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  Karl Farr

(1909 - 1961)

with recollections by his son, Karl E. Farr


 1939 Karl Farr with his Martin D-28

Unless otherwise stated, photos are from the Karl E. Farr Collection (Southern Folklife Collection, UNC)


“There was only one Karl Farr. There will never be another.”  (Lloyd Perryman)



Bob Nolan and the Sons of the Pioneers Work Chronology (compiled by Lawrence Hopper)


"Karl Marx Farr was born on April 25, 1909, in Rochelle, Texas. The name Karl Marx was suggested by relatives who were of a socialistic persuasion. It was natural for Karl to have an early interest in music as it was an important part of daily family life." That is the way Ken Griffis introduced Karl in Hear My Song - the Story of the Celebrated Sons of the Pioneers. Ken's book is the definitive history of the group and no attempt will be made here to duplicate it. Rather, Karl's story will be told with a lot of pictures and a few words from his only child, Karl E. Farr.


Karl Jr: "My grandpa Farr was born in San Saba, Texas in 1870. The Farrs married into the Fleming family which had two ranches in San Saba and the Fleming Spring Ranch was built in 1856.  My grandpa was a carpenter and moved a lot. I really do not think my grandma was Cherokee at all, as my uncle Hugh told a lot of stories which are not true."




Karl Jr: "My wife [Pat Farr] and Tommy Lee Jones' secretary at the Fleming Springs Ranch in San Saba, Texas, where Tommy Lee lives. My great great grandparents built the ranch in 1856 and now Tommy has it."


Grandma Farr


Karl was indeed born into a musical family numbering eight children: Lyla, Belle, Winnie, Stella, Maggie, Hugh, Glen and, finally, Karl. His mother, Hattie, played guitar and his father, Thomas, was a fiddler. Making music was as natural as breathing and all the children were talented. Their sister, Belle, was considered one of the best guitarists in the state and Hugh was a child prodigy. They had plenty of practice playing for community gatherings and parties in those days before radio and television. Karl started playing the mandolin at seven years of age and he took it for granted that he would play with the rest of the family. From the mandolin, he moved on to banjo, drums and then guitar but it was as a superb innovative guitarist that we remember him.


The Farr Family, 1942, Reno, Texas (Near Azle where they are at rest.)

Standing left to right is Glen, Hugh and Karl. Grandpa and grandma with dad's guitar a Miami which looks like a Martin . . .


By 1925, after several moves within Texas, the family settled down in Encino, California, and Karl and Glen moved near Bakersfield where they worked at whatever job they could find so they could perform at night. While Karl Karl was working for Charles and Nancy Barksdale, cotton farmers from Moody, Texas, who had settled there between Weedpatch and Arvin about 18 miles southeast of Bakersfield, he met their beautiful daughter May. Three years later, on Feb. 3, 1928, they were married.



Karl and May Farr


At the end of that year, they had their only child – a son, Karl Elbert. They moved to the Los Angeles area and Karl joined Hugh and Glen and debuted in 1929 on radio station KELW, a San Fernando Valley radio station located near Hollywood Way and Magnolia Boulevard in Burbank. 


Karl and Glen


Karl Jr: "Dad with the long tie and Glen probably at Van Nuys High School."


Inscription reads "For faithful service during the earthquake March 10 1933. KFOX. Long Beach, Calif."


 Karl Jr: "I was in a big earthquake in Long Beach, California in 1933 that killed 115 people.  That was a big one. We have a lot of pictures of the damage. Dad was working at KFOX and got a medal for staying on the job. I remember it well as I was outside in the alley and could hardly stand up. We lived upstairs and mom could hardly get down. Uncle Hugh helped her down. Also some buildings were on fire."


Pauline and Christine Stafford had been working at KFOX for a couple of years when Len Nash and his group which included Hugh and Karl joined the station. Christine recalls that Hugh was outgoing and Karl was quiet and that Hugh watched over Karl very competently. Christine wrote to Ken Griffis:


        While the Pioneers were working at KFWB, we were working with the Crockett Family over CBS. We did four one-hour shows a week and the Barn Dance on Saturday night. Peter Potter was the M. C.

        We remember one day at KFOX when a musical group with which Karl and Hubert played was to rehearse a number. The person passing out the parts walked right by Karl’s music stand, knowing that Karl didn’t read music. Karl blew up and let it be known that in the future he was to be given the guitar part. During the number Karl sat there looking at the music, meanwhile playing like Andres Segovia gone modern. He had such good taste and musical talent he really didn’t need printed music. And he was a wonderful person. We loved him.

        We were just as fond of Hubert who, unlike Karl, was gruff and outspoken. One night at KHJ when we were doing a show with the Pioneers, the girl who was substituting in our trio was late for rehearsal. Hubert wasn’t too happy. When she came in, Hubert growled out, “Here we set, a million dollars’ worth of talent, waiting on fifteen cents.” We accepted Hubert as he was. And how beautifully he played the violin.


By 1934, Hugh had joined the Sons of the Pioneers on KFWB. The Sons of the Pioneers were invited by Decca Records do some recordings on the West Coast and they signed a contract that guaranteed them a penny for every record they sold. The first studio session was on August 8 1934 and they recorded Way Out There, Tumbling Tumbleweeds, Moonlight on the Prairie (with Tim), and Ridin’ Home - all Bob Nolan songs.  On December 15, Tumbling Tumbleweeds hit #13 on the charts.


Back: Tim and Bob; Front: Hugh and Len (Roy)


Also in August 1934 the Sons of the Pioneers began recording a series of transcriptions for Standard Radio in Los Angeles, California. These transcriptions are the earliest and most complete record of the formative days of the Sons of the Pioneers and have lately been offered for sale as boxed sets by Bear Family Records. Len Slye (Roy Rogers), Bob Nolan, Verne (Tim) Spencer and Hugh Farr recorded the first set of transcriptions less than one year after the group was organized. These were also the first transcriptions to be released by Standard Radio so they were the first western group to be heard from local radio stations across the country.  Many of the songs on these transcriptions were written by Bob and Tim because they were encouraged to use as much of their own original material and public domain music as they could in order to keep Standard’s ASCAP license fees low. Many of them were never commercially recorded and we would never had heard them but for the transcriptions. It was the Sons of the Pioneers' Standard transcriptions, even more than their radio broadcasts, records and film appearances that were responsible for spreading the group’s music and popularity throughout the nation because, at its peak, Standard Radio was servicing over 1000 radio stations in the United States.  



The Sons of the Pioneers aka "Farley's Gold Star Rangers" with Gus Mack on the right.


