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Dale Warren

(June 1, 1925 - August 9, 2008)

 

        Dale Henry Warren was born June 1, 1925, in Rockford, Illinois into the musical family of Henry ("Uncle Henry" of the Kentucky Mountaineers) Green and Wava Adams Warren. Dale debuted early, standing on a box to play his bass fiddle for their radio programs, and grew up performing. (Read his full story in "Hear My Song" by Ken Griffis.)

        Dale married Margie DeVere also known as "Fiddlin' Kate", a talented musician and composer. They appeared on various television programs and recorded with Foy Willing and the Riders of the Purple Sage. But it was when he joined the Sons of the Pioneers at the end of 1952 that he found his niche. When Lloyd Perryman died in 1977, Dale became the leader of the Sons of the Pioneers. Dale Warren remained with the group for 56 years until his death in 2008.

    "Bob Nolan was in the studio [during his first recording session with the Sons of the Pioneers] and I guess he sensed that I was a bit nervous. Nolan called me over to the side and said, 'Dale, don't worry about being nervous. I never got over being nervous, whether it was on stage or on a recording session and don't concern yourself about not being good enough. Just be yourself and you'll do fine.' I've always remembered those kind words and at the time they meant a great deal to me." (p. 161 Hear My Song, 1994)

 

Albums with the Sons of the Pioneers

Photo Gallery

Brochures, Posters and Pamphlets

Tributes

John Fullerton's experience with Dale Warren and the Sons of the Pioneers

Recordings featuring Dale Warren

 

 

 

 

 

A Few Thoughts on Dale Warren by John Fullerton (February 5, 2015)

As I think back, Dale would have been 90 years old had he lived to 2015. I remember once when he said something to the effect that he would be a Pioneer until he died. Dale pointed out that if he died onstage like Karl Farr, well, that was okay. Dale didn’t quite get his wish on that one. In knowing Dale for many years and getting personally acquainted with him even more as he achieved his 50th year with the Pioneers, he really shared his love of the group and the men who helped him keep it all going. Dale really loved his last trio. He loved all of them thru the years but when Randy Rudd came into the trio, Dale believed that was the sound he had been longing for. Many times when seeing the group, especially 2005-07, Dale frequently asked me my thoughts about the trio sound and how the mix sounded in the crowd.

 

(photo of John and Dale taken at the Shepherd of the Hills Pavilion Theater in Branson, MO, September, 2006)

A few years prior to that, Dale knew that I was into collecting the Sons of the Pioneers memorabilia and he was interested in the Tex Ritter Ranch Party Shows. I was able to locate several for him from various collectors and always shared copies of them with him. He was so proud of his wife Margie and her talents and especially her contributions to that show. I really believe Margie gave up her music career when she did so she could support Dale in the Pioneers. In the late 1990s I assisted Gary LeMaster with the slide presentation in their shows that featured movie stills, film footage and photos. Dale was very appreciative. Any time I attended their concerts, he would take a moment to introduce me to the audience. That meant a lot to me!

A lot of the fans have asked me, “Why Branson?” In the early 80s, Dale and the guys had never heard of it until they were hired for their appearances at Lowe’s. I think Dale was really sold on the idea when they were selling out 900 seats a night. No need to be on the road as often when the crowds will come to you. Now, if it was Lloyd Perryman still running the Pioneers at that time, I personally don’t think he would have brought the group here permanently. Lloyd would have never left California!

I really thought Dale was one of the finest vocalists there was. As I discovered the great recordings of the 1960s, I became fully aware of his vocal talents. The “Legends Of the West” LP is one of my favorites and Dale’s effort on “Destiny”, along with “The Shifting, Whispering Sands”, I thought was one of the best. Later I discovered a lot of the 1950s RCA singles. The October 7, 1958, recording of “My Last Goodbye” is another one of the great Dale Warren solos. When the Pioneers did their “live” shows Lloyd would sometimes introduce Dale as “Dimples” Warren, just to get laughs. There was a considerable amount of goofing-off and it was all in good fun. One of their tricks was to attempt to throw Dale “off” during his solo on “Four Walls.” Shug would act out parts and make noise with his bass, assisted by Karl and his guitar. Dale took his singing very seriously but, on occasion, the guys were able to get him to bust into laughter and he couldn’t finish the song!

Dale was always one to share his appreciation for Roy Rogers and Dale Evans and that included all their kids, too. Dale often would reminisce about doing the Rodeos and Fairs and how it was his duty, with assistance from Tommy Doss, to help round-up all the kids for the finale of the show which always included the salute to God and Country. Dusty and Sandy were very good at hiding, usually under the grandstand, knowing Dale and Tommy would sometimes cover several acres of ground in the hunt for them with no luck.

I personally am so grateful to Dale for bringing the Sons of the Pioneers to Branson. I seriously believe I wouldn’t be doing what I do if they didn’t come to our area. Thank you Dale for your love of the Sons of the Pioneers
and making Branson, Missouri your home. You are deeply missed.

 

A Few Thoughts on Sunny Spencer

A Few Thoughts on Gary LeMaster

My introduction to the Pioneer Sound (personal memories)
By John Fullerton

This story is difficult for me to tell simply because it’s difficult to find a place to start. I suppose we will begin with 1984. I was entering the first grade that fall. My hometown of Branson, Missouri, was growing more and more each year, becoming a destination for folks to see their favorite Country Music entertainers. I remember that summer in particular-- our main drag, Highway 76, was undergoing a widening project from a two-lane road with no sidewalks to a three-lane road with a center turn-lane and sidewalks. Traffic seemed to be stopped in both directions at all hours of the day and into the evening hours. Several of the newer theaters were doing afternoon matinee shows in addition to their evening performances to handle the overflow. Just a simple trip to the grocery store or Wal-mart in our town could be a lengthy experience. We had no alternate routes like today to avoid Highway 76. Out of the dozen or so theaters in town, there were two in particular that I recall brought in major name talent, many of which were Nashville based. Both of these theaters were on Highway 76, literally across the street from each other-- the Roy Clark Celebrity Theater and the Lowe’s Country Music Show. Some of the acts that came to town would appear for three or four days, maybe a week, and then someone else would show up.

As a six-year old, I was so overwhelmed with the activity in our little town, I didn’t worry about it. I knew my community was a tourist town, I didn’t pay much attention to the shows. Sure, my family and I saw one once in awhile, and our radio was always tuned in to the Country station out of Springfield but my memories of my Dad and his cousin doing team roping practice three nights a week is what I recall the most that summer.

