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BOB NOLAN: EARLY LIFE AND CAREER (1946-1949)

 

Hawaii

Teleways Transcriptions

Pioneer Radio Productions

Garage Fire

Yates' Termination Letter

1948-49 Western Hall of Fame Hoss Opera

Bob Nolan and the Sons of the Pioneers Work Chronology

15th Anniversary of the Sons of the Pioneers

 

Movies made from 1946 to 1948:

SONG OF ARIZONA (Republic / Rogers - 1946 03 09)

HOME ON THE RANGE (Republic / Rogers - 1946 04 18)

DING DONG WILLIAMS (RKO - 1946 04 15)

RAINBOW OVER TEXAS (Republic / Rogers - 1946 05 09)

MY PAL TRIGGER (Republic / Rogers - 1946 07 10)

UNDER NEVADA SKIES (Republic / Rogers - 1946 08 26)

ROLL ON TEXAS MOON (Republic / Rogers - 1946 09 12)

HOME IN OKLAHOMA (Republic / Rogers - 1946 11 08)

HELDORADO (Republic / Rogers - 1946 12 15)

APACHE ROSE (Republic / Rogers - 1947 02 15)

                HIT PARADE OF 1947 (Republic / Albert - 1947 03 22)

BELLS OF SAN ANGELO (Republic / Rogers - 1947 05 15)

SPRINGTIME IN THE SIERRAS (Republic / Rogers - 1947 07 15)

ON THE OLD SPANISH TRAIL (Republic / Rogers - 1947 10 15)

THE GAY RANCHERO (Republic / Rogers - 1948 01 03)

UNDER CALIFORNIA STARS (Republic / Rogers - 1948 07 15)

EYES OF TEXAS (Republic / Rogers - 1948 07 15)

MELODY TIME (Walt Disney - 1948 07 31)

NIGHT TIME IN NEVADA (Republic / Rogers - 1948 09 05)

 

THE CLASSIC SONS OF THE PIONEERS REUNITED AFTER THE WAR

Lloyd returned in early January of 1946 and Pat returned shortly afterward. Now the Classic Sons of the Pioneers were together once more.

 

Pat was with Gen. Patton’s third army in Germany and was once in a newsreel. The top of his tank was blown off at close range just as he was bending over to pick up a shell. He had two Purple Hearts. He slept in a dentist's office in Germany and sent home all the drills, also a German officer’s uniform and about 30 guns. Anything he could get his hands on he sent home before the crack down. When Pat was in the service, Fayetta carried a .25 automatic in her purse for protection. (Karl E. Farr)

 

In March they recorded several songs for RCA including the most famous rendition of Tumbling Tumbleweeds and The Everlasting Hills of Oklahoma with Country Washburne directing. The men quickly donned their western costumes and began work with Roy Rogers in Republic again. Their first film together was Under Nevada Skies, released on August 26, 1946. Pat was part of the Roy Rogers entourage that toured and re-toured America and Canada for appearances at rodeos, etc. Roy's son, Dusty, in his book "Growing Up with Roy and Dale", recalled,

 

            “A couple of times Cheryl and I even played parts in the television series. I played the town brat, and I was always picking on Pat Brady. In one scene, I shot his hat off with a bow and arrow, and in another, I got him in the rear end with a sling shot.

            We never thought of Pat as a ‘star.’ He was simply one of Dad’s best friends, and he and his wife Fayetta were Dodie’s godparents. Pat had bright red hair and a face like rubber. He could make the most wonderful faces. Although he was almost as shy as my dad, he was the biggest practical joker, always trying to sneak in funny things to get Dad’s goat. He put smoke bombs under the hoods of the police escorts at the fair and rodeos, or cherry bombs under their tires.

            During the road shows Pat always tried to throw Dad’s concentration off. Part of their act was target shooting. Pat tossed up a series of clay pigeons, and Dad shot them. A terrific marksman, Dad never missed.

            One day Pat stuffed one of the pigeons with a pair of lady’s nylons. Dad was blazing away when all of a sudden, BOOM! The nylons came floating down. It flustered Dad but he didn’t miss the next target. Another time Pat put a little parachute inside, and the kids in the audience went wild as it floated down.

            Once Pat really succeeded at bewildering my dad. He had one of the pigeons made out of aluminum instead of clay, so when the bullet hit it, the pigeon would simply fall to the ground instead of shattering. Before that segment of the act, Pat announced to the audience, ‘This is Roy’s 156th show, and not once has he missed!’ The crowd hushed, Pat let the pigeon fly, Dad blasted away, and the target came down and hit the dirt.

            The whole audience gasped and went, ‘Ahhhhh!’ Dad couldn’t believe it! ‘But I never miss,’ he muttered, walking over to the pigeon. As soon as he picked it up he knew what had happened, so he dropped it. It clattered down the stage, and the kids realized it was a big put-on. Dad started chasing Pat around, and the kids really ate it up.

