Prairie Rose Chuckwagon

(Frank) Today on Around Kansas, Deb is in Benton, Kansas, at the Prairie Rose Chuckwagon with special guests Roy Rogers Jr., JW Johnson and Orin Friesen. Find out how this gem nestled in Butler County is keeping the Cowboy Heritage alive through music, food and fun.

Closed Captioning Brought to you by the Kansas Soybean Commission. The Soybean Checkoff, Progress Powered by Kansas Farmers.

(Deb) I am thrilled to pieces to have with me today Roy Rogers, Jr., Dusty. Dusty great to have you with us. (Dusty) Thank you so much. It’s a pleasure to be with you all today. (Deb) We’re here at the Prairie Rose Chuckwagon and this is the fourth time that Dusty’s been here to perform. So, say something about what a great place this is. (Dusty) Well, it is. The first time I’d seen it, I’d come out here years ago and just flew out to see it because I was talking about, we were talking about bringing an old museum here. And I got to play, I think it was the next year; I played with my band from Branson. And we came out and played and it’s just been great. And the thing I love about it is that it kind of brings back that early Kansas history for young people. Young people today they really don’t have much of an interest in history, you know which a lot of us older folks do. And so I’m glad to see that they kind of bring a little bit of history of the cattle drives and how important agriculture and especially the cowboy was to Kansas. (Deb) Well, any of our viewers know that Kansas history is certainly my passion. And I am with you all the way, I think bringing it to life this way. One of the things that I wanted to ask you about is exactly what you just touched on, your family obviously a show business family, but it’s a show business family grounded in some real stuff. (Dusty) Well, yeah, of course then my Dad, he was born and raised in Ohio. But he came out to California in… I think it was 1933 the first time he came out. And he had been singing cowboy music; of course back in the old days that was about all you heard was the back woods music from Ohio and from Kentucky. He called square dances and then when he came out to California he was hearing a lot of the western music and it just kind of hit something, hit him hard. And he just loved it and of course he got into the western movie business by accident basically and loved it and fit the saddle really well and of course he and the Pioneers just really brought cowboy music to a new generation of people. And it’s been that way for almost 80 years. (Deb) Amazing career, just an amazing, amazing career. I was just saying to Dusty, I’m blown away by how much you look like your Dad. (Dusty) Well, at least in through here. I am a much bigger man than my Dad. (Deb) I was just going to say that, you got a lot taller than he did. (Dusty) Yeah, Dad was about 5’10”, 5’10- 1/2″, and I’m six foot three, so yeah. (Deb) Wow. (Dusty) My son is six foot four, so we just kept growing. Course we ate better than our Dad’s did I think. (Deb) Yeah, they were depression era folks. (Dusty) Absolutely, yes. (Deb) All right, I want to talk a little bit about what cowboy, western music means to you and obviously we were talking, you grew up in a show business family. But it was a show business family that was grounded in reality. I don’t know quite another way to say it. (Dusty) No and you know Mom and Dad kept us… in the entertainment business you can get so jaded, very quickly and when you have…you know, Mom and Dad raised nine kids so, Dad was… always wanted to move away from the show business end of it and tried to keep us kids grounded and in school, that this is just a temporary thing and that you can learn from it. But you need to be a decent person and not get caught up in that, that entertainment genre. So, it was very important to us and of course the history of the music and the cowboy is very important and is still out there. People still are interested in the history of the cowboy, especially here in Kansas too, especially with the cattle. (Deb) We’re going to take a break. We’re going to be right back with more of Dusty Rogers.

