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Bob Nolan's Descendents Today

(Calin, Miles and Connor Coburn)

 

        "In the Wind of Time" (Bob Nolan) spoken by Calin Coburn, 2000

 

Calin Coburn with his sons, Miles and Connor, on their 2010 trip north to Canada.

(Photo by Mitchell Cohan)

 

Bob Nolan's grandson, Calin Coburn, and Calin's sons enjoy driving to Canada and spending time with the McDonalds in the BC Interior. These pictures were taken during that time. Calin and his sons grew up in Las Vegas so the lakes and forests of British Columbia were a relief from the desert heat.

 

Left: Calin, Miles and Connor

Centre: Ralph & Elizabeth McDonald, Connor, Calin & Miles Coburn

 

Miles & Connor

 

 

Miles is beginning to resemble his famous great grandfather.

 

            Bob Nolan had one daughter, Roberta, and she had one son, Calin. Because he grew up in Las Vegas and Bob confined his own movements to the San Fernando Valley or his cabin on Big Bear Lake, Calin did not see much of his grandfather then. There were brief visits over the years and, when he did visit with him, they had only a grandfather - grandson relationship. Calin was unaware as a child that Bob was once world famous.

             Calin recalls, “Bob named me and spelled my name ‘Calin’ on purpose because it made a point; it was different. In later years, he wanted to take me deep sea fishing. He and my Mom and my uncle would rent a boat out of San Diego and they would go all the way down the coast of Baja to the end. Every night they would stop in at wherever they were, go in and drink and eat and they’d get back out on the boat the next morning for more fishing.”
            During his college years in Santa Barbara, Calin was able to visit Bob more often but it wasn’t until he stayed with him for a few days in 1975 that he was granted a look into his grandfather’s heart and mind.
            Those conversations were precious and, even thirty years later, Calin found he was unable to share them with others. “When Bob talked to me it was to me, for me. Nobody else. I can’t say I got to know him - nobody knew him – but if he’d lived longer….”

 

Rough Demos Saved

 

After Bob died, Calin's mother asked him to help her with a box of demos she had found among her father's effects. They were 78rpm and made on Bob's home recording machine. Played a few times, the 78s were virtually ruined and Roberta didn't want them lost forever when there was a renewed interest in his work. Calin found a recording machine that would copy from a turntable to a cassette player - not any easy thing to find in the early 1990s. He managed to save "Covered Wagon", "Daddy's on the Rainbow", "Frontiers", "Have You", "The High Sierras", "If You are Willing", "Love Ever Green", "My Heart in Deep Despair", "My Love's a Voice in the Green Willow Tree", "A Prayer for Christmas Time", "Shadow on the Wall", "Shootin' My Way Through Town", "Stray Wind", "Three Friends have I", "Three Guesses", "Till You Return", "Vagabond Whirlwinds", "Volvere a pasar por aqui", "What Can We Lose?" and "The Wonder of it All". All these were demos made by Bob accompanied only by his little Martin guitar plus a little whistling.

 

Calin included two more: "For the Love of You" and "Little Spaceman" (an unissued RCA Victor recording by the Sons of the Pioneers recorded on March 26 1955.) "Little Spaceman" was in very poor condition. We would never have known about these songs had not Calin and his mother cared about preserving them. Roberta copied the cassette and gave it to many of Bob's old friends. The old demos give us an idea of how Bob worked on a song. Who knows how many other demos were made but were in such poor condition that Roberta deemed them unfit to copy.

 

Unfortunately, perhaps ninety per cent of Bob Nolan's song lyrics were destroyed in a garage fire. For years, Bob had kept letters, photos, scraps of paper on which he had written lyrics and mementos of his career, etc,  in what he called his "treasure chest". He told his friends, "I'm keeping everything for my grandson." After both Bob and his wife died, his daughter confessed to Elizabeth that she had "cleaned house" and threw out much of what her father had collected. "If I'd known that anybody at all would have been interested, I'd have saved it. Western music was a thing of the past and I had no idea that anyone would remember him."
 

Calin's thoughts on Bob Nolan:

 

I admire the man for different reasons from most people. Yes, he had a great talent. No one can doubt that. But I saw and appreciated him as one who shied away from the bright spotlight and lived in the past shimmering lights of evening. He saw himself as only a man but he was a man who lived within his memories. Today meant nothing other than a stepping stone to the next. The past and his life of regrets were all-consuming and they touched his music, especially his lyrics.