 

Ken Carson remained in the group for awhile longer but it was necessary for Shug to leave once Pat was back. They didn't need two bass players. With the return of Lloyd and Pat, the group became the Classic Sons of the Pioneers again - The Aristocrats of the Range.

 

(The Calin Coburn Collections ©2004)

 

(The Calin Coburn Collections ©2004)

 

(The Calin Coburn Collections ©2004)

 

(The Calin Coburn Collections ©2004)

 

(The Calin Coburn Collections ©2004)

 

(The Calin Coburn Collections ©2004)

 

(The Calin Coburn Collections ©2004)

(The Calin Coburn Collections ©2004)

(The Calin Coburn Collections ©2004)

 

(The Calin Coburn Collections ©2004)

 

On the Republic lot again, back in working gear.

(The Calin Coburn Collections ©2004)

 

Shortly after World War II, Roy Rogers, the Pioneers, and several other movie personalities purchased thirty-two thousand acres near Yucca Valley, California, intending to build a town, Pioneertown. In addition to building lots for homes, they planned to construct a number of movie locations. Russell Hayden held onto 90 acres and some others continued to live there for many years, hoping their long cherished dream of a thriving community might eventually come to pass. Eventually becoming a tourist attraction, in 2006 it was partially destroyed by wildfire.

The Sons of the Pioneers in the Golden Stallion Restaurant in Pioneertown.

 

Action director for Republic Pictures, William Witney, began directing the Roy Rogers movies in the spring of 1946 with Roll On Texas Moon. In his book, "Trigger Remembered", Witney wrote:

 

            "Which brings to mind what Bob Nolan, leader of the Sons of the Pioneers, said to me with his shy sense of humor: 'I've made forty posse rides with Roy and Trigger and to this day all I have ever seen is that long, white tail floating in my face!'

            "The Pioneers were a great singing group. Bob Nolan wrote many beautiful western songs, including Tumbling Tumbleweeds and Cool Water. Timmy Spencer wrote many of the songs Roy sang in his pictures as well as popular songs like Room Full of Roses and many more. The other members were talented musicians and singers...but horsemen they were not.

            "The Pioneers were riding as a group and were to come from the far background on a run, stop at the mark set by the cameraman so the reflectors would light up their faces, then turn and ride out at an angle. Take #1: They rode fast from the background--so fast, they couldn't stop their horses. They ran over the camera, scattering the crew who ran for cover. Take #2: They came up from the far background too slow and stopped so far back the camera could hardly pick them up. Take #3: They came from the background fast and pulled up to stop on the exact spot the cameraman had given them. They were perfect.

            "But before they could ride out, I yelled 'cut!' They all sat there on their horses looking at me as I walked past them. One of them said, 'Now what the ____ did we do wrong this time?' I said, 'You did real good except for one thing....' and I bent down and picked up a Stetson out of the dust. One of them had lost his hat just as they were coming to a stop. They turned and glared at the hatless rider. I handed him his hat. He looked at me and then at the horse. He whacked the horse over the head with his crumpled hat several times and said between clenched tee, 'You dumb so and so, no wonder you're a horse!'" pp 62-3, Trigger Remembered by William Witney.

 

Bob Nolan's typical view of Trigger

 

In 1946 Sam Fox Music encountered financial difficulties which led to their selling the publishing rights to the songs Tumbling Tumbleweeds and I’ll Be Seeing You (written by Sammy Fain and Irving Kahal) to Williamson Music which was owned by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II. (Laurence Zwisohn)

 

Variety, Wednesday July 31, 1946

(Anonymous Collection)

 

1947 was the year Roy made a major change in his appearance. His costumes became very elaborate including a lot of suede leather fringes on his shirts. He had a new crown to his hat and, because color film was popular, his outfits were brighter and designed by Ben the Rodeo Tailor of Philadelphia. This is the year he introduced his red, white and blue plastic saddle. He received over 900,000 fan letters this year and employed five ladies to answer it. He sold an average of 25,000 records per month.

 

 

These cards were known amongst professional musicians as Tune-Dex cards. They were produced from the early 1940's until the early 1960's by a radio industry man named George Goodwin. The conveniently-sized index cards were utilized by musicians as a tool to have the copyright information on a new song, and also to help familiarize themselves with the lyrics, chords and melody of a newly-released or popular song in order to adequately play it in public.

 

 

The musicians union had called a recording strike that ran from the summer of 1942 through most of 1943 and RCA didn’t settle until November 1944. Then, another strike was to start on January 1, 1948. They had learned a tough lesson from the first strike and so the record companies operated their studios at full speed in order to build up a reserve of recordings. The Sons of the Pioneers recorded fifty sides for RCA in 1947 and then they didn’t return to the studios for sixteen months.

