. Eventually, owing to a combination of circumstances, she was persuaded to try her luck in films. Her agent promoted her as being 21, and when her 13-year-old son joined her, he was quickly introduced as her kid brother. After many problems, she was chosen to play the lead in a college musical calledCampus In The Clouds. When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, America’s subsequent involvement in World War II saw the ‘epic’ shelved. She won a few small roles but suffered by being compared to Betty Grable. Eventually, after further problems, she met up with a popular young singing cowboy, Roy Rogers on the set of The Cowboy And The Senorita. Originally, Evans had no intention of playing roles in B-westerns but fate decreed otherwise and she became the leading lady to Rogers’ ‘King Of The Cowboys’ - she even had her own horse, Buttermilk, to match his famous mount Trigger. In 1946, Rogers’ first wife died and Evans divorced Butts. The couple married on 31 December 1947, and from that point Evans’ film and music career ran in parallel with that of her husband. During the 50s, most of the couple’s time was devoted to Rogers’ highly popular television show. Evans wrote the couple’s famous theme song, ‘Happy Trails’, and was also instrumental in introducing Rogers to God. Her faith was instrumental in helping her cope with the death of three children before adulthood, and in later years she wrote a number of inspirational books. Her own television and recording work in later years was also in the gospel field. Evans died of congestive heart failure in February 2001, almost three years after her beloved husband.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.