Karl joined them in 1935 in time to record the second set of Standard Transcriptions. Karl was a fine musician, strongly influenced by the guitar styling of Django Reinhardt and he added a jazzy element that complemented his brother Hugh's fiddle. This set the Pioneer sound above all other groups of the day. They called themselves the Sons of the Pioneers and they really were pioneering in a new type of music and yet not one of them could read music. Each man was unique but none stood above the other in quality of sound. The group was all about excellence, attention to detail, blend and harmony. The combination of their unique harmony singing (including harmony yodeling) and jazzy fiddle playing with syncopated guitar was new and drew immediate attention from the public.


As staff members at KFWB, they were each paid $37.50 per week and received no extra payment for their many daily appearances. When the men approached management about adding Karl, they were told a guitarist wasn't necessary so, if they wished to add him, they would have to pay him themselves. They agreed to that and each man gave Karl $10 each per week out of his own pay. This made Karl the highest paid member of the group.


Max "Doc" Denning, a member of The Reinsmen, clearly recalls seeing the group in its infancy:


My fourteenth birthday was quite a landmark in my life. An event occurred that pointed me in a direction that I was to follow for the rest of my life. My mother took me to Bixby Park in Long Beach, and on that April 12th day in 1935, I saw four men who were to impact my life like no others. I don’t recall if they were calling themselves the Gold Star Rangers or the Sons of the Pioneers, since they were using both names at that time. They were appearing at a picnic sponsored by Dr. Townsend’s old age pension plan, and for the occasion they sang When Our Old Age Pension Check Comes to Our Door.” The fellows introduced themselves as Len Slye, Bob Nolan, Vern Spencer, and Hugh Farr. I was greatly impressed with their performance. About the only thing I clearly remember about their show was that the bass player, Bob Nolan, danced with his bass fiddle which had an apron tied to the back. (Max Denning)



Almost immediately, the group began to pick up work in the movies. Radio Station KFWB was affiliated with Warner Brothers Pictures who used the Sons of the Pioneers’ voices in animated cartoons such as A Feud There Was and featured them in some of El Brendel’s comedy shorts, including Radio Scout, released by First National in 1935. Before the end of the year they had appeared in seven more films and shorts. In August 1935 Universal released the Oswald the Rabbit cartoon, Bronco Buster, which featured music by the Sons of the Pioneers including a revised version of Bob Nolan’s song Hold That Critter Down.



Their feature film debut as The Gold Star Rangers was not in a western but  in the role of farm boys who hit it big on radio in Liberty Pictures' The Old Homestead starring Mary Carlisle. They performed Tumbling Tumbleweeds, There’s a Roundup in the Sky, Happy Cowboy, and This Old White Mule of Mine, all songs by Bob Nolan. In September 1935 the Pioneers appeared in the Hal Roach short, Slightly Static, starring Thelma Todd and Patsy Kelly. Mack Sennett, of Keystone Kops silent film fame, released the short Way Up Thar starring Joan Davis and featuring the Sons of the Pioneers singing the title song. In August 1935, the newly-formed Republic Pictures used Tim Spencer’s song Westward Ho as the title of its first film release starring John Wayne and sung by an unidentified chorus in that film. The Pioneers themselves sang Westward Ho three months later in the Columbia's Gallant Defender, the first of their films with Charles Starrett.


Way Up Thar


The era of the singing cowboy started with the September 1935 release of Gene Autry’s film Tumbling Tumbleweeds but the Pioneers weren’t in the film although their theme song was. Two months later, Warner Brothers released Moonlight on the Prairie starring Dick Foran who was their own singing cowboy. Once again, although the title song had been written by Bob Nolan and Tim Spencer, the Pioneers did not appear in the film. However, during the course of the next year, the group did appear in two other Foran films, Song of the Saddle and California Mail.


Radio and recording work continued while personal appearances and film work expanded for the Sons of the Pioneers in 1936. The musical Western was rapidly becoming one of the most popular types of film and was a perfect showcase for the young Pioneers who looked as good as they sounded.


Also in 1936, and at the invitation of the Governor of Texas, James V. Allred, the boys took leave of KFWB to make their first appearance outside of California at the Centennial Exposition in Dallas.


(From left to right) Carl [sic] Farr, Hugh Farr, Vern (Tim) Spencer, Gov. Allred of Texas, Len Slye, Bob Nolan and Capt. Verdon Moffett of the California Highway Police Patrol.

(from the cover of Tim Spencer's "Ride, Ranger, Ride")


They appeared in the Gene Autry epic, The Big Show, as part of the Centennial and recorded two sides for Decca while in Dallas.  They were more prominently featured with Gene in another Republic film, The Old Corral, in the role of the singing O’Keefe Brothers who hold up a bus in the hope that their notoriety would get them a spot on the radio.  Because of a disagreement regarding his brother Leo's ability to direct the activity of the Pioneers, Tim quit shortly after their return from Dallas and moved his family to San Bernardino for a couple of years. Tim's place was filled briefly by Wesley Tuttle and then Charlie Quirk before Pat Brady and then Lloyd Perryman was hired in September of 1936.



Left: The Sons of the Pioneers and Leo Spencer presenting Bing Crosby with a special Texas Ranger certificate. Right: The Pioneers with an unidentified man and woman.





The Sons of the Pioneers (left) and Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys (right) at the Texas Centennial.


While at KHJ the Pioneers were offered a spot on Peter Potter’s Hollywood Barn Dance, featuring the Four Squires, and the Stafford Sisters—Christine, Pauline and Jo, as well as others. During the Stafford Sisters’ association with the Pioneers, at least one demo recording was made as Sons and Daughters of the Pioneers. It was Bob Nolan's idea and no one was sure why it didn't get off the ground.


Karl Jr: "I remember seeing Jo Stafford at the Hollywood Barn Dance when I was a kid. The Pioneers played there."


Early in 1937, they signed an agreement with Columbia Pictures to appear in a series of Westerns. In those days, a movie deal was supposed to mean that you were a big name but in nearly all the early pictures they made, they were only interludes in the action or voices in the background.  


They asked Ray Whitley to represent them in their contract negotiations with Columbia boss, Harry Cohn. Ray rejected Cohn's first offer and was reminded by Cohn that he was the star-maker, not Ray. Ray tried to explain that the Pioneers were worth much more than what he was offering them but, when he presented the contract to the men, they signed because they were anxious to be movie stars. It was a lot of work and involved getting up early for their radio work and then appearing at the Columbia set by 6:30 in the morning. The films were made in as short a time as possible – from 8 to 18 days each.


They made very little in the way of salary and even less from the songs Columbia used, but their faces became as familiar as their voices wherever the movies were shown. Ken Griffis quoted Bob Nolan as saying it was common for them to receive as little as ten dollars for each song provided. About this time Tim’s older brother Glenn Spencer, a pianist and composer, began his association with the Pioneers and was to play an important role in directing their music and business activities.