 

RCA luncheon, Philadelphia PA, September 1946

(Terry Sevigny Collection)

 

RCA luncheon, Philadelphia PA, September 1946

(Terry Sevigny Collection)

 

RCA luncheon, Philadelphia PA, September 1946

(Terry Sevigny Collection)

 

RCA luncheon, Philadelphia PA, September 1946
(The Calin Coburn Collections ©2004)

 

Rodeo Fans of America Banquet and Party, September 14, 1946

Velma & Tim Spencer, Martha Retsch, Emma Hackett, Hugh Farr, Pat Brady, Karl Farr, Bob Nolan, Lloyd Perryman and Sons of the Pioneers secretary, Terry Sevigny  (Roy Rogers on the dais)

(The Martha Retsch Collection)

PHILADELPHIA RODEO
         
Julia [new president of the fan club] has asked us to write up a little about our trip to Philadelphia, PA, for the Rodeo Fans of America Banquet and party and the Rodeo, so here goes.
        The Banquet and Party was held Saturday, September 14th, at the Philadelphian Hotel. There was a very large crowd there - close to 500. If we're not mistaken. The guests of honor were The Sons of the Pioneers and Roy Rogers.
We had the good fortune of sitting at the table with the Pioneers, along with Mrs. Tim Spencer and Terry Sevigny (who is a member of our club, too.)
During the course of the banquet, the boys did a few songs among which were TUMBLING TUMBLEWEEDS, WHEN PAY DAY ROLLS AROUND and COOL WATER. Pat favored the audience with YOU TELL HER, I STUTTER and a new arrangement of IT HAD TO BE YOU - which was very funny.
        After the banquet, we went to the Arena for the Rodeo performance which we all agreed was one of the best we had seen in a long time.
The Sons did TUMBLING TUMBLEWEEDS, COOL WATER, YOU TELL HER, I STUTTER, and EL RANCHO GRANDE. Later on, when Roy came on, they did SIOUX CITY SUE, Roy called a square dance then he did THE KID WITH THE RIP IN HIS PANTS and everyone joined in on TAKE ME BACK TO T-E-X-A-S.
After the Rodeo, we all went back to the Philadelphian Hotel for the party, which lasted until ___? From there, we all went back to the hotel and just gabbed away until it was time for us to leave.
        It sure was swell seeing the old gang back together again - and we hope it will be for a long, long, time.
(Emma Hackett and Martha Retsch, Volume 4 No. 2, 1947 of the Prairie Prattler, the Sons of the Pioneers fan magazine.)
 

 

Phila. Penn. Rodeo, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, September 1946
Lloyd Perryman, Hugh Farr, Bob Nolan and Pat Brady
 

Chicago Rodeo October 10-27, 1946
Back row: Jack Spaulding (Bareback Bronc Riding Champ), Col. Jim Eskew (Arena Director), Jess Like (Steer Wrestling Champ), Roy Rogers (Rodeo Producer), Wayne Loukes (Saddle Bronc Riding Champ), Arthur Wirtz (Exec. VP Chicago Stadium), Jeff Goodspeed (Calf Roping Champ), Tuffy Williams (Bull Riding Champ)
Front: Pat Brady, Hugh Farr, Lloyd Perryman, Madonna Eskew, Bob Nolan, Tim Spencer, Mickey Clements. (Karl had to catch a plane.)

(Terry Sevigny Collection)

 

The Nelson Eddy Show Sunday, June 2, 1946

(Martha Retsch Collection)

 

Tim Spencer, Hugh Farr, Bob Nolan, Roy Rogers, Lloyd Perryman and Karl Farr at the Las Vegas, NV, locale for "Heldorado", 1946

(Terry Sevigny Collection)

 

Sons of the Pioneers on their Helldorado float, 1946

 

Sons of the Pioneers on their float for the movie, Heldorado, 1946

 

Dusty' (Roy Rogers Jr) celebrates his first birthday on the set.

 

 

On their tour with Roy Rogers' Thrill Circus, the Sons of the Pioneers visited Roy's hometown near Cincinatti.

 

 

After the war, the Sons of the Pioneers were in even greater demand and, for the first time, hired a booking agent. They toured the United States, appearing in almost every state at fairs, rodeos, nightclubs and one-night stands in large and small towns.

 

On the set of "The Gay  Ranchero", 1948. (The stamped date above is for another clipping.)

Courtesy of Terry Sevigny Scott, the Sons of the Pioneers secretary

 

Roy Rogers started a Saturday night weekly radio series on NBC, similar in content to the first in 1944. The sponsor was Miles Laboratories. Dale Evans, Gabby Hayes, Bob Nolan and the Sons of the Pioneers, Pat Buttram, Country Washburne and his Orchestra were featured on the programs. This show was also cancelled at the end of the season.

 

The Sons of the Pioneers (and other artists) appeared on a series of programs sponsored by the government to inform returning veterans of their rights under the GI Bill - "Here's to Veterans". The group did not appear; one of them would talk about GI rights and then play one of their recordings. These programs continued into, possibly, 1952.