I have never known life without horses and I loved to ride frequently. We had 105 acres about a mile south of Highway 76. At this age, I was comfortable riding on my own-- with supervision from Dad or Grandpa, our horses were kid proof, family pets more or less. My Dad was raised in the saddle too and has been training horses since a small boy. Musically, my family was into that too, especially my Dad’s parents. My Grandfather Wallace worked daytime at Table Rock Dam, he was maintenance director for the parks and campgrounds surrounding the lake. My Granny Evelyn worked at a local shoe store that sold everything including boots, and they also specialized in boot repair. On weekends and at night, my Grandparents performed at many local Church events with their Gospel quartet that they had founded in 1952. Their harmonies were unique. Listening back to my family’s recordings, they sounded very reminiscent of the famous Chuck Wagon Gang. My Aunt Ruby (Grandpa Wallace’s sister) was their lead vocalist, Mrs. Layton sang alto harmony, Granny Evelyn sang tenor and did rhythm guitar. Grandpa Wallace did the bass vocals. I loved their sound and have many wonderful memories watching them onstage making a joyful noise for the Lord. Their ministry had a big impact on me and caused me to have a deep love for harmony singing. Years later while in high school I got to harmonize with them and found it to be very difficult. My vocal part was out of my voice range-- I just didn’t click with their sound.

Sometimes in a child’s life there comes what I call a “life changing moment; an event that steers you in the direction to go. For me, that moment happened in the fall of 1985 while in the second grade at Branson Elementary. I got off the school bus one Friday afternoon and walked next door to my Grandparent’s house, to let Granny know I was home from school. Barely getting inside the door, Granny greeted me with the following statement, and I’ll never forget it. “Tonight we’re going to see the Sons of the Pioneers!” I could really sense Granny’s excitement. At that very moment, I was not impressed. My reply was, “the who?” Granny went into this story about this band that she used to hear on the radio all the time and she met one of their members that morning at the shoe store who dropped off a pair of boots for repair.

So now our evening was all planned out thanks to Granny. She already had the tickets. Six of them. No quiet evening at home for me. Soon we wrapped up supper and Dad, Mom, my little sister- who was a little over a year old, and myself met Granny and Grandpa at the Lowe’s Country Music Show. The Lowe’s gang I recall did the first half of the show. To me it was a typical Branson show, excellent singing, musicianship, and comedy. After intermission, the house lights went dark and a voice (Tommy Nallie) says, “And now-- the world famous-- Sons of the Pioneers!” The curtain opens, the stage lights come up and there’s six Cowboys. Four guys up front, a bass player in the corner, and a drummer on the riser behind. I wasn’t certain at that very moment, with their opening tune “When Pay Day Rolls Around”, just exactly what kind of music it was.

I knew it wasn’t Country. But all their songs had a Cowboy connection. Plus everything was trio harmony. The instrumentation to me was impressive and unique. At that age, I really paid attention to the little details. I remember glancing at Granny several times during their 90 minute concert and it was like she was on the edge of her seat the whole time! She was in cheerleader mode, loudly applauding every song moments after the kickoff and I’m sure she was driving everyone crazy around her by singing out loud on each tune too!

 

I remember the drummer in particular. Drums were my favorite and I admired how he made them fit. The drums weren’t in the way, they complemented the entire sound. As soon as the curtain closed at the end of the show, Granny was on her way to the little booth near the side of the stage that sold records and photos. I didn’t tag along. I was very shy and didn’t want to meet each of the Pioneers but Granny did have them autograph a couple of photos and an LP album called “Cool Water.” So that was my introduction to real Cowboy and Western Music. I knew I had just witnessed a musical legacy. These guys were the real deal. Granny gave the “Cool Water” album to my parents and soon, I began paying very close attention to the songs and sounds it featured.

The Sons of the Pioneers we had seen that October evening in 1985 consisted of Dale Warren, Luther Nallie, Roy Lanham, Tommy Nallie, Sunny Spencer, and Jack Nallie. Dale sang baritone harmony, did all the talking during the show, telling stories and histories of the songs and the band. Luther sang the tenor and played rhythm guitar. He also played saxophone on an instrumental medley. Sunny Spencer sang lead and really impressed me too. He played a whole mess of instruments. I had never seen one person do so much. Roy Lanham played lead guitar and did some comedy, a very awesome talent. Jack Nallie (Dale called him Jack LaRoux from Louisiana) played bass, and Tommy Nallie up on the riser helped with vocals and took care of those drums I was so crazy about. I didn’t know it until many years later, but three of the Pioneers lived about a mile or so on past my house. Sunny always saw me playing outside in the yard as a kid. Tommy also lived close to us. Also years later I realized that Dale wouldn’t call Jack by his last name since he felt that no one needed to know there were three Nallie brothers in the band!

I recall one cold winter weekend a few months after seeing the Pioneers we were snowed in so while hanging out with Granny and Grandpa I mentioned how I had been listening closely to the “Cool Water” album and how great it would be to have the words to the songs. Granny opens a closet door in the bedroom and pulls out this huge cardboard box and it’s stacked full of “Cowboy Songs” magazines and other Western themed song books. Inside one of the magazines was the words to “Cool Water” and “Empty Saddles.” Granny grabbed her guitar from the case and proceeded to find my key as I sang “Cool Water” from the magazine. Digging thru the box of songs frequently over the coming months, I learned more songs, and Granny would assist me with guitar and her tenor harmony part.

In 1986 we saw the Pioneers again, this time at the Foggy River Boys Theater in Branson. It was the same personnel minus Jack Nallie but this was a full two hour show. I remember very vividly the guys doing “Sky Ball Paint.” We purchased another color photo of the guys. I recall at that time frequently humming Sons of the Pioneers tunes in my spare time.

 

Looking thru Mom and Dad’s stack of LP albums one day I spotted another Sons of the Pioneers album, one called “San Antonio Rose.” I started playing it a lot, but still liked the “Cool Water” LP the best. I was curious who the trio was on these two albums. I knew they weren’t the group that I was seeing in Branson. I was really becoming a dedicated fan by this time. Tommy Nallie was my favorite. I thought drums were so cool and he was the best at it. I even went so far to ask my parents for a drum set for Christmas. After a few years of asking for drums for Christmas, I finally gave up and quit asking! To satisfy my percussion desire I made my own drum set. I took a five gallon bucket, a Planters peanut can, and one of Granny’s Tupperware food containers. I don’t know where she got them, but Granny managed to find a pair of used brushes. I was on my way musically!

I vividly recall around this time, perhaps early 1987 one evening when my Mom was on a business trip south of Branson in Harrison, Arkansas. My Dad, little sister, and I tagged along. Dad had to stop at Wal-Mart, as he was interested in the newest George Strait cassette. In the “S” section above all the George items was a Sons of the Pioneers cassette. My Dad convinced me I wouldn’t be pleased, it was an early line-up of the group probably 1930s. But I assured him that didn’t matter, so we grabbed it too. Playing it frequently to get familiar with the tunes, this was my introduction of the original trio of Roy, Bob, and Tim, along with the Farr Brothers. This is where I heard the distinct voice of Bob Nolan the first time. I knew when listening to the “Cool Water” LP that there was a similar distinct voice. I thought it was the same person. Seeing the Sons of the Pioneers twice now, Dale Warren would often impersonate that voice too, so I was really confused--hearing the voices and not knowing who they belonged to!