In the Fall, Leonard Slye, aka Dick Weston, left the group to become Roy Rogers and was replaced by Pat Brady  on October 16, 1937. Pat’s first film with the Pioneers in the Starrett series was Outlaws of the Prairie which was released in December of 1937. He was soon providing comedy bits and the Starrett films were an excellent training ground for Pat’s later roles as a comical cowboy sidekick for Roy Rogers. It is thought that Tim must have returned for pre-recording the music for the Columbia Westerns, though he did not appear in them with the Sons of the Pioneers again until 1939. With two of the original members gone, the quintet at the end of 1937 was Bob, Lloyd, Pat, Hugh and Karl.


Karl Jr: "In 1937 we lived on Willoughby in Hollywood, one block from Clark Gables' parents. I got Clark's autograph when he was sitting on the porch swing and I still have it. We lived next to the old Hollywood cemetery near Paramount Studios and RKO Pictures and dad took me in on the Dagwood and Blondie set. I saw Gary Cooper standing on a corner waiting for somebody."


The Sons of the Pioneers recorded fifty-six sides for Decca and then in 1937, with Roy, recorded for Columbia (American Record Corporation) on such labels as Banner, Romeo, Melotone, and Perfect for “Uncle” Art Satherly. 


Ray Whitley told Gerald Vaughn that the Sons of the Pioneers provided instrumental backup in the musical western shorts Ray starred in at RKO. Some of the Pioneers did the soundtrack recordings for a number of George O'Brien, Tim Holt and other features in which Ray performed during 1938-1941. Examples of some of Ray's shorts including readily recognizable Pioneers backup are: Rhythm Wranglers (1937), A Buckaroo Broadcast (1938), Prairie Papas (1938), Ranch House Romeo (1939), Sagebrush Serenade (1939), Cupid Rides the Range (1939), Molly Cures a Cowboy (1940), Corralling a School Marm (1940), Prairie Spooners (1941), The Musical Bandit (1941) and California or Bust (1940), etc. Hugh and Karl were both seen and heard in the 1937 Tex Ritter feature, Mystery of the Hooded Horsemen.


1938 saw the Pioneers right into the movie making: February 12: Cattle Raiders, March 30: Call of the Rockies, May 12: Law of the Plains, June 30: West of Cheyenne, July 28: South of Arizona, September 8: The Colorado Trail, October 3: West of Santa Fe, December 8: Rio Grande.


Karl Jr: "We moved to 1737 Frederic St. in Burbank in 1938 and Mom stayed there until 1962. Pat Brady's wife, Fayetta, was a redhead and really a nice lady. In 1938 I got a bicycle for Christmas in Burbank. I would ride a few blocks over to Fayetta’s house and she would help me off by waiting out front of her house. Mom and Dad often would play cards with the Bradys. They lived by the railroad tracks in Burbank and the Daylight came by at 70 mph and shook the house . . . it was too close. I remember some of Pat's expressions were "mustard and custard" . . . "some fun a kid". I believe Pat lived on Brighton which was two streets east of us and one block off of Buena Vista. Buena Vista is the street that Disney Studios is on only two miles south of our area were we lived."


Karl, May and Karl at Griffiths Park


In 1939 they continued the Charles Starrett movies: January 12: The Thundering West, February 9: Texas Stampede, March 30: North of the Yukon,  April 27: Spoilers of the Range,  June 15: Western Caravans,  July 15: The Man From Sundown,  August 23: Riders of Black River, September 14: Outpost of the Mounties,  December 18: Stranger From Texas.



"South of Arizona" 1938



Left: "Rio Grande". Right: Karl "rescuing" May from Charles Starrett.


Production still from the Columbia picture, "Colorado Trail", 1938. Karl is in the buggy.



Left: Starrett with Hattie and Thomas Farr and the Sons of the Pioneers. Right: "Stranger from Texas".



Sons of the Pioneers in "Texas Stampede".



Sons of the Pioneers in "The Thundering West"


Pat Brady recalled that the 1938-39 period was very busy, with the fellows appearing daily on radio station KHJ, which was located up over a Cadillac-LaSalle car agency at 7th and Bixel in Hollywood. While on KHJ, they appeared from 7-8 a. m. each day and on the Saturday Night Frolic, joined by the Stafford Sisters and several other acts. They also participated  in one of the early television test programs. They also began a new syndicated radio show, Sunshine Ranch, originally aired over KNX and the Mutual Broadcasting System and recorded by Allied Phonograph and Record Manufacturing Co. in Hollywood.


The Starrett films in 1940 were: January 4: Two-Fisted Ranger, March 5: Bullets For Rustlers, April 4: Blazin’ Six Shooters, May 23: Texas Stagecoach, August 23: The Durango Kid, Oct. 21: West of Abilene, December 5: The Thundering Frontier. Also, four or five years after the first transcriptions, the Farr brothers recorded several instrumentals for Standard Radio, with the label reading The Cornhuskers. These transcriptions represent an excellent example of the early styling of these impressive musicians.  


This LP was made available by the JEMF in 1978 and included instrumentals from the Standard Radio Transcriptions of 1934-5 plus the Orthacoustic Radio Recordings of 1940.

A booklet accompanied the album.


In 1940, too, they began a publication called Prairie Prattles, a one-page fanzine, which quickly grew to ten pages and the name was changed to Tumbleweed Topics. Each of the men and Roy Rogers wrote columns telling of their personal activities as well as those of the group as a whole. They advertised their songbooks in it and sent out group photos.


1941 Starrett picture release dates: February 2: The Pinto Kid, February 27: Outlaws of the Panhandle (last picture with Charles Starrett). Their association with Columbia lasted until July 1940, when the group departed for the Midwest after filing suit for alleged non-compensation for songs. They went on tour and traveled to Chicago to make the Orthacoustic radio transcriptions for NBC Radio and stayed until September, 194l. While there they performed regularly on Uncle Ezra’s Barndance Program, a Chicago-based nationally broadcast country music show. They sent for their families.



Left: Karl and Glen. Right: May and Karl



May and Karl Farr


Karl Jr: "I talked to my mom and she said they were in Chicago for 9 months so the Pioneers must have made the movie parts or movies early and the movies were released later with the 1940-41 date. I stayed with my grandparents in Bakersfield, California, at that time.  Hal asked me awhile back if I knew where the Pioneers stayed in Chicago in 1940 and for some reason I knew it was the North Park Hotel. When the Pioneers were in Chicago at the North Park Hotel dad and Roy bowled a lot together."