 

 

                                                       


 

Often there were a lot of people around the house and P-Nuts would cook for everybody. Bob would sit there and think and, apparently, if he thought about something he wanted to work on, he'd take a chair, go out into the yard and sit in the corner, facing the corner of the yard. It was a silent admonition, "Don't disturb me right now." He'd do that when the house was full of people! (Roberta Nolan Mileusnich)

 


 

1949 Christmas Card

 

1949 Christmas Card (close)

(Terry Sevigny Collection)

 

Christmas cards from the (The Calin Coburn Collections ©2004)

 

Bob's business card

(The Calin Coburn Collections ©2004)

 

(Courtesy of Fred Sopher)

 

A magazine ad advertising Fruit of the Loom

(Courtesy of Fred Sopher)

 

(Courtesy of Fred Sopher)

 

   

Bob throwing up clay pigeons for the sharp shooting part of Roy's show at a rodeo. Roy rarely missed.

(Courtesy of Fred Sopher)

 

In 1947, on location for the shooting of a Republic film (Roll On Texas Moon) the script called for Roy to fall into the Kern River. This scene would be handled by a stunt man but the river was cold and fast and the stunt man decided he needed double pay for the stunt. As the stunt man was putting his case before the director, Bob Nolan came floating down the river on his back with his clothes folded on his chest. He'd been upstream fishing with Lloyd Perryman and chose the quickest way to return to camp. The stunt man lost his case and didn't forget it, retelling the story to Dick Goodman many years later.

 

"I was in Kernville once with Roy and the Pioneers on location and Roy showed me a rope trick called the Mexican handcuff. When I was in Kernville on location that time Roy drove his motorcycle up and the studio was mad at him as he could get hurt. Bob floated down the Kern River on an inner tube, which was not great for the studio bosses to know about." (Karl E. Farr)

 

Late in 1946, Tim Spencer took over the management of the Sons of the Pioneers:

 

        "Tim Spencer has taken over the complete management of the Sons of the Pioneers. While still singing with the Western group at present, he is looking for a singer to replace him so that he can devote his entire time to managerial duties. Sons of the Pioneers have also started their own transcription company.

        "Pioneer Radio Productions will supply radio stations with 15-minute transcribed shows featuring songs by the Pioneers. Spencer has also organized his own publishing firm. Company will publish all future tunes by Tim, Bob Nolan, the rest of the Pioneers as well as by other top Western writers." (Billboard, November 2, 1946)

 

The series of transcriptions were recorded in conjunction with Teleways Radio Productions Inc of Hollywood, California, and syndicated across the country. The series ran five days a week for about one year -  approximately 260 programs. Bob was the host and the others entered into the amusing and good-natured conversation typical of all their programs. Both Lloyd and Ken Carson were part of the recording group until Ken left the Pioneers in late 1947 - two first class tenors.  The whistled theme throughout the ad part of the show was "Stardust Trail". They were so well designed that many people believed that the Sons of the Pioneers were actually present at their local radio station for the show.

 

 

 

COMIC BOOKS
Although there were dozens of editions of Roy Rogers comic books while the Sons of the Pioneers were appearing with him in the Republic movies, only one issue rated their photograph - the back cover is a scene from Eyes of Texas, 1948

Front of April 1949 Volume 1 No. 17 Roy Rogers Dell comic.

 

The back cover is a scene from Eyes of Texas 1948
The Calin Coburn Collections ©2004)

 

On tour in Cheyenne Wyoming for their 1947 Frontier Days celebration, posing with three fans.

(Courtesy of Judith Kruse)

 

(Courtesy of Judith Kruse)

 

The Rosalie Allen Show, June 1947, New York City

Back: Lloyd Perryman, Bob Nolan, Pat Brady and Tim Spencer

Front: Karl Farr & Hugh Farr with Rosalie Allen

(Terry Sevigny Collection)

 

        The Hoagy Carmichael Show was broadcast by KNX (Hollywood) by CBS from October 26, 1946 until June 26, 1948. Luden Cough Drops sponsored the 15-minute program until June 1947. Two clippings from unidentified newspapers print the same image (reversed in one) of Bob Nolan and Hoagy Carmichael singing a duet. ("Ole Buttermilk Sky"?)

 

 

Bob Nolan with Hoagy Carmichael. c. 1947

The caption under the clipping reads:

 "Bob Nolan, encouraged by composers like Hoagy Carmichael, decided to devote his time to writing songs himself."

Courtesy of Josie Shapira

 

c. 1947 The caption under the clipping reads:

"Hoagy Carmichael and Bob Nolan warbled duet when H. hosted Rep's Dale Evans and Sons of Pioneers on his CBS Sunday show."

Bob Nolan with Hoagy Carmichael.