On July 5, 1988 we saw the Pioneers at the Foggy River Boys Theater once again. By this time, Roy Lanham had retired and Gary LeMaster was with the group. Daryl Wainscott also joined assisting with keyboards. At this particular concert I tagged along with Granny at halftime to meet the guys and have them sign a couple of photos for me. I remember Granny telling the guys that I sang their songs all the time. They each encouraged me, which is something I’ll never forget. My Mom purchased a cassette at this show, a project called “Celebration.” I soon fell in love with this collection of tunes and learned the lyrics to all 25 songs. Mom also signed me up for the Sons of the Pioneers fan club which at that time was ran by Gene Davenport from Jackson, Tennessee. Now at age ten, this was my favorite musical group, and Western was my favorite music. “Cool Water” was my favorite song! I was hungry for more.

At Branson Elementary they give the fifth grade class the opportunity to do beginner band, where they start students on the recorder and let the students pick their main instrument after a semester of recorder band. Watching Sunny Spencer and Luther Nallie play clarinet, I chose that as my instrument. At the same time I started recorder band I started fooling around with guitar and piano. Mom and Dad now believed I was serious about music so Mom signed me up for weekly piano lessons. While in the sixth and seventh grade I played piano at church when they did evening services and went to guitar in the eighth grade.

I remember seeing the Pioneers in Branson the following year, 1989. Tommy Nallie was no longer in the group. I had read this in the group’s fan club newsletter and I was very disappointed. Being involved with the fan club was great, we received four newsletters a year. I began to learn a little more about the history of the group and was thrilled to get my hands on anything that involved the Pioneers. Musically I continued with the clarinet in the school band, did weekly piano lessons, played guitar in Church, and messed around with Granny’s mandolin a little bit.

One day in the summer of 1991, Sunny Spencer, who still lived just past our place, stopped by after a Pioneers performance one afternoon. I recognized him right away so I greeted him as he stopped in front of my Grandparent’s house. Sunny noticed my dog was throwing a fit because there was a strange vehicle in the driveway. Sunny says, “So does that dog bite?” I jokingly replied, “He might!” Sunny handed me two new group photos, signed by all the guys! I was speechless. By this time my Grandpa Wallace figures out who I’m visiting with so he tells Sunny, “John sure plays your tapes all the time.” That began my friendship with Sunny, and we remained close until his passing in 2005.

By 1992, the Branson community was really booming with significant growth. We could see the increase in visitors each year. We made the decision to sell our property. Having horses and trying to live a rural life wasn’t working well, especially with the Branson city limits less than a half mile away from our property. So in July 1992, we packed all our stuff and spent nearly three months making daily trips moving to our new place, a rundown cattle ranch about 20 minutes east of Branson in the little community of Kirbyville. It was quiet. It had room. And I had a place to really focus on my musical interests.

I began my freshman year at Branson High School in the fall of 1992. Because of our move to Kirbyville, I ended up missing marching band camp. So I ended my school band career but continued to play clarinet at Church services. I was more interested in guitar; the Pioneers had three really awesome Guitarists-- Sunny, Gary, and Luther. The way they played had a big impact on me. I was always watching their fingers. We saw the Pioneers in the fall of 1992 at the Foggy River Boys Theater. This was their final year there, the group would be at a different theater the following year.

By early 1993 we were settled in at our cattle ranch in Kirbyville. There was a lot of work around the property, not just unpacking. The family we purchased the ranch from had rented the property out to various cattle operations over the years and unfortunately the original cross-fencing (where each pasture branched out from the feed lot behind the barn) had been destroyed. So we spent a good deal of time rebuilding segments of fence, just to get the property back to where we could run cattle on it again. It felt great to live in a location where there was no city noise. Now, less than 60 cars a day went by our house - a far cry from the 30,000 plus at our Branson location. I spent a lot of time and rehearsal working on my guitar playing. The chords were driving me crazy and it took me a long time to get where I could sing and play comfortably. With what few Pioneers recordings I had, I continued to focus on the instrumentation. I started collecting Roy Rogers movies on VHS. Anything that featured the Sons of the Pioneers, I wanted it!

In late 1993, several things happened that really got me deeper into the Sons of the Pioneers, especially their historical legacy, as the group approached their 60th year of continuous performance. My Mom helped me get in touch with Ken Griffis, who had written the book “Hear My Song-the Story of the Celebrated Sons of the Pioneers.” I wrote him a letter and purchased his book, excited to finally get into researching the beginnings of the Sons of the Pioneers.

 

One particular Saturday morning sticks out in my mind. My sister and I went to Wal-Mart with Granny. Afterwards I suggested we walk next door to the Ernest Tubb Record Shop inside the Branson Mall. At this time, they still sold LP records. Looking in the “S” section of LP’s, one particular 2 record set just happened to jump out at me. It was the Sons of the Pioneers “Lucky U Ranch Radio Broadcasts” set, still sealed! The price tag was only $3.98 which to me, was way under-priced. Thrilled with my little purchase, when we got home to the ranch, I went to the mailbox and inside was a large padded package. It was the book from Ken Griffis! I will never forget that day.

 

I continued to purchase Sons of the Pioneers recordings from the Ernest Tubb Record Shop until I had collected everything they carried on the group. My little collection was getting bigger! They even had some photo stills and reproduction movie posters that were made available by Fred Goodwin. I later got his address and began a wonderful friendship with him. To top off the year, for Christmas my Dad’s sister (my Aunt Judy) borrowed a stack of 1960s Sons of the Pioneers RCA LP’s from a friend that attended their Church. She made cassette copies of all of these for me! I was speechless! The records from this particular collection were well worn with static and noise, so it was really difficult to pick out the vocal parts in the trio. Later I was able to locate excellent condition copies of all the recordings.

Continuing to see the Pioneers in-person at their Branson show as often as I could, I really began to flood Dale Warren with questions about the things he remembered. It was always a joy for me to pick his brain about his amazing career with the group. Often, I took a paper and pen with me to the show, just to take notes on the things Dale shared.

Around this time I got more acquainted with Sons of the Pioneers member Gary LeMaster and his family. A musician and vocalist of amazing talent, he was also a fabulous guitarist. I learned a lot watching his moves, his ability to handle the tenor part in the trio, and the lead guitar chores at the same time.

 

Near the end of 1992 my Grandpa Wallace’s sister, my Aunt Ruby and her husband, moved next door to Gary, Valerie and their daughter Cary. One day there was a LeMaster family garage sale and we dropped by to see if there was any bargains. I expressed to Gary some problems I was having with my guitar making an electronic hum when I played in locations that had florescent lighting. Disappearing in the house for few moments he returned with a good condition working cable that solved my issue. That meant a lot to me! Gary was always willing and ready to help anyone, especially young musicians.


If I had an issue with a particular chord, all I had to do was ask and Gary would drop what he was doing to show me the right way to do it. When I really started learning the Sons of the Pioneers harmony parts in High School, I would share with Gary my demo recordings. He was so gracious to point out my mistakes and share the little secrets when it came to breathing and phrasing that are so much a staple of the Pioneer sound. For a number of years Gary and I would trade copies of Roy Rogers movies for copies of Sons of the Pioneers radio transcriptions and rare stuff that I was collecting. Gary truly loved the Pioneers deeply, and the legacy that they are so known for. Gary passed on September 9, 2012. I think about him every day.