(Deb) Welcome to Around Kansas I just couldn’t be more tickled than to be sitting here with Dusty Rogers, Roy Rogers, Jr., at the Prairie Rose Chuckwagon. And Dusty has been here a few times before; this is his fourth time here at the Prairie Rose. And Dusty it’s great to have you with us. (Dusty) I appreciate you having me here; I was just thrilled that you asked me to be on your show. And we’re getting ready to do a show and so in between is a great time to have a little interview. (Deb) Let’s talk about singing; did you guys just roll out of bed singing in the morning? (Dusty) Mom and Dad did, course my Mom; Dale was a big band singer. And in the 30’s and 40’s and of course. Dad, he’d been singing since he was a little boy. None of the kids really went into show business at all. I’m the only one that did. And I was basically bashful and backwards when I was a kid because of all of the kids were looking at me like I was stuck up and they didn’t want to have much to do with me. So, it took me a long time to get over that and find out that I was my own man, and I can do my own thing. But I really loved the kind of music that Dad and Mom did. I did country for a while, I really did, and I did country music for quite a while with the band. I have been singing now for over 45 years, something like that. I am 67 years old; I’ll be 68 in October. Time has moved on a little bit quicker than I wanted it to. I love all kinds of music, but the western is the kind of music that really sticks with me and I think it’s important and I think it’s important that the young people really get a hang of it. They’ve got pesky flies here. Did you notice that? (Deb) That’s the western ambiance here. (Dusty) Really makes you feel right at home, you know. (Deb) Yeah that’s it. (Dusty) Being raised around horses here you must put up with the flies. Don’t kill it, it came from western Kansas. (Deb) That’s right, that’s right. (Dusty) But yeah, it’s important that I carry on what Dad and Mom left behind. I think that’s important for any child who appreciates their parent’s heritage. And it’s been a very strong privilege for me to do that. (Deb) Your Dad’s legacy and that was something that you’re conscious of and that he was conscious of, of what he meant to kids all over the world. (Dusty) Very much so. In 1940, I asked him one day I said, “Dad, what is it about you? When did you decide that you really needed to keep your life in order?” In 1941 I was doing Madison Square Garden, I was doing a rodeo and he says, I came out from behind the chutes there and around the corner came a young boy about five years old, and he was dressed just like me. And I thought to myself, he says I thought to myself at that time, that I need to keep my life in line because these kids are looking up to me in a way that I did not realize. So, it started that early, because he did his first picture, first starring role in 1938. So, ’38 to ’41, it didn’t take him very long to learn that the kids loved him and wanted to be like him and so he kept his life in line. And people say, “Is there anything that your Dad really said to you that really changed the way you looked at things?” And I would say, “No not anything in particular.” All I had to do was watch him. (Deb) Oh, that’s a great compliment. (Dusty) All I had to do was watch him and I saw how he handled people and I saw how he talked with people, that there wasn’t anybody that wasn’t his friend, especially children. I remember seeing Dad…we went with him a lot of times; we would go to hospitals and see the kids. Of course in the 40’s and 50’s polio was really bad and Dad would go to these hospital beds of these kids who were in iron lungs, a lot of them and he would go around to each one of them and talk with them, because they couldn’t see anything, they had to look through a mirror. And he would tell them, “Look Johnny I know you are having a hard time and I know you’re struggling, but I want you to get out of this,” and he said, “and I am going to give you a challenge.” And he would take a kids gun belt, a Roy Rogers gun belt a child’s, hang it on the mirror. (Deb) Oh wow. (Dusty) And he would say, “I want you to work real hard and when you get out of this lung, you can put that on and I want you to come to California and ride Trigger.” I cannot tell you in my shows down through the years, how many kids have come to my show bringing those gun belts that Dad gave them when they were just little. And they’re walking and they’re getting around, so it’s an amazing thing. And that is the kind of the legacy that I have to protect and that I have to honor and I have to try to make it still work. I think morals; ethics and family values are still valuable today. Except I might kill that fly before the things over! (Deb) We’re going to be right back, stay tuned for more of Around Kansas.