Courtesy of Terry Sevigny

 

1948 Removing the flash from a new long play recording

 

1948

 

Bob Nolan

(Jan Scott photo)

 

 

Sea Voyage to Hawaii

Bob and P-Nuts

 

Left facing camera, P-Nuts, Unidentified, Bob, Unidentified

 

Bob and P-Nuts with her parents

 

On January 7, 1948, Bob and P-Nuts embarked on that long-awaited cruise to Hawaii on the magnificent Matson Line vessel, the "S S Matsonia" (soon to be sold and renamed "Atlantic"). Measuring 18,655 GRT with modern, Hawaiian-themed accommodation for 761 first class passengers, they traveled with P'Nuts' parents.

 

 

Arriving in Honolulu on January 12, 1948 and intending to remain for only a few weeks, they found the people so friendly and hospitable that they stayed for two months. One after another, people they met would ask them to spend a few days with them. From this visit came Bob's South Seas love songs.

 

In recalling this voyage, Bob had the date wrong (they left in 1948, a year before he retired) but he certainly remembered Hawaii:

 

            As soon as I retired, we started planning the trip. I’d always wanted to go to Hawaii and I don’t like to fly so we took the boat. It started out to be just a two-week vacation. You have to remember I’d just retired and my name and my face was still pretty prominent with the general public. Well, on this boat so many people recognized me who were Island residents that, by the time we got into port, I had several invitations to come and stay a few days at different people’s homes. I didn’t want to offend anyone by turning them down so I accepted everybody’s invitation.
            By the time we headed home, those two weeks had stretched into a couple of months.   We had a wonderful time and I made it a point to not over-stay our welcome at any one place. We’d stay at one house and visit for three or four days and then move on to the next until I’d satisfied all the invitations.
            One home we stayed at even had a nice little guest house out beside a pool and I’d spend hours relaxing by that pool. It was also during this trip that I was inspired to write those Hawaiian songs.
(
Listen to Bob talking to Stuart Hamblen in 1979 about the Hawaiian Islands.)

 

Bob's grandson has one reel of film taken by his father-in-law on his new movie camera. The film was often out of focus and viewed so often it was worn but there are many good shots of Bob and P-Nuts; Bob swimming or looking at the Hawaiian scenery, P-Nuts sailing, etc. Unfortunately, there are few snapshots of the actual voyage and the following images are captured from the old movie.

 

 

The following photos from the Calin Coburn Collections contain unidentified people. They were taken in 1948 when Bob and P'Nuts took their Matsonia voyage to Hawaii.

 

Bob and P-Nuts with her parents.

 

 

 

        That was the one and only cruise he could ever afford to take. If he had been able to retain the rights to Tumbling Tumbleweeds, he could have traveled all the rest of his life but he and P-Nuts were forced to live rather simply on the royalties from his other songs. One of Bob's dreams was to retire young and travel the world. This had been a boyhood dream from the first time he had hitched a ride on a freight train. He would, indeed,  have been in a position to see the world but for two unfortunate circumstances.  

        The first obstacle was his loss of a staggering amount of royalties because he had given up the rights to his most famous song, Tumbling Tumbleweeds, early in his career. (See "The Sad History of Tumbling Tumbleweeds" by Laurence Zwisohn.) Check out our Tumbling Tumbleweeds page to listen to a fraction of the recordings made from that memorable song. How much Bob lost when he lost the rights to the royalties - not just the money but in the travel it would have afforded him. Travel, his lifelong dream.

        The second deterring factor occurred in 1950 when it came time to pay his income tax. 1948 - 1949 had been a long and exhausting year of touring. It had also been a very profitable year but his agent absconded with most of Bob's earnings - over $100,000. According to Bob, his unnamed agent left for the new country of Israel with the money and was never heard of again.

 

 

 

Terry Sevigny and Bob Nolan at the Cowboy Park, Newhall, CA, 1948

(Terry Sevigny Collection)

 

For Bob, one disappointment followed another and disgruntlement slid into disillusionment. Bob's roles in the Roy Rogers movies were progressively smaller. Comparatively few of his songs were used although he was still writing full time. More and more he would appear at the Republic lot  late, with his lines unlearned.  Night Time in Nevada marked the end of the Sons of the Pioneers' Republic film career.

 

On May 7, 1948, Herbert Yates wrote to Tim Spencer that "because of the foreign market conditions and the shrinkage of domestic box office receipts, the Studio Executive Committee decided to discontinue the services of the Sons of the Pioneers in line with the general economy that we are compelled to pursue in order to stay in business...."

 

About the same time, Bob had a personal disagreement with Herbert Y. Yates that culminated in the owner of Republic Studios banning Bob from the lot. Bob vowed never to enter the grounds again and he never did. Many years later, when he was invited to tour the old Republic grounds just for "old time's sake", he refused. Yates was dead and the area was under new ownership but to Bob it was simply a matter of principle and he would not consider it.

 

(Terry Sevigny Collection)

 

Yates hired Foy Willing and the Riders of the Purple Sage  for the next film (The Far Frontier) although the promotions were already in place, complete with photo of the Pioneers. And so the Sons of the Pioneers went on the road again for a year of personal appearances across America.