Fayetta (Mrs. Pat) Brady, Buddie (Mrs. Lloyd Perryman) and May (Mrs. Karl) Farr

(Wayne Perryman photo)


The Sons of the Pioneers returned to Los Angeles in September and joined the Camel Caravan for a tour of military bases on the West Coast. While they were in Seattle touring with the Caravan, they got word they should report to Republic Studios by October 23 to join Roy Rogers, in the film, Red River Valley, which was released December 12. The script was already written and some of the filming done before it was decided to use the Pioneers. They worked day and night to complete the picture in early November.




Sons of the Pioneers back with Roy Rogers



Sons of the Pioneers having fun off-stage with Roy Rogers.



Sons of the Pioneers with Roy in (left) "King of the Cowboys" and (right) "South of Santa Fe".



Sons of the Pioneers (left) with Roy on the set of "Hands Across the Border" and (right) "Lights of Old Santa Fe".


Karl Jr: "I remember the Phillips Oil Show had an audience. Pat was the comic but also Dad was fun. My dad did one number, "Cigarettes, Whiskey and Wild Wild Women" on stage with a worn out hat and two pie lids. I still have them."


On November 22, 1941, the men began a series of fifteen-minute transcriptions for the Dr. Pepper Bottling Company, featuring singing cowboy Dick Foran and pop singer Martha Mears. The first 15 minutes was broadcast coast-to-coast over the Mutual Broadcasting System and it was followed by 45 minutes live on stage. Later in the series Foran left and Mears took over the lead with the title of the show changing from “10-2-4 Ranch” to “10-2-4 Time” The program lasted until the end of WWII. It cost $3,500 per week.


They began yet another series of radio programs every Saturday night called Radio Rodeo on the Mutual Network in December of 1941. They programs were well received and the group reached an even wider listening audience.  They also recorded for Decca between 1941 and 1942.


Karl Jr: "When we lived in Burbank I would ride my bicycle over to the Columbia Ranch on Hollywood Way to watch them shoot westerns and later at Republic Pictures. During the war restrictions were on and I had to go in with Dad. I spent a lot of time at Radio Recorders in Hollywood and was there when they recorded 'Davy Crockett'."


 The 1942 Roy Rogers movies they were in were: Man From Cheyenne (January 16), South of Santa Fe (Feb. 17), Sunset on the Desert (April 1), Romance on the Range (May 18), Sons of the Pioneers (July 2), Call of the Canyon (Aug 10), Sunset Serenade (September 14), Heart of the Golden West (Dec 11), Ridin’ Down the Canyon (December 30).


Karl Jr: "My dad’s horse always wanted to be in front so Dad had to hold him back from passing Trigger. Sometimes Richard Farnsworth doubled for Dad on fast runs."


From October 7-25, Roy and the Sons of the Pioneers made their debut at the 17th annual Madison Square Garden Rodeo, October 7-25. After 19 days, they set a new attendance record. Two hundred cowboys and cowgirls competed there. The city’s famous Stage Door Canteen hosted a performance by Roy, Trigger, and the Sons of the Pioneers and Roy presented Mayor La Guardia of New York City with a pair of silver spurs. They entertained at Merchant Seaman’s base, Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, and at the New York infirmary for Women and Children and at St. John’s Home in Brooklyn.  



Sons of the Pioneers in New York City (left with Adrienne Ames at WHN)


Their 1943 Republic movies release dates were: Idaho (March), King of the Cowboys (April 9),  Song of Texas (June 14), Silver Spurs (Aug12), Man From Music Mountain (Oct 30). Sometime during 1943, Roy and the Pioneers toured Canada.


 The outbreak of World War II saw the Pioneers spending much of their time appearing at military bases. They knew it would be only a matter of time before some of them would leave for military service. The first to go was Lloyd Perryman, who left in April of 1943 for the Asian theatre (remaining until January, 1946.) Pat served much of his tour of duty in Patton’s 3rd Army in France and won citations for valor and two purple hearts. Shug Fisher, bull fiddle player and comic, took Pat’s place in the Pioneers and the films during the war. The members who stayed home saw that Lloyd and Pat continued to receive their share while they were in the Service.



"Shug" Fisher and George "Gabby" Hayes.


Karl Jr: "Pat Brady 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 has the Purple Heart. He slept in a dentist 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. Lloyd was in Burma and got some kind of fever that he had to fight off every once in a while. My dad worked in a defense plant for awhile to stay out of the war. The Pioneers toured the army bases with the Camel Caravan."


During the war the Armed Forces Radio Services, under their “Basic Musical Library” series, featured a number of Pioneer recordings, including cuts from the Dr. Pepper series. On these programs called Melody Roundup, personalities such as Hopalong Cassidy, Chill Wills, Richard Dix, and Lum and Abner would host a fifteen minute program, playing Pioneer recordings, and dedicating them to servicemen who wrote in.


They were also included in the Thesaurus transcription service, started in early-1935 by NBC, featured name bands, singing groups, and individuals. Thanks to this series, great sounds are retained that might otherwise have been lost. They were sixteen inch, lateral cut, 33 1/3 rpm plastic discs. Recorded by RCA, who owned NBC, these discs were leased to subscribing radio stations. A catalog of all available discs was distributed to stations across the country allowing them to order particular programs of interest.  There were several cuts on each side with the Pioneers appearing on one side of a disc and another individual or group on the other. Only a few new songs were recorded by the Pioneers for this series and most were recordings from the Orthacoustic series with perhaps a few from the Dr. Pepper show. The Pioneers had to be careful when recording in theses days. There was no room for error because each side contained five or six selections and the entire side had to be recorded satisfactorily because it was not possible to re-cut a song. If four songs were recorded perfectly and an error made on the fifth, the entire side had to be discarded and re-recorded. Due to wartime restrictions no commercial recordings were made by the group after 1943.


Although the older Pioneers' draft status was 3-A at this point, they did do much for the war effort at home, working to sell war bonds with Roy, etc. They became extremely popular with the servicemen and gave a lot of his time and energy to entertaining them. Roy’s shows for under privileged children got a lot of notice, as well as his rounds of camps and base hospitals. Big morale boosters, Roy Rogers and the Sons of the Pioneers were quickly becoming heroes to young and old alike.  


Left to right: Isaac Stats and Winnie (Karl's sister) Karl, Hattie, Hugh, Thomas and Roy Rogers





Republic movie release dates in 1944: Hands Across the Border (Jan 5), Cowboy and the Senorita (May 12), Yellow Rose of Texas (June 24), Song of Nevada (Aug 5), San Fernando Valley (Sept15), Lights of Old Santa Fe (Nov 6), Hollywood Canteen (Dec 30).



Left: (1948) Watching "flash" being removed from a long play recording when they visited the Camden factory of RCA Victor.

Right: "Yellow Rose of Texas".