I don’t think that he had an insight into life or love any more than the rest of us. Most people are shallow or shy away from the deep heart - that heart that hurts and will continue to do so, if one allows. Did he ever found solace or peace? Those who do not pose such questions of themselves tend to be shallow. Why live in the miseries and pain of the past? For this is the reason that he cut himself off from the world in general and lived a quiet and solitary existence till his dying day.

It’s hard to comprehend a man who creates such beauty in music, lyrics and feels no need or desire to hold on to it. It would seem that he feels no value in his work. Bob was just a man. A simple, warm and caring man, but just a man. But he was a man to aspire to. His personal introspective thoughts seemed always to be searching. We will never know the paths he took in his own mind. I wonder if he ever found any solace or peace in his soul. We know that he was very unhappy for most of his life.


I must also wonder where his music and lyrics came from at such an early stage in his life. Who was that love he longed for all those years? Or was it, as I've always thought, a search for a true love that he never ever found?


I have a theory, though. He may have started to write about the love of a particular woman – maybe Pearl, maybe someone else before her or someone after her - his first love. But, as the years went by, he wrote about the love that he once felt; the desire to have that first love still in his life. That sort of love never comes twice in anyone’s heart, a love that is so clear and clean of all life’s trials and tribulations. In those younger years there are no responsibilities. Money isn’t factored into life yet. You are immersed in nothing but youth and love. That feeling and yearning after long years becomes an entity of its own. So, maybe there was no one woman he was writing about, rather a feeling that he had once experienced in his youth. And in his songs that feeling lives on.


I disagree with anyone who says Bob was cold and callous but if you want to be truly objective, you are going to have to face the fact that some people center their entire lives around themselves. Bob was, of course, not a mean person but I don’t think he let anyone else into his life simply because it was easier that way. When you let people in, it requires a great deal of energy and all of his mental energy was consumed by himself. There was no room for anyone else.


Solitude is not something you strive for or decide upon, it is the consequence of years of choices. It is something that should not be desired or achieved in any one man’s life. If it touches you, there is no going back, no recourse. It will leave you with absolutely nothing. Your life will become…nothing. Rote will be your existence. The rest of your days will consist of nothing more than plodding.


Bob was not as complicated a man as you might think. His life was devoted to one person – himself. Bob was Bob. An island unto himself. Bob was internal. Bob was just writing music, enjoying his life, making songs, making words. And the way they go together is the gift of Bob to us.


The majority of people in the world only listen to music. There are those who allow the music to surround their senses and derive great pleasure from it, yes. And then there are a lucky few who don’t just listen but let the music enter their souls. They actually feel the music within their heart and body. People such as these have a real and true passion for life, whether they show it on the outside or not. The physical quality of the recording or even the skill with which it is presented has nothing to do with the enjoyment and appreciation of the actual song. Your emotional response to the song will transcend any technical peculiarities. I have listened to all types of music since I was just a child. The songs that have become my favorites have done so because I feel them in the very fibres of my being.


There is a saying that you measure a person by the friends he keeps. I say that a person should be measured by the music he loves. Music transcends the boundaries of love, hate, despair and bliss. To see truly and completely inside a person, you would have to listen to their music; not just the music that they are listening to today but throughout the full span of their lives.


Very few people in all of life actually make a mark on history the way Bob did. I don’t think he understood what he contributed and how he touched so many people in the world.


If you were to ask him if he saw himself as a great man he would simply say “No.” He saw himself as a man who had loved and lost and made mistakes along the way, as we all have. I doubt he even saw the gift he truly possessed, that uncanny ability to express the feelings of so many people and put them to word and music.

 


 

Family Photos

 

Bob Nolan and his grandson, Calin Coburn

 

Ken Coburn, Bob Nolan with Calin and his mother, Roberta

 

Photos of Bob Nolan taken by Calin Coburn

 

Roy & Dale Rogers in front of their home - 19838 Tomahawk Rd, Apple Valley, California

(Roberta Nolan Mileusnich photo)

 

Contact Calin Coburn

 

Bob's (until recently) unpublished verses spoken by Calin Coburn:

In the Wind of Time