 

 

           

In a garage fire during the late summer of 1948, Bob lost all his notes and the rough outlines of hundreds of his unpublished songs and poems that he had kept in his garage in Studio City. This was a staggering blow. These were original manuscripts and there had been no copies made. Bob made no attempt to rewrite them.

 

This snapshot was taken by a neighbour at the time of the fire and given to Bob's daughter in later years.

(The Calin Coburn Collections ©2004)

 

Roy Rogers worked with children through 4-H clubs and was an advocate for safety among school children with the National Safety Council. Competitions were organized and Roy and Dale appeared in person to present the awards at the schools. "The Roy Rogers Show" was  aired Sundays at 6 pm on the Mutual Network, sponsored by Quaker Oats. Roy and Dale were joined by Foy Willing and the Riders of the Purple Sage who were hired by Republic Pictures to step into the Sons of the Pioneers' shoes. Dale wrote "Happy Trails" as the closing theme. In April of 1949, Roy and Trigger put their prints in the sidewalk at Graumann's Chinese Theater in Hollywood watched by The Riders of the Purple Sage, Pat Brady, Dale and Hoot Gibson.

 

The first annual "Hoss Opera" took place on November 28, 1948 at Olympic Auditorium, 18th & Grand, L. A. and the guest list of singers and actors was long. The Sons of the Pioneers took their place alongside of William "Hopalong Cassidy" Boyd, Tex Williams, Hoot Gibson, Allan "Rocky" Lane, Charles Starrett, Roy Rogers, Duncan Renaldo, Andy Parker & the Plainsmen, Cindy Walker, etc. Admission price was $1.00 plus tax, Children 50¢ for a 2PM matinee and evening show at 8PM.

 

"In honor and in memory of such great western heroes as Art Accord, Harry Carey, Dustin Farnum, William S. Hart, Buck Jones, Tom Mix, Will Rogers, Fred Thompson and others, a cavalcade of stars have banded together to promote a great western show for the purpose of raising funds for the construction of a western museum to be known as the   WESTERN HALL OF FAME dedicated to the preservation of the Old West and the private collections of the men who have and will in the future contribute to its history. This museum will be dedicated to the people of the West and will house and display personal properties of the cowboys - past, present, and future - their historical documents, trophies, souvenirs, songs, records and films of the West." (from Tim Spencer, Chairman, to Gordon Browning, Station KRKD, on November 16, 1948, under the letterhead "Western Hall of Fame First Annual Hoss Opera", courtesy of Fred Goodwin.)

 

Tim Spencer was Chairman, Bill Elliott was Secretary-Treasurer and Russ Hayden Director of Events. The Committee was comprised of (alphabetically): Spade Cooley, Dale Evans, Monte Hale, Red Harper, Susie Hamblen, Bob Nolan, Doye O'Dell, Pat Starling, Glenn Strange, Max Terhune, Jimmy Wakely, Cindy Walker and Tex Williams. On the Advisory Board were: Gene Autry, Bill Boyd, Andy Devine, Hoot Gibson, Stuart Hamblen, Roy Rogers and Charles Starrett. Publicity Director was Don Hix.

 

 

First Annual Hoss Opera, 1948.

Left to right back: Tex Terry (heavy), Pat Starling (actress), William "Hopalong Cassidy" Boyd and Bob Nolan.

Front: Roy Rogers, Ginny Jackson and Spade Cooley.

 

Bob, Cindy Walker, Max Terhune and William Boyd

 

A few of the 1948 Hoss Opera performers, courtesy of Tom Owen

Back: Tim Spencer, Tex Terry, Monte Hale, Jan Starling, Hoot Gibson, Russell Hayden, Bob Nolan, (? looks like Pat Brady), Glenn Strange.

Front: Ginny Jackson, Max Terhune, Jimmy Wakely, Cindy Walker, Roy Rogers, William Boyd and Spade Cooley.

 

1949 Western Jamboree - 15th Anniversary

The pressure of leading the Sons of the Pioneers was now weighing heavily on Bob. He fronted, or was spokesman for, the group in all their appearances and eventually he needed a bracer to force himself to go on stage. Once there, he was fine but he was increasingly reluctant to face the crowds. He began drinking heavily and would occasionally disappear for a day or two. The Sons of the Pioneers were much in demand by a huge audience familiar with them from radio, movies, transcriptions, and recordings.

 

At the same time, Bob was having trouble keeping the Sons of the Pioneers current with the demands of the public. Some members of the group refused to make the necessary changes to keep up with the times. Some neglected rehearsals.

 

Courtesy of Laurence Zwisohn

 

In the Spring of 1949, the Sons of the Pioneers toured the Southwest from the end of February through the beginning of April with shows in Southern California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. Carolina Cotton and the Oklahoma Sweethearts accompanied them and they were often billed as "The Sons and Daughters of the Pioneers". The Sons of the Pioneers were Bob Nolan, Lloyd Perryman, Ken Curtis, the Farr Brothers and Shug Fisher who had replaced Pat Brady when Pat joined the Roy Rogers TV show. The itinerary gives us an idea of just how busy they were.