The Roy Rogers Show went on the Mutual Network Tuesday evenings at 8:30 PM beginning November 21, 1944. Sponsored by Goodyear Tires, Rogers’ show featured Roy and The Sons of the Pioneers in such fine Western favorites as Tumbling Tumbleweeds, Cool Water and Don’t Fence Me In. Much of the show was campfire banter and song, with Roy and songstress Pat Friday doing vocal solos, Perry Botkin leading the Goodyear orchestra and Verne Smith announcing. Dramatic-skits were offered, but leaned to lighter material than what the show used in late years. Ultimately, it became primarily a Western thriller show.


Karl and Roy reading script for the Roy Rogers Show.


On December 28, 1944, the Sons of the Pioneers signed with RCA Victor Records. Except for one year with Decca’s Coral label in 1954 the Pioneers would remain with RCA from 1945 through 1969 and now RCA Victor decided to record the Pioneers differently by backing them with fuller instrumentation and musical arrangements  by Vaughn Monroe and his orchestra.


1945 release dates for the Republic movies were: Utah (Mar 21), Bells of Rosarita (June 19), Man From Oklahoma (Aug 1), Sunset in El Dorado (Sept 24), Don’t Fence Me In (Oct 20), Along the Navajo Trail (Dec 15).


 Dale Warren related this little story to Hugh McLennan:


Ken Carson came in and took Lloyd's place during the war. They were on location. Ken was sitting down below the road, fooling around. Bob was standing up next to the stagecoach and Karl was up on top of the stagecoach. Ken was fooling around with a little prank. He could take a little pebble and put it between his fingers and he'd flip it. He flipped that thing and he hit Bob right on the back of the head with it. Bob had to turn around and when he turned around, he was looking right up at Karl. And Karl had this funny grin on his face. Bob says, "I'm gonna come there and get you!" Of course, you know Bob Nolan was a huge fellow and he started climbing up that stagecoach right at Karl. Karl had a prop guitar in his hands-not a real one, you know---a prop guitar. And as Bob was coming up, he took it and busted it over Bob's head. 'Course it was made out of balsa wood and this hurt Bob, but Bob got tickled. He'd always get tickled, so he started laughing. Then Ken heaved a sigh of relief 'cause he was the one that did it.


Before the older Sons of the Pioneers could be called-up for service, V-E Day [May 8, 1945] arrived and the service stopped inducting anyone over thirty.

1946 Republic film release dates: Song of Arizona (Mar 9), Home on the Range (April 18), Ding Dong Williams (April 15), Rainbow Over Texas (May 9), My Pal Trigger (July 10), Under Nevada Skies (Aug 26), Roll On Texas Moon (Sept 12). Home in Oklahoma (Nov 8), Heldorado (Dec 15).


Roy Rogers started a Saturday night weekly series on NBC, similar in content to the first in 1944. This time 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 canceled at the end of the season.  The Classic Sons of the Pioneers (Bob, Tim, Lloyd, Pat and the Farr Brothers) were reunited after Lloyd and Pat were demobilized.




Republic film release dates for 1947: Apache Rose (Feb15), Hit Parade of 1947 (Mar 22), Bells of San Angelo (May15) Springtime in the Sierras (July 15), On the Old Spanish Trail (Oct 15).  


Karl Jr: "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."




Left: Pioneers with Jane Frazee on the set of (left) "On the Old Spanish Trail"

Right: Pioneers with Doye O'Dell and unidentified actor between scenes in "The Gay Ranchero".


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.


 The Teleways Transcriptions featuring Nolan, Perryman, Carson, the Farr Brothers and Brady were made starting in 1947. Each recording began with Tumbling Tumbleweeds and Bob Nolan as host would introduce the various numbers, then give an occasional bit of history regarding the music. There was a lot of good-natured ribbing between Hugh, “Foghorn”, and Pat because Hugh would introduce his solos with long-winded made-up song titles. These transcriptions were syndicated across the country with several repeats in the library. Two commercial spots were arranged during the 15-minute program with Hugh and Karl's instrumentals or the Pioneers humming.


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.


Drawing tickets for lots at Pioneertown.


Karl Jr: "I was with one of the first trips to Pioneertown before the road was cut through from Yucca Valley. They were active there around 1947 to 1952.  I also have some video from the area, which was transferred from16mm film I shot."


Republic movies released in 1948: The Gay Ranchero (Jan 3), Under California Stars (May 1), Eyes of Texas (July 15), Melody Time (July 31), Night Time in Nevada (Sept. 5).




Karl Jr: "Here I am in Yosemite, taking pictures in 1947."


May, Karl Jr and his wife, Pat, daughter of cinematographer, Lou Jennings.


Karl Jr: "My wife's dad was a cameraman at Warners and worked on the first talkie in 1927. He also did The Alamo, Horse Soldiers and Rio Bravo with John Wayne. Other pictures he did were Mr. Roberts, The Old Man and the Sea, The Folsom Story, Dragnet, Cheyenne Autumn and more as he was there over 40 years.  Lou Jennings was his name and sometimes you see it on Dragnet, Chabasco the Movie, F-troop.  Lou went to Cuba in 1956 and started working on the movie then. The next year they went to Peru and finally caught a marlin 1040 pounds big enough for the movie. One of the negatives is of Pat’s dad and Hemingway with the 1040-pound blue marlin they caught off of Lima Peru in 1957 for the movie Old Man and the Sea with Spencer Tracy. We have the bill off the fish over our fireplace.


"At our wedding on November 7, 1948 in Burbank, Lloyd sang I love You Truly and Because. Pat Brady and Fayetta, Lloyd and Buddy, my uncle Hugh and my dad and mom were there. Bob and Tim couldn't make it.


"We had three kids, two boys and one girl. The boys were born in 1951 January and December. Our daughter was born in 1955 and her name is Karla. The boys were Marshall and Mike. Marshall was killed June 28, 1976 taking down a CB antenna and it hit a power line. He was the oldest and the one with music ability. He also fought in Vietnam."



Hugh and Karl's parents, Hattie and Thomas Farr, Van Nuys



Karl Jr: "Pat Brady at our house in the late 40s."


Courtesy of Josie Shapira.


In early 1949, Tim Spencer voice was failing him and he decided it was time to retire although he continued to direct the affairs of the group, including their recording sessions, through 1957. He was replaced by Ken Curtis. Three months later, Bob Nolan retired and, after the group's appearance in Montana, was replaced by Tommy Doss and Lloyd Perryman assumed the responsibilities of leadership. Lloyd created the vocal arrangements for the Pioneers and became the onstage spokesman as well as handling much of the business end of the Pioneers activities. To keep the unique trio sound, Lloyd rehearsed the group tirelessly in his home.