(Deb) Welcome back to Around Kansas, I am visiting with Dusty Rogers, Roy Rogers Jr. There can’t be a more famous horse in the history of the world than Trigger. I mean I would be hard pressed to come up with one. So, did you ride Trigger as a kid? (Dusty) I did, I rode him many, many times, and I’ve got a picture of when I was like two years old. I spent about the first five years of my birthdays on the movie set with my Dad and so I spent a lot of time on Trigger. We couldn’t take him out you know, on a run up in the mountains somewhere, but we could ride him around town and stuff like that, at Roundup River Ranch. But that was it. He was magnificent to ride. (Deb) So, what made him so special? (Dusty) I think the combination of the two. Dad said that Trigger was the third horse he got on when they were trying to bring horses to him to ride in the very first movies. And Dad said that was the third horse I got on and I just…when I felt him between my legs, it was just, that’s the horse I want. I asked him to turn on a dime and he gave me nine cents change. And he said, “That’s the guy I want.” And they were just a pair, Dad would say if there was no Trigger there’s be no Roy Rogers and I really believe that. (Deb) Wow, what a compliment to that horse. All right before we go, I know we’re running out of time here, but I’ve got to ask you one thing. Speaking of Kansas history and films and Roy Rogers, the movie Dark Command. (Dusty) Yes, Dad made that in 1941. (Deb) And of course Dark Command stars Walter Pigeon and is about William Clark Quantrill’s raid on Lawrence, Kansas. You know the dark moment in Kansas history. But Roy was young. (Dusty) He was yeah, he played a character named Fletch and then John Wayne was in that, and Claire Trevor and Gabby Hays were in that, Gabby. (Deb) Yeah. (Dusty) Yeah, Dad played a young confederate soldier named Fletch in that movie. It was the first million-dollar picture he was ever in and the last one. Had a million dollar budget on that show. So, it was a great thing, on Quantrill’s raiders yeah. (Deb) Wow. That’s a great connection if you folks haven’t seen that, you’ve got to go to your Netflix or look that one up and take a look at it. Thank you so much. (Dusty) I appreciate it. Thanks Deb. I appreciate it very much. (Deb) It’s been wonderful. You stay tuned; we’re going to be back with more of the Prairie Rose Chuckwagon.

(Deb) Welcome back to Around Kansas and with me is J.W. Johnson who owns the Prairie Rose Chuckwagon. You must have the best job in the world. And the coolest clothes for sure. (J.W.) Oh yeah, this is a great job. We have been out here since the end of ’07 and have just loved every minute of it. It has just been a wonderful, wonderful journey. A lot of fun. (Deb) So, what is the Prairie Rose Chuckwagon? Cause there’s a lot going on here. (J.W.) We are known for our chuckwagon supper and stage show, which on given nights, our gates open at five o’clock. We’ve got horse drawn wagon rides and old cowboy movies in the theatre. We have lemonade and popcorn for people to nibble on before dinner if they care to, and they can just go out and enjoy the property. Dinner is served at 6:30. Dinner is an all-you-can-eat smoked brisket dinner, so it’s a lot of food and we always tease everybody, if you leave here hungry it’s your own fault. So, we’ve got an all-you-can-eat dinner and then after the dinner is our stage show and we have a house band, the Prairie Rose Rangers. (Deb) Aren’t you lucky? (J.W.) And they are amazing. Yes, they come on after the dessert and people are usually on their way home by about 9 o’clock. So that’s basically what our nights are made up of. (Deb) So, a lot of fun packed into an early evening. (J.W.) Yeah, it really is. It’s almost like a staycation. So, many people go places like even down to Branson to experience what we’ve got right here. (Deb) Right. (J.W.) They come in a for whole evening and everything is all under one ticket and there’s just a lot to see and great food and a great show. (Deb) Now, we’re sitting in the museum right now, so let’s talk about the museum because you have events here I think, you rent this out. (J.W.) Exactly, yeah we also have facility rentals, do lots of weddings, lots of receptions. We have two outdoor wedding sites and then our reception hall holds up to about 200. We also have another room over here called the Bar Twenty Theatre and that’s for smaller gatherings. And then even another Building called the Happy Trails Theatre for even smaller gatherings, birthday parties; you know some showers and things like that. We also do corporate meetings, things like that during the week, you know. So, yes facility rental is big. During the summer months we have camp. So, we put on a program for a lot of campers during the summer and we also have a church that meets out here on the grounds and does different events as well. (Deb) Wow, wow, lots of stuff going on. (J.W.) Lots of stuff going on. You know, one more thing I’d like to include and let people know about, so many folks will assume that we’re closed during the winter months. But Christmas on the Prairie here at the Prairie Rose is amazing. We start right after Thanksgiving. It’s a Christmas program and we do Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturday nights, we do a few Sundays. We even offer a Patsy Kline Christmas on Thursday evenings. We’ve got a gal that comes in and does that and it’s amazing. It is a wonderful time. So, if there are folks out there that are looking for either family reunions or corporate Christmas parties, this is a great place to bring them. (Deb) Oh gosh, we’ve got to come back. (J.W.) Yeah. (Deb) Thank you so much. It’s been great. We’ll be right back with more of Around Kansas.