In early 1994, I contacted John Morris, a record collector in Brighton, Michigan. Several Sons of the Pioneers fans had told me he was the one to contact to buy good condition copies of the Sons of the Pioneers RCA LP’s of the 1960s. It took me almost four years to get them all. I now focused even more, dissecting the songs and figuring out the vocal parts and the rhythm guitar part. Most sixteen year-olds by this time are saving their money for their first car. I wasn’t really concerned about that at this time in my life! There were things on the Sons of the Pioneers that I needed to collect. There might not be another chance! In the spring of 1994 an announcement was made that the Pioneers would be having a 60th Anniversary Reunion and concert in Tucson, Arizona that November. Roy Rogers and Dale Evans would be there too, as well as former Pioneers! I knew I had to attend this, there was no way I could miss it!

For the majority of 1994, my goal was to see that we would somehow make it to Tucson. There were a lot of issues to figure out. Funding would be the big one. My folks don’t fly, I had never flown, we knew we would be driving. We did succeed with getting tickets for the 60th Reunion Concert thru Ticketmaster. The event would be held at the University of Arizona at Centennial Hall. Since the event was in November, not only would I be missing a week of school, but my sister, age 10, would be missing that amount of school too. Would our schools understand this situation and be willing to let us both skip class to be part of a historical event like this?

When classes began for my Junior year at Branson High School in September 1994, I went to Principal Allen Ritchie’s office one day to tell him about the 60th Anniversary Reunion event and how important it was for me to be there. Mr. Ritchie to my surprise was very impressed that someone my age followed Roy Rogers and the Sons of the Pioneers so closely. Mr. Ritchie recalled his childhood of seeing Roy’s films frequently; he was a huge fan as a child. We made the agreement that I could skip the necessary school dates but I would be taking homework assignments with me and catch up on everything when I returned to class. My sister Julie, who was in the fourth grade, also had no problem asking off a week of school. Dad and Mom succeeded in getting off work also. In addition to saving every penny we earned, Granny and Grandpa also donated a considerable sum of cash to see that my dream of attending this gathering would be possible. My folks and sister looked at this as a much needed vacation. We hadn’t been on one in over a year. I looked at it differently. To me, this was a business trip! This historical event was a big deal. On Saturday morning November 12, 1994, our bags were packed, I had my Cowboy clothes and Circle S suit, plus a handful of Sons of the Pioneers cassettes that I had custom made with my favorite songs. It was time to hit the road!

We made good drive time on Saturday November 12, making it from Branson to Amarillo, TX that evening. The next day was a long drive. The scenery in New Mexico was awesome. We arrived in Tucson the evening of November 13th after an 11 hour drive. This was my first experience seeing big cities up close. Our hotel was not far from the University of Arizona. We spent Monday November 14 getting familiar with the Tucson community, and drove out to Old Tucson Studios and toured their historic property. We got back to our hotel around 4pm, grabbed a bite, and then it was off to Centennial Hall.


We chose to arrive early, knowing the Reunion event was sold out. At the entrance of the Hall, I spotted several familiar faces in the Western Music world, and spotted Gary LeMaster’s wife, Valerie, also waiting in line for the doors to open. I greeted her and let her know we had made it.

Before we went to our seats I went to the merchandise table and picked up the new revised edition of Ken Griffis’s book. This one had a blue cover and had been completely re-written from the 1986 version. One of my projects for this Reunion event was to write an article for the Sons of the Pioneers Fan Club newsletter- “The Tumbleweed Times.” After a short hiatus, the publication was going again, operated by Valerie LeMaster and her Mom Dee. Valerie wanted a fan’s perspective of the event so I was ready to take notes. I thought it would be neat to do a “play by play” of the concert and cover the happenings. Also to my thrill, the concert was being filmed for a future video release, so everyone gave their mailing addresses so we would be notified of the release.


This event was simply a fabulous tribute to the organization that was loved by millions. Many groups performed, including the Sons of the San Joaquin, Riders In the Sky, and Cowboy poet Waddie Mitchell. The first half lasted right at two hours. After intermission the second half was opened by Stan Corliss, then the Sons of the Pioneers were introduced. They got a standing ovation before they even began their opening number! At the end of their set, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans joined the guys and performed, then Dusty (Roy Rogers Jr.), and after that a number of awards and presentations were handed out. The concert wrapped with the former Pioneers joining the guys for a few tunes, then everybody and anybody in Western music came onstage for “Happy Trails.” It was really wonderful. By the time it was all over, the event had lasted just over four hours. I got some great notes, so I was excited to write a story of what I had just witnessed.

The trip home from Tucson was fun. We went up to Kingman, Arizona to visit some relatives, then on to the Grand Canyon. We also stopped at the National Cowboy Hall Of Fame in Oklahoma City. We arrived home on Saturday November 19. I had a lot to do. Back to school on Monday and get caught up! Granny and I went to catch the Pioneers at their Branson show the following Saturday, November 26.

For the majority of 1995, my spare time was spent in rehearsals still dissecting harmony parts. I became acquainted with a young bass player and vocalist, Jerry Fowler, a talented young man, at the time who was just 13 years of age. I told him I was interested in putting a band together that could cover the forgotten and obscure Sons of the Pioneers tunes. It took us over a year, with lots of rehearsal but we felt were ready for the public to hear us. We called ourselves the Stars of the West, from a tune Stan Jones had written that we liked. Later we added a third vocalist and performed as a trio. It was very difficult to find paying gigs, so it was more of a hobby for us, and a chance to learn the challenges of harmony singing. We had a lot of fun for several years.

Around this time, Jerry was interested in multi-track recording so I got to help with many experimental recording sessions and messed around with my attempts of doing a one-man band. We couldn’t afford a CD recorder and burner, so all the stuff we recorded was done on cassette. It sounded in quality very similar to what was pressed on the 78rpm records of the 1930s. We figured out how to use a reverb unit from a guitar amp to add reverb to my vocal parts. I completed a 12 song demo cassette by early 1996.

Throughout the late 1990s I continued seeing the Sons of the Pioneers' Branson shows and continued finding memorabilia and recordings. I took the spare bedroom at Granny and Grandpa’s house and turned it into a Sons of the Pioneers room, storing all my memorabilia there. When Roy Rogers passed on July 6, 1998, I was saddened. A lot of friends and neighbors interested in my museum display wanted to see it, just to see all the Roy Rogers stuff. In 1998, the Pioneers hosted a Western festival event in Branson, with many of the big name Western acts coming to town for the gathering. Ken and Nora Griffis also attended the festival. It was an honor to hang out with them. I also brought them out to meet my Grandparents and to see my little Pioneer collection. Ken and Nora were really impressed, wishing they'd saved more!