In appreciation for his support, in 1949 the Fender Guitar Corp. presented Karl with one of their earliest electric models—Telecast #0757.



Ken Curtis and Tommy Doss


Karl Jr: "My dad and Tommy and I were archers together in Los Angeles. Our archery was roving or field archery at Griffith Park. I was a target archer before that with my wife, Pat, who was second in Southern California 1949. I used a bow in the late 1940s and Pat was second place in Southern California. Larry Hughes who was national champion worked with us. He did some of the archery work in the movies Like Joan of Arc . . . He did the shooting when people were shot with arrows. Around 1950 Dad and Roy did some archery together also at Griffith Park."


Rex Allen signed them to be a part of his 1950 radio show, sponsored by Phillips Petroleum. Joining the Pioneers on the program were former Spade Cooley vocalist Jennie Jackson, fiddler Wade Ray, and accordionist Frankie Messina. The Pioneers remained with Rex until they began their own program, Lucky U Ranch, which was, in effect, a continuation of the Rex Allen show.  




Left: the Farr Brothers "help" Rex into the pool.

Right: Rex Allen on Koko.



The Lucky U Ranch Gang


Ken Curtis, Lloyd Perryman, Tommy Doss, the Farr Brothers, and Shug Fisher, furnished the vocal score for the 1950 John Ford movie, "Wagonmaster". Upon its release the men toured for two weeks, promoting both the picture and their recordings of the four featured songs. In the same year, RCA tried to attract more interest in the Pioneers by selling the public on the idea that the group was “western-pop” and their record sales proved they were successful.


On June 7, 1951, The Sons of the Pioneers were the first western group to appear at Carnegie Hall. The concert was sold out. Two fan magazines record the evening:


        Plush, Victorian, Carnegie Hall has played host to some of the greatest musical artists that this world has every heard. As I settled myself in my box seat, I could see over most of the audience and they seemed ready to enjoy themselves in a light-hearted way. And they were right. The concert orchestra entered the large stage and began testing their instruments. All of a sudden one of the players started beeping a horn that sounded like a fugitive from Spike Jones’ band. The audience smiled in a knowing way, for this wasn’t to be the usual long-hair artist’s night.

                                The lights dimmed and out came—what, can you beat that! A man in full western dress. Very sharp, too. Why, it’s Dave Miller, one of the top disc jockeys in the East for spinning western and hillbilly records. Dave gave a talk on the origin of the music we were to hear played this night and introduced the orchestra. The selections played were classical but western in style. The included, Rodeo, Chicken Reel, the Western Suite and excerpts from Oklahoma. Then there was the intermission.

                                And then there was—The Sons of the Pioneers! Yes, sir, and yes, ma’am, the West surely had come East. The audience as one relaxed back in their seats and the real show was on. Let me introduce you to the cast.

                                Here’s Lloyd Perryman, guitarist and master of ceremonies for the group; Karl Farr, another swell guitarist, and Hugh Farr, acclaimed as one of the country’s best fiddlers; Shug Fisher, a comedian who plays the bass fiddle; Ken Curtis, lead, whom you’ve see at your local theatre. I might add that Ken is a VERY flashy dresser in western clothes; and last but not least, is Tommy Doss, who is just as good looking as they come and sings like a second Bob Nolan. You can bet your bottom dollar that every gal there was just a sighing at such a collection of musicians. The fellows were just at home on stage as perhaps in their own backyards.

                                The first thing the fellows requested from the audience was their whole-hearted applause if they liked what was sung, even holler. They had all night to stay, if they liked. Just hadn’t been able to get a place to stay, it seems. Why, as far as they were concerned, the audience could tear the place apart in enthusiasm. The hall didn’t belong to them anyhow! As the laughter died down, Lloyd Perryman announced they would sing My Heart Cries For You, at popular request—his! Because he gets to sing all the verses. When the group bowed to the applause they received, Lloyd passed the remark that applause to them was like making love to an old maid—you couldn’t over do it.

                                      Going to the serious side, they did I’ll Take You Home Again, Kathleen in such a way that it threatened to bring tears to many of us. Another song on the serious side changed the atmosphere of the hall to a churchly silence as the boys quietly and reverently sang The Lord’s Prayer. When the last note died away to perfect stillness, the audience breathed deeply as if they had been holding their breaths during the singing, for fear of missing a single note.

                                It was after a few more songs that the Sons of the Pioneers said their good-byes and left us. But left us with a heritage and wealth in western and hill country music.” (Texas Jim Robertson Fan Club Journal, June 7, 1951)



                          “The first half of the program at Carnegie Hall included numbers by soloists Joe Scandur, bass-baritone, and Beth Pettigrew, soprano, also instrumentals by the Carnegie “pop” Orchestra, conducted by Milton Forstat.

        “After a short intermission, the second half of the program began which was devoted entirely to the Sons of the Pioneers and their famous cowboy classics. The boys sang Tumbling Tumbleweeds, The Home Corral, The Everlasting Hills of Oklahoma, Way Out There, Rollin’ Dust, Ridin’ Home, Chant of the Wanderer, Room Full of Roses, The Timber Trail, Pecos Bill, I’ll Take You Home Again, Kathleen, Cowboy Campmeeting, Down by the Glen-Side, Cigareetes, Whusky and Wild Women, My Best to you, The Lord’s Prayer, Wagons West, and Mr. and Mississippi. Hugh and Karl Farr played one of their original compositions, Farr Away Blues. Shug Fisher’s rendition of I Taut I Taw a Puddy Tat amused the crowd.” (Fishers Fan Review, July 1951, p 9)


Still in New York on June 11, 1951, they recorded The Wondrous Word which was written by their old friend Ken Carson. Hugh Farr and Ken Curtis share lead vocals on this inspirational song. The men also made appearances on the Perry Como, Texas Jim Robertson and Steve Allen Shows. The Pioneers provided back-up for two Como RCA recordings, Tumbling Tumbleweeds and You Don’t Know What Lonesome Is.  


Sons of the Pioneer Albums released in 1952: RCA A Garden of Roses, P309, EPA-309, 1952, RCA Cowboy Classics P168, LPM 3032, 10” 33 1/3 rpm, 1952, RCA Cowboy Hymns and Spirituals P229, EPB 3095, LPM 3095, 1952. After their November 20, 1952 Home on the Range session the Sons of the Pioneers left RCA Victor. Their recordings began receiving wider circulation due to the expansion of record company catalogs to include 45 RPM extended play albums and the introduction of LPs. The ten-inch long-playing album, was the forerunner of the twelve-inch album that would reshape the recording industry.


Sons of the Pioneers appeared again with Roy Rogers at the rodeo at Madison Square Garden. Ken Curtis left the Pioneers and Dale Warren was hired. Although Curtis remained with the group through February of 1953 for their radio-television show, Dale officially became a member of the Pioneers in December, 1952.


