The Cowpoke's Life's for Me; The Brands of Herb Jeffries and Roy Rogers

by cowboylands

My lucky horseshoe used to be my sister’s horse’s cast-off shoe, bent and scarred silver with use. Now I use Roy Rogers’s horseshoe. It’s stamped “Lucky Horseshoe,” and with Roy Roger’s name and Trigger’s for good measure. Yes, I am a lucky, lucky bucko.

The singing cowboy is a unique kind of hero in the pantheon of western heroes. Dressed to the nines in colorful satin shirts (and this before the age of disco), a singing cowgirl or cowboy warbled tunes from the back of an obedient yet spirited horse.

They drifted through life in a way that’s either happy-go-lucky or, well, as rootless as a tumblin’ tumbleweed. They had a job—somewhere—but late mortgage payments or lack of health insurance  didn’t ever get in the way of him or her singing the praises of winding trails, home sweet home, and kisses as sweet as prairie roses.

Handsome and clean-shaven, the singing cowboy’s ability to defeat evil-doers with his wits and a fast pair of fists made him the idol of American youth. Unschooled but wise, living an “unspoiled” life on the land, the singing cowboy stood as an example of patriotism, democracy, and awesome trick riding.

A singing cowboy like Leonard Slye’s Roy Rogers was not only King of the Cowboys but King of P.R. Every pin found in a cereal box that his Roy Roger’s cheerful grin on it had a copyright–for R.R. Toys, restaurants, and more were branded with his name. So he was doubly the idol of American youth–everyone’s dream is also to make it big.

Roy Rogers became a household name, but many households also venerated the name of Herb Jeffries, the “Bronze Buckaroo.” Swoon-worthy, a former singer with Duke Ellington, and multiracial (Ethiopian/French Canadian/Irish/Italian), he crooned about the Cowboy Way with silvery tones. He’s as decorated as any western hero: a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, an inductee of the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, and most awesomely, still alive and singing, surrounded in SoCal with great-great-grandkids. Jeffries’s voice is so beautiful in the video below your heart will ache.  Ah, the life of a silver-screen cowboy!


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