In April 2001, a position in Branson opened at a local resort that needed weekly entertainment. The staff hired me and my Singing Cowboy act - and The Western Round-Up was born. For seven years I did over 300 performances for them. In September of that year I began a five year relationship with the Springfield based Bluegrass band -- Waterloo Boy. I did mandolin and tenor vocals for them. I soon learned if you want to change the mood of a crowd at a Bluegrass festival, sing a Sons of the Pioneers tune and they will be furious in no time. The Bluegrass fans did not support my Cowboy music at all. But for fun, we still slipped in a Sons of the Pioneers tune as often as we could!

In late 2002 it was announced that the Roy Rogers-Dale Evans Museum would be moving to Branson. Wow! So along with the Pioneers, another major Western attraction would be calling Branson home. I was so excited! Dusty Rogers and I had met in 1999, and I got to know several of Roy and Dale’s Grandchildren too. I attended the groundbreaking ceremony at the Museum site, on the west side of Branson. The Museum opened on June 20, 2003. The Museum had a theater inside; Dusty and his band the High Riders would be doing daily shows. It was wonderful getting to know everyone in the Museum staff. I made a lot of purchases in the Museum gift shop, nearly completing my collection of Roy Rogers films.

Around this time, I began to find a lot of unique and obscure Sons of the Pioneers items on eBay, and began purchasing things there frequently. I had completely cleaned out my Sons of the Pioneers room at my Grandparent’s house and carried around 250 select items to my weekly gig at the resort. So now I began to be known as the “Singing Cowboy with the Museum display!” Having the memorabilia out for folks to view really added a lot to my shows. To showcase some of the Sons of the Pioneers' harmony, I went to a real recording studio and cut instrumentation along with two out of the three vocal parts so that I could do one of the voices “live.”

In April 2003, a Celebration of Dale Warren’s 50th year with the Sons of the Pioneers took place at their Branson theater one evening. This was an historic event and the organizers asked if I could bring several tables worth of Sons of the Pioneers memorabilia from Dale’s 50 years and display it in the theater lobby. Excited to assist, it was great greeting the fans and answering questions on the group’s impressive history. I also brought some film footage from when Dale’s wife Margie- known as “Fiddlin’ Kate” was a regular on Tex Ritter’s Ranch Party television show. Dale was very appreciative of my efforts. On June 6, Dale gave me a guest spot on the Sons of the Pioneers' show.


In the fall of 2003 another Branson resort asked if I could bring my Western Round-Up Show and Museum display to two of their properties on a weekly basis. So now, I was onstage four nights a week in Branson, and performing weekends with the Bluegrass band. I somehow managed to find time to eat and sleep!

In late 2004 a Chuck Wagon dinner attraction known as the Circle B came to Branson with their show. In the summer of 2005 I ended my association with the Bluegrass group to help the Circle B. The Riders of the Circle B had been performing for only a few years, and really needed help on their vocal arrangements. I remained with them for a little over six years, doing just over 900 shows with them. Within a couple of years, I was swamped. I was doing over 350 shows a year. In 2004 the Pioneers began doing their Branson shows at the Shepherd of the Hills Homestead. They included a Chuck Wagon style supper with their concerts. They were sold out nearly every show!

In 2004 Granny and I noticed a change in Branson’s recording community. Three recording studios shut their doors. I had been doing business with two of them. I did my studio recordings with one, and my CD production and inventory was handled thru the other. Looking thru several of the catalogs that specialized in sound and recording equipment, we purchased a very affordable recording unit, with built in hard-drives and capabilities to do some neat things. So in late 2004, I began to learn the tricks of being a recording engineer. I recorded four test tunes myself and soon learned enough to get me rolling. Now I could record all my solo projects and anyone else in the family who wanted to do a professional CD. In 2005 I spent the whole year recording my Grandparents and their Gospel favorites that had been a blessing to so many for over 50 years.

In 2007, the Pioneers were continuing with their Branson appearances at Shepherd Of the Hills, their Chuck Wagon Dinner Show was a great success. Unknown at the time, this year would be Dale Warren’s final year with the group. Health issues unfortunately slowed him down. Dale had been doing this for 55 years and he was now 82. To my knowledge Dale didn’t perform with the group in 2008, but still acted as leader and handled the business chores. Soon they were passed to Luther Nallie. The group continued.

As 2008 took place, I continued with my busy schedule, sometimes doing twelve shows a week. I also performed at Silver Dollar City for their Salute to the Great American Cowboy. As Dale Warren’s health continued to decline, he was placed in a nursing home near Branson. On Saturday August 9, 2008, Dale Warren passed away at age 83. Pioneer Heaven gained another beautiful voice. My buddy Fred Goodwin called me that evening to let me know Dale had passed. About a month earlier, my friend and Pioneer historian Ken Griffis also passed - at age 83, also. My mind wandered back a lot during this time to both of these gentlemen who were so nice to me. At my Western Round-Up Shows, I paid tribute to them by doing memorabilia displays of their lives and careers.

The following year 2009 was very busy too. My fiddler, Louis Darby, and I took on an extra Bluegrass gig in addition to our nightly performances with the Circle B. At the end of the year, the unfortunate happened as the Roy Rogers-Dale Evans Museum closed their doors. I had spent many hours doing volunteer work at the Museum that year. Dusty and the family allowed me to take guests from my shows on a guided Museum tour a couple of days a week! It was so sad to see it all end.

 

In early 2010, Dusty called me one day and expressed interest in revamping his High Riders band. Dusty felt it was time to go back to the Sons of the Pioneers' roots. Dusty asked if I was interested in doing guitar and assist in the vocal trio. Former Pioneer member (my childhood hero) Tommy Nallie had moved back to Branson and had agreed to join Dusty as bass player and tenor vocalist. I was very excited to join the musical legacy and become a High Rider. We met a few weeks later with an all new six piece band and just experimented with the sound a bit to figure out what sounded the best. The trio with Dusty at the middle voice, Tommy at tenor, and me doing baritone sounded extremely good. It sounded strong, much like the way Bob, Tim and Lloyd sounded. All the hours and hours of dissecting Sons of the Pioneers vocal parts while a teenager was paying off! We played two seasons (2010-11) at Mickey Gilley’s Theater doing a morning show and performed the 2012 and 2013 seasons at the RFD-TV Theater on Branson’s west side. We played a lot of road dates too, the highlight for us on New Year’s 2012 doing the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena. We performed on a beautiful Roy Rogers parade float honoring his 100th birthday celebration of 2011. The workout lasted seven miles -- singing “Happy Trails” repeatedly for over one million spectators lined along the streets!

To this day, I still do my thing! I still display my collection at Western events, which now even includes a huge number of artefacts and collectibles donated by Dusty Rogers, Tommy Nallie, Gary LeMaster and others. Once in awhile someone will come to the show and personally donate their long treasured item, knowing it will be preserved in my collection. With 2015 here now, I’m celebrating my 30th year of following the Pioneer Sound, and my 21st year of performing this great music publicly. At age 8, I was convinced that a career with the Sons of the Pioneers would be my goal in life. That is still my dream goal in many ways. I’m not giving up! Thank you Dale Warren for choosing Branson. Because of you, I promise that this sound and legacy will not die.