Dale Warren


Karl Jr: "These are the Pioneers with their white polyester uniforms used in Las Vegas at the Golden Nugget. The Golden Nugget is where they sometimes worked and is the place my wife and I met John Ford. My uncle Hugh is in most pictures up to 1958 when he left."




Hugh and Karl



The Sons of the Pioneers at the Golden Nugget, Las Vegas

Clockwise from lower left: Hugh, Lloyd, Dale, Tommy, Karl and Shug in the centre.






1953 Pioneer Album released this year: RCA Western Classics. EPB 3162, LPM 3162. They made the hit charts with Bob’s beautiful Cool Water, and in 1953 they had double hit records with Room Full of Roses and Roses. They did not record in 1953 but signed with Coral Records late in the year. Dale Warren and Deuce Spriggens (temporarily) had taken the places of Ken Curtis and Shug Fisher. When the Roy Rogers television series wound down in 1957, Shug Fisher retired from the Sons of the Pioneers and Pat was asked to return. He remained with the Pioneers until 1967.


The Sons completed a lengthy tour of the Pacific Northwest and Canada.


The Sons of the Pioneers who began recording for Coral Records on January 4, 1954, were Lloyd Perryman, Tommy Doss, Dale Warren, Hugh and Karl Farr and Deuce Spriggens. After a year with Coral Records they returned to RCA Victor and RCA Victor insisted on a different Pioneer sound - a return to the Pioneer sound of the 1940s which featured Bob Nolan, Tim Spencer and Lloyd Perryman. Because Tim's voice wouldn't allow him to sing, Ken Curtis was brought back to in his place so the Sons of the Pioneers who returned to record for RCA Victor in 1955 were Bob Nolan, Lloyd Perryman, Ken Curtis, Hugh and Karl Farr and Pat Brady. At the same time, the touring Sons of the Pioneers were made up of Lloyd Perryman, Tommy Doss, Dale Warren, Hugh and Karl Farr and Deuce Spriggens and they were recording a fine series of radio transcriptions for the United Forest Service’s "Smokey the Bear" forest fire prevention campaign. Although it was unfair to the current group, they had to accept it because RCA insisted on the older lineup and no other recording contract was being offered.


Roy and Dale were back at Madison Square Garden for the 29th Annual World’s Championship Rodeo, September 30-October 11, with Pat Brady and the Sons of the Pioneers. Roy had been voted into the Garden’s Hall of Fame for setting an all-time, one-day, box-office record.




 Sons of the Pioneer Album released in 1955: RCA 25 Favorite Cowboy Songs, LPM 1130, 1955 (recorded in 1943, released 1955) The 1957 releases were RCA How Great Thou Art, LPM 1431, 1957 and RCA One Man’s Songs, LPM 1483, 1957 (the songs of Fred Rose) In 1958 only one album was released: RCA Wagons West, CAL/CAS 413, 1958 and Hugh Farr left the Sons of the Pioneers.


Ken Griffis asked Dale Warren about the Farr Brothers during those recordings: 


With Hugh and Karl, on a single recording, did the trio have much of a say on how their backup would go, or did you just leave it up to them? More or less we left it up to them. We had to concentrate on our singing, so, as you suggest, we just more or less left it to their good taste. On occasion we might suggest a certain intro, a guitar run, or something like that, but those guys were so professional, we didn’t have to worry about what they might do.


How aware was the trio of Hugh and Karl’s backup? Oh, very much aware. Both of them were so great, that they made our singing so much easier. Karl with his rhythm, and his notes kept us in pitch, and Hugh would lift you up in certain phrases. So, yes we were much aware of their support. However, they realized their responsibility was to support the trio, and they did one heck of a job in that regard. They were like an old glove, they just fit. Without question, they were the best of their time.


Karl and May




Karl Jr: "I think at one time or another most of the Pioneers had a small shot of running the group, like my dad 1958 - 61."


The Sons of the Pioneers Album released in 1959 was RCA Cool Water, LPM/LSP 2118, ANL1-1092, AYL1-3679, 1959. In 1959 the group added George Bamby, accordionist. Bamby traveled with the group for about a year, appeared on the Cool Water and  Tumbleweed Trail albums, and worked with them in the Disney movie, Swamp Fox. He left the group in May of 1960 and shortly, Wade Ray, a fiddler, was added and he remained for over a year. Although he didn't sang in the trio, Wade did sing when an arrangement required a double trio, such as the RCA recording Sierra Nevada.


In 1961 the Sons of the Pioneers Album released was RCA Room Full of Roses, CAL 587, 1960. Next year two were released: RCA Westward Ho! LPM-PR108, 1961 and RCA Lure of the West LPM/LSP 2356, 1961



Karl Jr: "Mom and Dad at Folsom Lake, California, in 1960."


 A news release on September 20, 1961 announced the final tragedy:


Karl Farr, 52, an original member of the Sons of the Pioneers singing group, collapsed of a heart attack Wednesday night while performing at the Eastern States Exposition coliseum in West Springfield, Massachusetts. Mr. Farr died a few minutes later in Exposition Hospital. News of Mr. Farr’s death was kept from other members of the organization and the audience of 4,000. The show, starring Cliff Arquette, continued. Mr. Farr was removed from the Coliseum by Exposition police and treated at the Exposition Hospital. Dr. William M. Davis, who was on duty, injected adrenaline into Mr. Farr’s heart. The doctor later said that for all practical purposes, the entertainer was dead on arrival. Arrangements are being handled by Mr. Art Rush, business manager for the singers, who was with them at the Exposition.


Wednesday September 20, 1961
New York Times September 21, 1961
West Springfield, Mass. -- Karl Farr, an original member of the Sons of the Pioneers, five-man singing group, died of a heart attack here today at the Eastern States Exposition. His age was 52. Mr. Farr was on stage before an audience of 4,000 persons that was watching a special show at the exposition’s Coliseum Building. He had completed a solo number on his guitar when he collapsed and was helped from the stage by his partners. The singers returned to finish the act, not realizing that Mr. Farr had died in the interim. He was born in Texas, but had lived for many years in Hollywood, Calif. The group appeared in many films and on television and radio with Roy Rogers, the cowboy star. (courtesy of Laurence Zwisohn)

Los Angeles Times September 21, 1961
Karl Farr, 52, western singer and composer who founded the “Sons of the Pioneers” singing group with cowboy actor Roy Rogers 27 years ago, died of a heart attack Wednesday in Springfield, Mass. Farr was stricken while appearing in a musical at the Eastern States Exposition. He died 15 minutes after being carried from the stage by singer Lloyd Perryman and comedian Pat Brady. As part of the five-member singing group he appeared in 50 motion pictures, and on television and radio.  (courtesy of Laurence Zwisohn)


Tommy Doss recalls the shock: “Karl was doing a solo, Up a Lazy River on his old acoustic Martin guitar when a string broke. This noticeably upset him, and as he worked with the string he suddenly slumped over, suffering a heart attack. Dale Warren and I carried him backstage. It was a terrible shock to all of us.”


