Though she is best remembered as America's favorite cowgirl, Dale Evans spent her early years as a big band singer. Born Lucille Wood Smith in Uvalde, Texas, her name was changed at an early age to Frances Octavia Smith. Married at 14 and a mother at 15, she was divorced at 17 (some sources say widowed).
Intent on a musical career she moved to Memphis and worked at an insurance company while taking occasional radio singing jobs. After another unhappy marriage she moved to Louisville and became a popular singer on local radio. In 1936 she moved to Dallas and again found local success as a radio singer. She married a third time and moved to Chicago, where she began to attract increasing attention from both radio audiences and film industry executives. There she took the stage name Dale Evans and was hired as a vocalist by bandleader Anson Weeks.
In the early 1940s she signed with Twentieth Century Fox and made a few, small film appearances before being cast as leading lady to rising cowboy star Roy Rogers. In 1946 Rogers' wife died. Evans' marriage ended about the same time, and a year later they were married. Their marriage was dogged by tragedy, including the loss of three children before adulthood. She and Rogers starred on their own television programs during the 1950s and 1960s. She also wrote their famous theme song, ''Happy Trails.'' Dale Evans died from congestive heart failure on February 7, 2001.