 

PHOTO GALLERY (unless otherwise stated, all images are courtesy of John Fullerton's Sons of the Pioneers Museum)

 

1954

Top to bottom: Karl Farr, Hugh Farr, Deuce Spriggens, Dale Warren, Tommy Doss, Lloyd Perryman

 

1954

Top: Lloyd Perryman, Karl Farr, Tommy Doss

Below: Dale Warren, Deuce Spriggens, Hugh Farr

 

1954

The Sons of the Pioneers recorded the Bob Nolan song for Decca (Coral) on November 22, 1954.

 

Courtesy of Ed Phillips

 

1957

Clockwise from top: Lloyd Perryman, Tommy Doss, Karl Farr, Shug Fisher, Hugh Farr, Dale Warren

 

1957 (same as above)

Clockwise from top: Tommy Doss, Lloyd Perryman, Karl Farr, Shug Fisher, Hugh Farr, Dale Warren

 

1957 at the Houston Livestock Show, World Book Encyclopedia Booth

Back: Karl Farr, Hugh Farr, Tommy Doss, ___________, Dale Warren

Front: Shug Fisher, announcer Cy Tallion, Lloyd Perryman

 

1957 at the Houston Livestock Show, World Book Encyclopedia Booth

Standing: Hugh Farr, Tommy Doss, announcer Cy Tallion, Dale Warren

Below: Karl Farr, Shug Fisher and Lloyd Perryman

 

1957 or '58 at the Golden Nugget in Las Vegas

Courtesy of Karl E. Farr

 

1957 or '58 at the Golden Nugget in Las Vegas

Courtesy of the Roy Rogers Family Trust

 

1957

Courtesy of the Roy Rogers Family Trust

 

c. 1958

Hugh Farr, Karl Farr, Roy Rogers (Dale Warren is hidden behind him), Tommy Doss, Lloyd Perryman and Shug Fisher

Courtesy of the Roy Rogers Family Trust

 

c. 1958 Courtesy of Bruce Hickey

 

1958 Kansas State Fair in Topeka

Courtesy of the Roy Rogers Family Trust

 

1959 Dale Warren

With his Gibson L-12 guitar. Lloyd played this guitar frequently throughout the 1960s, even though it belonged to Dale. This is the rhythm guitar heard on all of their Guest Star Transcriptions.

 

1959

Clockwise from top: Pat Brady, Karl Farr, Lloyd Perryman, Tommy Doss, Dale Warren

Courtesy of the Roy Rogers Family Trust

 

1959

Courtesy of Karl E. Farr

 

1959

Clockwise from centre back: Tommy Doss, Dale Warren, Karl Farr, Lloyd Perryman

 

1960

Clockwise from centre back: Karl Farr, Dale Warren, Tommy Doss, Lloyd Perryman and George Bamby

 

1962

Tommy Doss, Pat Brady, Dale Warren, Wade Ray (back), Lloyd Perryman, Roy Lanham

 

1962

Pat Brady, Dale Warren, Tommy Doss, Lloyd Perryman, Wade Ray and Roy Lanham

Courtesy of the Roy Rogers Family Trust

 

1962 Album photo for "Our Men Out West"

Tommy Doss, Dale Warren and Lloyd Perryman

 

1962

Tommy Doss, Dale Warren and Lloyd Perryman

 

1962

Lloyd Perryman, Tommy Doss and Dale Warren

 

1962

Tommy Doss, Dale Warren and Lloyd Perryman in the RCA studio

 

1963 album cover

 Dale Warren, Lloyd Perryman and Tommy Doss

 

1964

Top: Rusty Richards, Roy Lanham

Seated: Dale Warren, Lloyd Perryman, Pat Brady

 

1965

Clockwise from centre back: Dale Warren, Lloyd Perryman, Pat Brady, Roy Lanham, Rusty Richards

 

1967 Album photo for "South of the Border"

Roy Lanham, Billy Armstrong, Dale Warren, Tommy Doss, Lloyd Perryman

 

1967 Virginia State Fair

Courtesy of the Roy Rogers Family Trust

 

1967

Clockwise from top: Dale Warren, Roy Lanham, Lloyd Perryman, Pat Brady, Billy Armstrong

1968 Houston Livestock Show at the Houston Astrodome

Courtesy of the Roy Rogers Family Trust

 

1968 Houston Livestock Show at the Houston Astrodome

Courtesy of the Roy Rogers Family Trust

 

1968 Houston Livestock Show at the Houston Astrodome

Courtesy of the Roy Rogers Family Trust

 

1968

Clockwise from top centre: Dale Warren, Bob Mensor, Billy Armstrong, Lloyd Perryman, Roy Lanham

Note: Bob Mensor was with the Pioneers from September 1967 until March 1968.

 

1968

eBay image

 

1969 Virginia State Fair

Courtesy of the Roy Rogers Family Trust

 

1969 Album photo for Sons of the Pioneers Visit the South Seas"

Luther Nallie, Roy Lanham, Billy Armstrong, Lloyd Perryman and Dale Warren

 

1969

Top: Dale Warren, Luther Nallie

Below: Roy Lanham, Lloyd Perryman, Billy Armstrong

 

1969

Clockwise from top: Dale Warren, Roy Lanham, Lloyd Perryman, Billy Armstrong, Luther Nallie

 

August 1972 talking to fans

Courtesy of Fred Sopher

 

1972

Houston Livestock Show

Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, Luther Nallie, Dale Warren, Lloyd Perryman, Billy Armstrong and Roy Lanham

Courtesy of the Roy Rogers Family Trust

 

1972

Houston Livestock Show

Luther Nallie, Dale Warren, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, Billy Armstrong and Roy Lanham

Courtesy of the Roy Rogers Family Trust

 

1972

Houston Livestock Show

Courtesy of the Roy Rogers Family Trust

 

February 1973, Ryman Auditorium-Grand Ole Opry, performing “Cimarron”

Left to right: Roy Lanham, Billy Armstrong, Lloyd Perryman, Dale Warren, Luther Nallie

 

1974

Top: Dale Warren, Roy Lanham

Below: Lloyd Perryman, Rusty Richards

 

1974

Rusty Richards, Lloyd Perryman, Dalle Warren

Below: Roy Lanham

 

1974

Dale Warren, Rusty Richards, Lloyd Perryman, Roy Lanham

 

1975

National Cattle Congress, Waterloo, Iowa

Rusty Richards behind Roy Rogers, Lloyd Perryman, Dale Warren, Billie Liebert and Roy Lanham

Courtesy of the Roy Rogers Family Trust

 

1976

Top: Billy Liebert, Lloyd Perryman, rusty Richards

Seated: Dale Warren, Roy Lanham

 

June, 1977, at the Grand Ole Opry

Roy Lanham, Dale Warren, Roy Acuff, Rome Johnson, Billy Liebert, Rusty Richards

 

1977

Rusty Richards, Dale Warren, Rome Johnson

Seated: Billy Liebert, Roy Lanham

 

1980

Top: Billy Liebert, Luther Nallie

Below: Roy Lanham, Dale Warren, Rusty Richards

 