Karl Jr: "Dad had an enlarged heart and did not realize how bad it was."


In 1962, the Sons of the Pioneers Album released were: RCA Tumbleweed Trail, LPM/LSP 2456, 1962. The following year was a good one:  RCA Good Old Country Music CAL 723, 1963 (a shortened version of 1483-1957), RCA Our Men Out West, LPM/LSP 2603, 1963, RCA Sons of the Pioneers Sing Hymns of the Cowboy, LPM/LSP 2652, ANL1-2808 and RCA Trail Dust, LPM/LSP 2737, 1963. 1964 was a good year, too: Vocalion. Tumbleweed Trails, VL 3715, MCA-730 (old recordings, re-released), RCA Country Fare, LPM/LSP 2855, PRS 220S, 1964, Columbia The Sons of the Pioneers Best, HL 7317, 1964 (re-released 1937 s) and RCA Down Memory Trail, LPM/LSP 2957, 1964. There was one in 1965: RCA Legends of the West, LPM/LSP 3351, 1965, and two in 1966:RCA The Best of the Sons of the Pioneers, LSP 3476(e), 1966 and RCA The Songs of Bob Nolan, LPM/LSP 3554, 1966. There was only one released in 1967:   RCA Campfire Favorites, LPM/LSP 3714, two in 1968: RCA San Antonio Rose, CAL/CAS 2205, 1968 and RCA South of the Border, LPM/LSP 3964, 1968 and two in 1969:  RCA Tumbling Tumbleweeds, LSP 4119, 1969 and RCA The Sons of the Pioneers Visit the South Seas, LSP 4194, 1969.


Then the awards began to come in, all posthumously, for Karl Farr. First was The Meritorious Service Award for “service to their fellow troops and allies for performances above and beyond the call of duty,” by General Westmoreland for performances for servicemen in Viet Nam.  In 1970, The Vocal Group of the Year awarded to the Sons of the Pioneers by Academy of Country Music.


In Oklahoma City on April 24, 1971, they were presented with the Wrangler’s Award from the Cowboy Hall of Fame ‘for thirty-eight years of outstanding entertainment as the West’s first great singing group.” The award was bestowed by two veteran stars of western movies, Joel McCrea and Walter Brennan. Accepting on behalf of all the Sons of the Pioneers, past and present, were Lloyd Perryman, Hugh Farr, Ken Curtis, and Pat Brady. The Wrangler award, a replica of Charles Russell’s sculpture “The Night Herder”, is given in recognition of contributions to the understanding of the West through films, literature, and music. McCrea, with tears in his eyes, congratulated the fellows for their great music over the years, stating that there never has been a group that could make music like the Sons of the Pioneers.



In 1972, a tribute was paid to the Sons of the Pioneers when a large gathering of friends, relatives, and fans met at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, to be a part of a reunion celebration to commemorate the upcoming fortieth anniversary of the founding of the group. Nolan and Spencer received awards from Richard Kirk of BMI for their musical compositions. The Mayor’s personal representative read a proclamation setting aside April 21, 1972 as Sons of the Pioneers Day in the City of Los Angeles. The City Council presented a resolution commending the Sons of the Pioneers “for forty years of outstanding entertainment.” Marty Robbins, representing their fans, presented the fellows with an impressive plaque. After dinner, George Putnam, friend and associate from the Lucky U Ranch program, made an inspiring speech in which he expressed his appreciation for their help and friendship.


Performing for the Pioneers and their families were Rex Allen, Marty Robbins, Johnny Bond, Jimmy Wakely, Smokey Rogers, and Stuart Hamblen. Music was provided by the Hershel Witt band, which included Harold Hensley and Noel Boggs. The active members of the Pioneers, Lloyd Perryman, Dale Warren, Luther Nallie, Billy Armstrong and Roy Lanham, performed along with Roy Rogers, Tommy Doss, Ken Carson, Hugh Farr, Rusty Richards and Bill Nichols. The finale of the evening was the singing of Tumbling Tumbleweeds by past and present Pioneers. Shortly after the Pioneer tribute, Billy Armstrong took leave of the group to continue on with his personal career. (pp. 64-65, Hear My Song)


In 1972, the Sons of the Pioneers album released was RCA Riders in the Sky, ADL-2-0336 (e), DL 2-0336, Nov. 1973 and in 1976 there were two: Granite-ATV Music Western Country, GS-1007, May 1976 and Victor Music Industries Sons of the Pioneers, VIM-4009, 1976

Another honor was paid to the Pioneers when their star was placed in the Walk of Fame on Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California. Through the dedicated efforts of Pioneer fans and the unqualified support of Bill Ward and radio station KLAC, this honor became a reality on September 24, 1976, with a number of past and present Pioneers attending the ceremony. That same evening a tribute was paid to the group at the Hollywood Palladium. The presence of Roy Rogers, Dale Evans, Gene Autry, General James Doolittle, and many other notables added to the affair. (p. 65, Hear My Song)



In 1977, RCA released one Sons of the Pioneers recording: RCA A Country-Western Songbook, ANL1-2332, 1977 (recorded 1960-64).


In 1978 The Pioneers received The Band of the Year Award for the Sons of the Pioneers by the Academy of Country Music and in 1980 they were inducted into The Country Music Hall of Fame. 


In 1995, Karl Farr was inducted into the National Cowboy Hall of Fame. Karl E. Farr accepted his father's award from Ernest Borgnine.



Karl Jr: "Ernie giving me the Cowboy Hall of Fame Award."



Karl Jr: "Ernie and my wife."


Various other photos:



Karl Jr: "Uncle Hugh's violin 1971."



Karl Jr: "I took these of Pat Brady in Colorado Springs in 1971, a year before he died."



Karl Jr: "I believe all the Pioneers had one. This one of dad's had a lot of newspaper clippings and pictures that Scotch Tape messed up . . .."


Karl and Pat's daughter, Karla, and son Mike.


On April 2, 2007, May celebrated her 97th birthday and passed away on November 13.


Wedding Anniversary, November 7 1948-2008




Karl E. Farr (son of Karl Farr of the Sons of the Pioneers) passed away on December 4, 2013, from a stroke and liver complications from too many blood transfusions. Karl will be greatly missed by all who had the privilege of knowing him.


Jason and Isa Farr, Karl's great grandson and wife.