(Deb) Orin Friesen and I couldn’t be more thrilled to have Orin with us. We’re here at the Prairie Rose Chuckwagon where Orin is the Operations Manager, and he’s also the leader of the house band, the Prairie Rose Rangers. Orin is a man of so many talents, so many hats and a musician and just all around great guy, D.J. you’ve got a blue grass show on Sunday mornings, which is my only complaint about the Blue Grass, it’s just too dog gone short. (Orin) Only an hour. I’ve been doing that show for 40 years. (Deb) Forty years. It’s great folks and that’s on KFDI, right? (Orin) KFDI uh huh. 101.3. (Deb) And you just wrote a book about KFDI? (Oren) I did. It’s called Goat Glands to Ranch Hands, the KFDI Story. It’s actually the 90-year history of the station that we know as the 1070 the original KFDI, which it goes back to several other station call letters before that. It started in 1923. (Deb) It’s just such a great story and so, like you said from Goat Glands to Ranch Hands is just all over the place. Now when you guys perform, Prairie Rose Rangers, let’s talk about the band for a little bit. (Orin) Well, we perform here at least once a week, year around. Sometimes more than that. Christmas season is our really busy time. We do three or four shows a week during that time. So, yeah we like to play and the more we can do it the better. (Deb) Now the band does a lot of the western standards, but some really good original stuff too. (Orin) Well, we try to mix it all up have everything, cause we have older folks that come which is generally the core audience for Chuckwagon suppers, but we’re trying to get younger people to come and families and so we try to mix it up with not only the old cowboy classics that everybody knows, but also maybe some newer songs and some original songs if we can come up with ones that we feel are good enough to use in the show. (Deb) Well, the other band members, Jesse’s in the band, your son? (Orin) My son Jesse, he’s the youngest member and then we have, well most of the band members are in their 20s. Our fiddle player her name is Jenny Clayton. She’s just an awesome musician who plays with the Wichita Symphony and then also the Wichita Grand Opera. Our newest member, she’s been with us since the first of the year, her name is also Jenny. Jenny Lou Peterson. She’s an amazing singer and just a lot of fun, a barrel of energy on stage. And then Stan Grier, he’s the other old guy in the band; he’s our funny guy. He does a lot of, well we all try to be entertaining and humorous, but he knows a million jokes, things like that and funny songs and such. So, we try to mix it all up so that there is something for everybody. (Deb) Well, music has literally taken you around the world, Orin. The Great Wall of China, good grief! (Orin) Well, I never would have thought that would have even happened to play cowboy music on the Great Wall of China, like you say. And then we went to New York City a couple of times, played Carnegie Hall twice. And we played in San Francisco and just several different Caribbean cruises, taking cowboy music where it hadn’t gone before. (Deb) Isn’t that something? So, Orin when you meet somebody that doesn’t know you and they say, “What do you do?” What do you say? (Orin) Well, you know that’s a good question. I just oftentimes say, “Well I’m a cowboy singer in a chuckwagon band.” Or something like that. My career, as you mentioned has been mostly in broadcasting, radio and television and I’ve done that well this October, this fall, will be my 50th year in broadcasting. So, that’s been my main career, my bread and butter. And people always say, “When are you going to retire?” And I always tell them, I retired when I left the farm when I was 17. Since then I’ve been able to do what I want to do. (Deb) That’s pretty amazing. And you’re doing what you want to do has been great for the rest of us. (Orin) Well, thank you. (Deb) Orin, great visiting with you. (Orin) Thanks for having me.

Closed Captioning Brought to you by the Kansas Soybean Commission. The Soybean Checkoff, Progress Powered by Kansas Farmers.







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