1980

Top: Luther Nallie, Billy Liebert

Kneeling: Rusty Richards, Dale Warren, Roy Lanham

 

1980

Sons of the Pioneers with their fan club

Courtesy of Josie Shapira

 

 

1981 Cowboy Reunion

(Courtesy of Doc Denning)

 

1981 Cowboy Reunion

(Courtesy of the Roy Rogers Family Trust)

 

GREAT COWBOY REUNION ON "THE NASHVILLE PALACE"

Joining hosts Roy Rogers and Dale Evans (second row centre) on the Saturday, November 9-10 pm NYT), edition of "The Nashville Palace" on NBC-TV are the best of the movie cowboys who have appeared with Roy in his films. Riding high on the stage are (l-r): Jock Mahoney and Lash LaRue; George Montgomery and Montie Montana. Inside are Eddie Dean (left) and Rex Allen Sr. Standing (l-r): Monte Hale, Tex Williams, Iron Eyes Cody (Dale Evans, Roy Rogers), Linda Crosby (Roy's original leading lady and the mother of television personality Cathy Lee Crosby), Pat Buttram and Sunset Carson.

Foreground (l-r): Doc Denning, Roy Lanham, Dale Warren, Rusty Richards and Luther Nallie. (10/16/81)

 

1981 Cowboy Reunion

(Courtesy of the Roy Rogers Family Trust)

 

1982

Left to right: Rusty Richards, Dale Morris, Dale Warren, Luther Nallie, Roy Lanham

 

1984

Left to R: Tommy Nallie, Sunny Spencer, Dale Warren, Luther Nallie, Roy Lanham, Jack Nallie

 

1984

Left to R: Tommy Nallie, Sunny Spencer, Dale Warren, Luther Nallie, Roy Lanham, Jack Nallie

 

1984

Top row: Sunny Spencer, Dale Warren, Luther Nallie

Bottom row: Jack Nallie, Roy Lanham, Tommy Nallie

 

Note: These two photos were made available at their concerts in 1984-85. When I saw the group the very first time in October 1985 at age seven, they were appearing at the Lowe’s Country Music Show in Branson. These are the two that Granny purchased and had signed that night. More about that historic (for me) concert.

 

1984

Clockwise from top right: Roy Lanham, Luther Nallie, Dale Warren, Sunny Spencer, Tommy Nallie

 

1985 Lowe’s Country Music Show, Branson, MO
Top: Sunny Spencer, Tommy Nallie, Jack Nallie
Front: Luther Nallie, Dale Warren, Roy Lanham

 

1985 at Silver Dollar city, Branson, MO

In stagecoach: Tommy Nallie, Sunny Spencer, Luther Nallie

Standing: Roy Lanham, Dale Warren, Jack Nallie

 

1988 Foggy River Boys Theater – Branson, MO

Clockwise from top: Sunny Spencer, Tommy Nallie, Gary LeMaster, Dale Warren, Luther Nallie, Daryl Wainscott

 

1988

Top: Luther Nallie, Dale Warren, Sunny Spencer

Below: Daryl Wainscott, Gary LeMaster, Tommy Nallie

 

1988

Back: Sunny Spencer, Tommy Nallie, Daryl Wainscott

Front: Luther Nallie, Dale Warren, Gary LeMaster

 

1988

Top: Sunny Spencer, Tommy Nallie, Gary LeMaster

Bottom: Luther Nallie, Dale Warren, Daryl Wainscott

 

1988 at Old Tucson Studios

Top: Tommy Nallie, Daryl Wainscott, Luther Nallie

Below: Gary LeMaster, Dale Warren, Sunny Spencer

 

1990

Clockwise from top: Sunny Spencer, David Bradley, Gary LeMaster, Dale Warren, Luther Nallie, Daryl Wainscott

 

1991 near Tucson, AZ

Dale Warren, Sunny Spencer, David Bradley, Luther Nallie, Daryl Wainscott, Gary LeMaster

 

1992 Western Music Association Festival

Courtesy of Mel McPhee

 

1994 60th Anniversary near Tucson, AZ

Top: Luther Nallie, Dale Warren, Sunny Spencer

Below: Gary LeMaster, Roy Warhurst, John Nallie

 

Sons of the Pioneers with the Sons of the San Joaquin

1994 Western Music Association Festival, Tucson, AZ

Courtesy of Michelle Sundin

 

1996: At the Braschler Music Theater – Branson, MO

Top row: Luther Nallie, John Nallie, Sunny Spencer

Bottom row: Roy Warhurst, Dale Warren, Gary LeMaster

 

1996

Top: Luther Nallie, Dale Warren, Sunny Spencer

Below: Gary LeMaster, Roy Warhurst, John Nallie

 

1997 Shell Knob, Missouri

Luther says they all got loaded with ticks on this one!

L to R: John Nallie, Sunny Spencer, Dale Warren, Luther Nallie, Gary LeMaster

 

1998

 

1998

Promo photo for summer appearance at Silver Dollar City, Branson, MO

Top: Mark Pearman, Luther Nallie, Dale Warren, Brad Alvin

Bottom: Sunny Spencer, Ken Lattimore, Gary LeMaster, John Nallie

 

2002 Tucson

Sunny Spencer, Luther Nallie, Gary LeMaster, Dale Warren, Randy Rudd, Ken Lattimore

 

2003

Inside stagecoach: Gary LeMaster, Sunny Spencer, Luther Nallie

Front: Ken Lattimore, Dale Warren, Randy Rudd, Preston Eldridge

 

2003

Courtesy of Luther Nallie

 

June 6, 2003

Dale let me onstage for a guest spot! We’re doing “Carry Me Back to the Lone Prairie” in E flat.

L-R: Dale, me, Luther.

 

April 26, 2003

 

70th Anniversary 2004 Onstage at the Shepherd of the Hills Pavilion Theater, Branson, MO

L to R: Sunny Spencer, Waylon Herron, Gary LeMaster, Calib Bruce, Dale Warren, Ken Lattimore, Randy Rudd, Preston Eldridge

 

September 2006 Shepherd of the Hills Pavilion Theater, Branson, MO

John Fullerton and Dale Warren

 

2007

Top: Mark Abbott, Ken Lattimore, Ricky Boen, Dale Warren.