 

 

(courtesy of Sharon Marie)

 

"The Buick in back was Uncle Hugh's and the Jeep was Pat's. 1948-9" (Karl Farr Jr.)

 

The photo was taken in Sweetwater, Texas, at radio station KXOX.

Back: Karl Farr, Ken Curtis, Hugh Farr, Bob Nolan, Tim Spencer, Lloyd Perryman and Shug Fisher

Front: Carolina Cotton between the Oklahoma Sweethearts

(courtesy of Sharon Marie)

 

Bob with unidentified boy in a Texas Scottish Hospital bed. The Sons of the Pioneers made countless appearances at children's hospitals.

(The Calin Coburn Collections ©2004)

 

Typical of the hype that advertised Bob Nolan and the Sons of the Pioneers - some truth and extravagant fiction.

(courtesy of Sharon Marie)

 

(courtesy of Sharon Marie)

 

(courtesy of Sharon Marie)

 

Table napkin. (courtesy of Sharon Marie)

 

 

(courtesy of Sharon Marie)

 

 

Left to right: Hugh Farr, Ken Curtis, Bob Nolan behind him, Lloyd Perryman, Karl Farr and Shug Fisher

(courtesy of Sharon Marie)

 

Bob at the mike.

(courtesy of Sharon Marie

 

Bob's last tour on the Sons of the Pioneers' 15th anniversary. 

(Terry Sevigny Collection)

The 1948 de Soto limo seated seven passengers and cost $2,631.00 brand new. (John Fullerton)

 

(Private Collection)

 

1949 03 05 Signing autographs in Phoenix, AZ

(Private Collection)

 

From the NBC Radio 15th Anniversary kit.

(Terry Sevigny Collection)

 

Private Collection

 

Sons of the Pioneers 15th Anniversary Tour, April 1949

Back: Karl Farr, Tim Spencer, Lou Mitnick (program sales), Bob Nolan

Front: Lloyd Perryman, Hugh Farr and Pat Brady

(Terry Sevigny Collection)

 

Sons of the Pioneers,  just before Bob Nolan retired, with the Canadian trio, The Rhythm Pals, Mike, Mark & Jack.

Back: Hugh Farr, Bill Rea (CKNW owner), Bob Nolan, Jack Jensen, Lloyd Perryman and Karl Farr

Front: Marc Wald, Tim Spencer, Pat Brady and Mike Ferbey

(Photo courtesy of Anne & Peter Greb)

 

Note: In 1948 The Rhythm Pals (Mike, Mark and Jack) were invited to guest on the Spade Cooley Show in the Santa Monica Ballroom in California, making them the first Canadian singing group to appear on U.S. television.

 

Sons of the Pioneers 15th Anniversary Tour

Martin Wagner (Advanceman), Lloyd Perryman, Bob Nolan, Karl Farr, Manager Gee, Pat Brady

(Terry Sevigny Collection)

 

Bob and Lloyd with manager Gee (see above) and Velma Spencer.

(Calin Coburn Collection ©2004)

 

Portland, OR, 1949

Courtesy of Josie Shapira.

 

Courtesy of Josie Shapira.

 

Portland, OR, 1949

Photo by Josie Shapira.

 

San Jose Civic Auditorium, 1948

(Jan Scott Collection)

Thanks to Sean Michael Lisle for identifying the location for us.

 

After that long and tiring year of touring, after his agent absconded with over $100,000 and disappeared into the new country of Israel, Bob remembered it thus:

 

The last year I was with the boys, I was only home nine days. Plus the fact that when come the time for income tax, my agent said, ‘We’re going to have to find a way for you to borrow some money.’ Now I’d just had a whale of a year. $179,000! And I had to pay income taxes on it and I didn’t have the money to do it. That dirty son was stealing me blind.

 

Being naïve and trusting is the reason the shysters are drawn to us, see? We are so darn trusting and they know it. So I’ll tell you it was that old Omar Khayyam deal that I used to accuse the agents of. They’d say, ‘These guys are dumb. They don’t need the money. All they need is enough money to buy a bottle of whiskey a day and enough to buy a roof for the girl they’re shacking up with.’ That’s how most of us got our start, our first heartbreak, to find out that we couldn’t trust those we were supposed to trust.

 

Bob Nolan was battling discouragement. The final straw was Tim Spencer's retirement in early 1949.  Utterly discouraged, Bob followed him shortly after. His professional association with Roy Rogers came to an end. They did remain friends for the rest of Bob's life but, as brothers often do, got together rarely.

 

        The load was too damn much for me to carry. I was fronting the group, not organizing but fronting, see, which is one hell of a job trying to keep them on their toes. Most of our work at that time was personal appearances and we were doing an awful lot of traveling and that’s a hard job. I was just getting my one-sixth and it was just too much for me. I was carrying the whole damn load.

