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News Archive: 2010

Roy Rogers' First Guitar
Posted July 23, 2010

The Roy Rogers and Dale Evans collections at the Autry National Center continue to grow with the latest addition of Roy Rogers's first guitar. This historic guitar was purchased at the recent Sotheby's auction and will arrive at the museum later this summer.

The Autry National Center Acquires Roy Rogers's First Guitar

Guitar that Sparked Rogers' Illustrious Career Now Part of the New Home of the Roy Rogers and Dale Evans Archive

Los Angeles, CA (July 22, 2010) — The Autry National Center is proud to announce the acquisition of "The King of the Cowboys," Roy Rogers's first guitar. This acquisition is made possible by Lora and Bob Sandroni, with additional support provided by Stuart Simon and Jo-Carole and Gary M. Zechel. The early 20th century acoustic guitar made by Aida Mandolins and Guitars was part of the Roy Rogers and Dale Evans Museum Collection auctioned at Christie's Auction House in New York City on July 14–15, 2010.

The guitar that started Roy Rogers's singing career was purchased by Rogers in 1929 when he was still known as Leonard Slye. He bought his guitar for $20 at a second-hand shop in Cincinnati, Ohio, before making his way to California. The instrument and case include a small plaque that reads, "This is your life, Roy Rogers, Jan. 14, 1953 ‘Young Leonard Slye bought this guitar for $20. He learned to play it and to sing—and so became Roy Rogers, America's most beloved cowboy star.'" The guitar was presented to Rogers on the 1953 episode of Ralph Edwards's This Is Your Life television program.

Roy Rogers

Roy Rogers, circa 1930s–1950s, gelatin silver print. Donated in honor of Irving Jacobs; photograph by Trina Mitchum. Museum of the American West, Autry National Center; 93.186.26

The guitar joins other Rogers objects in the Autry's permanent collection. These include the newly acquired Roy Rogers and Dale Evans Archive, which contains key artifacts representing the duo's entertainment career of more than 50 years. These items will be catalogued, conserved, and digitized, allowing greater access to researchers and the general public through exhibitions and the Autry's two online databases: the library catalog, and Collections Online, the digital database.

"The Autry is proud to add this important guitar, which sparked the illustrious career of Roy Rogers, to our collection. We take great pride in being the new home of the Roy Rogers and Dale Evans Archive, and are reaching out to their fans to help us preserve this collection," said John Gray, President and CEO of the Autry. Contributions can be sent to Karen Fisher at the Autry National Center, 4700 Western Heritage Way, Los Angeles, CA 90027. She may also be reached at 323.667.2000, ext. 243, and

Artifacts relating to Roy and Dale from the museum's permanent collection are currently on display in the Imagination Gallery and the museum lobby. The highlight of the collection is the one-of-a-kind plastic saddle Roy rode aboard his horse, Trigger, as Marshal of the 1952 Tournament of Roses Parade. The saddle is presently on display along with Roy's parade ribbons in the museum lobby in conjunction with the release of the United States Postal Service's "Cowboys of the Silver Screen" stamp series. Over the next few years, the Roy Rogers and Dale Evans Archive will be used to help develop the Golden Age of Television Westerns exhibition at the Autry, which will examine the cultural and social history of television Westerns.

To view a clip of Roy Rogers and this guitar, visit the Autry National Center's website here.

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