Seated: Randy Rudd and Luther Nallie

 

2007

Clockwise from top: Dale Warren, Mark Abbott, Luther Nallie, Ken Lattimore, Ricky Boen, Randy Rudd

 

2007 Taken at Shepherd of the Hills Homestead, Branson, MO

Dale’s 55th year with the Sons of the Pioneers and his last photo shoot with the group

Top: Mark Abbott, Ricky Boen, Randy Rudd,

Seated: Luther Nallie, Dale Warren, Ken Lattimore

 

2007 same as above

Luther Nallie, Ricky Boen, Mark Abbott, Dale Warren, Randy Rudd

Below: Ken Lattimore

 

BROCHURES & PAMPHLETS

 

1954 Calgary Stampede Program

 

1954 Calgary Stampede Program

 

1954 Calgary Stampede Program

 

1964 brochure

 

1964 brochure

 

1964 brochure

 

December 1969, The Western Horseman

 

1978 brochure

 

1978 brochure

 

1978 brochure

 

1978 brochure

 

1978 brochure

 

1984

Courtesy of Luther Nallie

 

1985

 

1986 brochure

1987 brochure

 

1988

1988

 

1990

 

1991

 

1991

 

1993

 

1994

1994

 

1996

1996

 

1997

 

2000

2000

 

 

2006

 

Sons of the Pioneers recordings featuring Dale Warren

 

At the Rainbow's End (Bob Nolan)

Autumn on the Trail (Don Robertson, Hal Blair)

High Noon (Dimitri Tiompkin and Ned Washington)

 

 

A Few Album Covers

Celebration

 

Lucky U Ranch

 

Legends of the West

 

TRIBUTES

        Dale Warren was crooning ballads with his warm, soothing voice, years before Jim Reeves and a couple of others changed their styles to “smooth” and made millions. One wonders what would have been in store for Dale if he had decided to become a country cross-over artist, rather than sticking with Western music. Instead, he devoted his career, and his life, to Western music and to keeping the music of the Sons of the Pioneers alive.
        As a result, he was a member of the Sons of the Pioneers, and their leader, longer than any other member. After working for about a year with Foy Willing and the Riders of the Purple Sage, Dale joined the Pioneers in Dec.1952. He became the leader in 1977 and continued until his death in 2008. The Sons of the Pioneers are now the longest-running singing group in history.
        The big record companies began to ignore Western music in the 1970s, but under Dale’s leadership, the Pioneers’ personal appearances with Roy Rogers and on their own began to pick up considerably. A large fan club was formed and their popularity soared once again. They made a number of appearances on national TV in the late 1970s through the 80s, and were popular at major rodeos, huge arenas like the Astrodome, and venues like Las Vegas and Reno. They received the Pioneer Award from the Academy of Country Music (1978), were inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame (1980) and were honored by the Smithsonian (1979). In 1989, they became the first group to be inducted into the Western Music Hall of Fame.
        The group continued to travel extensively, especially as long as Roy Rogers continued to perform on TV and the road. But in the 1990s, as the road became more tiring, both Roy and the Pioneers began to think about how to continue to bring their music to interested audiences without the heavy strain of extensive travel. Dale made arrangements for the Sons of the Pioneers to find a home, at least for the winter months, at the Triple C Chuck Wagon in Tucson. Later, they set up shop in Branson, where they still play today to enthusiastic crowds at their theater.
        Through numerous changes in personnel, Dale had to adjust the part he sang from lead to baritone (or bass) to accommodate the voices of new members. It was difficult, but it worked, and the Pioneers “sound” has been maintained through the years.
        The Sons of the Pioneers are widely recognized as the most important group in the history of Western music. After Lloyd Perryman died, the Sons of the Pioneers didn’t fade away. Dale Warren kept the group going and he brought the sound of the Sons of the Pioneers into the 21st Century. Thanks to his talent and his dedication to the legacy of Sons of the Pioneers, their legend lives on for modern-day audiences to enjoy “in-person.” (O.J. Sikes)
 

A Few Thoughts on Sunny Spencer (November 20, 1929 - February 5, 2005) by John Fullerton

Sunny was a huge influence to me in may ways. I had never seen a clarinet “live” until seeing Sunny. For a number of years, the Pioneers would include “Just A Closer Walk With Thee” in their concerts. Only Sunny could do that song and do it right. It was so touching. Sunny’s mandolin playing was unique and tasteful. He didn’t overdo it. His red mandolin was built by one of the great area craftsmen, Mr. John Wynn, who lived near Springfield. I purchased one of Mr. Wynn’s mandolins in 1999 and brought it to the show one day and let Sunny play around on it for a few moments. Another time, Dale let me do a couple of tunes as a guest with the guys. Hanging out in the green room before the show, Sunny grabbed his Wynn mandolin and showed me the lead part to Benny Goodman’s “Slipped Disc.” Once I got it, he played the harmony part with me, it was just so cool to do twin mandolins. I had never heard anything like that before, so it was a real thrill.

I recall a circumstance during one of their Branson concerts one day that rattled Dale Warren just a little bit! Apparently a fan at intermission had asked a special request for the guys to sing Nolan’s “I Still Do.” Sunny forgot to mention this request to Dale and the guys. Sunny didn’t know the song, but was certain the guys could do it. Dale’s reply was really funny. Stomping his foot on the floor and throwing his arms up Dale stated, “Sunny, you’re worse than Pat Brady!” So after a quick huddle, the trio pulled it off beautifully. That was a very memorable moment to me - how guys could just grab a tune that hadn’t been performed in years and just make it happen! Sunny’s sense of humor was very memorable to me; he always had a quote and it would always get a laugh. Sunny was an outstanding musician and vocalist plus a true gentleman. I learned so much watching him. So many times I catch myself sharing a Sunny story or a one-liner. Thanks Sunny for bringing smiles to so many.

 

A Few Thoughts on Gary LeMaster (September 20, 1942 - September 9, 2012) by John Fullerton

Growing up, I was around guitars all the time. To watch someone do lead work was a big thrill to me as the musicians in my family were rhythm guitarists. I was nine years old the first time I saw Gary with the Pioneers.


Gary had a deep appreciation for Roy Lanham and did not want his sound to be forgotten. Gary continued that tradition while introducing other things that became part of the signature Pioneer sound. Gary was Sunny’s son-in-law and Dale made certain that the audiences knew that. Gary was very proficient on a number of instruments, too, adding trumpet and trombone parts to their “Big Band Salute.” I recall when seeing the Pioneers in 1989 that Gary was the tenor in the trio and Luther had moved to the middle voice. This didn’t bother Gary’s guitar work at all.

As I got to know Gary and Valerie, they were so gracious in sharing their personal collection of movies and television appearances that featured the Pioneers. As I began locating many of the radio transcriptions and commercial recordings, I shared everything I found with Gary. Years later, we both agreed that some day we should open a Sons of the Pioneers Museum display to the public, we could fill a lot of space with the things we had collected.

Vocally, Gary showed me a lot, especially when it came to vibrato, breathing and phrasing. My senior year of High School, Branson held a school talent show. Gary attended to support me and that meant a lot to my family and I. I yodeled the Roy Rogers tune, “The Night Guard.” I took First Place. I then felt that I could possibly make a career being a Singing Cowboy. Gary’s love of the Pioneers was deep. He appreciated the legacy, tradition, and did so much to make sure it continues. He supported and influenced many young musicians in our town. Gary was one of the greatest examples of true professionalism I ever experienced. I will carry with me forever the things he showed me. It was an honor beyond measure to perform with Dusty and the High Riders at Gary’s Celebration Service in September 2012. We sang one of Gary’s favorites, “Blue Shadows On the Trail.“ That was one of the hardest things for me to do onstage, but I was so happy to salute you, Gary. I miss you, buddy.