        Once Tim quit, for God’s sake.... I mean, he was the brains behind the whole damn thing, so I just lost interest. I just lost all heart in the whole thing when he left and he left for the same reason I did.

        There was just too many people dragging their feet, see, and not giving their utmost. We’d been used to people just contributing everything they could to the improvement of the act. It was a wonderful group to work with when it was young, when we were all working on it real hard. But in later years, as I say, a few of them began to drag their feet and the people who were working hard at it like Tim and I, we got disgusted with it and more or less said, "If that’s the way you want it, you have it. Do it by yourselves. I don’t want no part of it." And I know Tim didn’t, either. Some wouldn’t attend rehearsals for anything. Just thought they knew it all and the result was, well, they thought they were too good to attend rehearsals and ended up doing the same thing ten years after they’d done it, see? This was a little bit tough to take because we was constantly getting new material and we couldn’t get them to attend rehearsals. They were good musicians, of course. They were the very best at that time and people loved them but they just didn’t want to go ahead. They just wanted to sit on their butts and ride along, see?

        Well, that didn’t suit Tim at all so he quit and I quit shortly after. I stayed with them with the recordings and everything and presented my new material to them and they liked it and recorded it.

 

Karl E. Farr Collection

 

Ken Curtis replaced Tim Spencer in the trio. Pat Brady had joined Roy Rogers for the TV series. 

(Terry Sevigny Collection)

 

1949 "Cowboy Songs" with cartoon by Mario deMarco

 

An unwell Bob Nolan, escorted at Tim's request by secretary Terry Sevigny to the car.

San Fernando Valley, 1949 or '50

(Terry Sevigny Collection)

 

1949 brought dramatic changes to the group. When both Tim Spencer and Bob Nolan retired, Lloyd took over the reins of the Sons of the Pioneers. He had been doing that more and more over the last year as Bob was finding it increasingly difficult to continue fronting the group. Tim's voice was wearing out and his interests were changing. Bob would disappear at times and Lloyd was the one who kept the show going on the road. The Sons of the Pioneers had an equal interest in everything and they took turns "ramrodding" but, in actual fact, Lloyd diplomatically but firmly kept things going. Over the remaining years they contemplated retiring the Sons of the Pioneers name but it was impossible since each one needed the job, their families depended on it, and the individual members functioned better as a group.

 

In the ensuing years, Lloyd did much of the arranging and trained each new member in the unique Sons of the Pioneers harmony. He knew every part of hundreds of songs and to train the new members he would sing their part only and tape it for them to take home and learn. For example, when Rusty joined the Pioneers in 1963, he told Ken Griffis that Lloyd passed him a tape with the tenor part to some of the songs. Rusty was shocked and unbelieving when he heard the parts he was to sing but he memorized them. At rehearsal, to his astonishment and relief, his part slipped into place neatly and smoothly. "You just can't believe what a talented individual Lloyd Perryman was," he said. "I learned so much from the man and he was so nice to me." Every person who knew Lloyd, echoed those words.

 

And so Bob Nolan retired from the group he had helped to form and to which he had given his all for so many years. The leadership was left in Lloyd Perryman's capable hands. Lloyd "Tommy" Doss was hired to replace Bob in the trio and the unusual timbre of Tommy's voice, so essential to the classic Sons of the Pioneers sound, made the vocal transition seamless. Even long-time fans couldn't tell the difference from sound alone. When the Sons of the Pioneers appeared on television or in person, countless fans seeing Tommy Doss realized with a shock that Bob Nolan had left the group. Fans who knew the Sons of the Pioneers only from their recordings, did not realize that Bob Nolan was not in the trio because their voices were so similar.  Bob Nolan was a guest on the Lucky U Ranch program and confused Betty Taylor. To the delight of fans everywhere to this day, the two men sang a duet, "Hillbilly Wedding in June".

 

Tim's son, Harold, recalls the Pioneers as being one big happy family, a close-knit group with the families, wives and kids.

 

"There were always barbecues, dinners and outdoor things at one or the other's house. There were a lot of fishing trips at Lake Henshaw in San Diego where all the Pioneers and the kids would go fishing. There didn't seem to be a lot of differences of opinion or conflict in the group. That came later. I remember just a lot of harmony in the group. Closeness. But they could be really rough. Dad, Roy, Hugh and the others were brawlers. The weren't drugstore cowboys; they were real guys. They had a couple of hangouts in the Studio City area near Republic Pictures. There was a lot of drinking. You could always find some of the Pioneers at the Little Bohemia or Herbert's Drive In. The closeness broke up after my Dad and Bob left. "

 

The rest of Bob's life, from 1950 - 1980, is found in The Final Years.

 


 

Bob Nolan was not only the greatest songwriter that ever lived, but a great poet. Bob was a deep-thinking kind of man. When you had Bob for a friend, you had a good one. (Rex Allen)

 


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