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date: 14 October 2019

Rogers, Roylocked

(05 November 1911–06 July 1998)
  • Thomas W. Collins Jr.

Extract

Rogers, Roy (05 November 1911–06 July 1998), country singer and actor, was born Leonard Frank Sly in Cincinnati, Ohio, the son of Andrew Sly, a shoe-factory worker, and Mattie Womack Sly, who had become disabled after being stricken by polio. (During the early 1930s he began to use the name Leonard Franklin Slye, although no documentation has been found showing a legal name change.) When Leonard was an infant, his father built a makeshift houseboat on which the family lived on the Ohio River for approximately eight years; they spent much of that time moored near Portsmouth, Ohio. In 1919 they settled on a small farm in Duck Run, Ohio. His father continued to work in Portsmouth and lived away from home for two weeks at a time, so eight-year-old Leonard became responsible for running the farm and hunting with a slingshot in order to feed his mother and three sisters. He later recalled that “for the Slye family, about the most fun we could have together was singing. My whole family was musical. Pop played mandolin and mother played guitar, and my sisters and I all joined in” (Rogers and Evans, p. 25). He and his mother were also accomplished yodelers, using yodels as a form of communication: for example, when his mother wanted to call him in from the fields for dinner, she would use one type of yodel, and if a storm was approaching he would use another yodel as a warning. He learned to play mandolin as a boy and became skilled at calling square dances. Although his ambition was to become a dentist, he was forced to drop out of high school after two years because of financial difficulties. His family then moved back to Cincinnati, where he took a factory job at the U.S. Shoe Company alongside his father....

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