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Lloyd Perryman

"Mr. Pioneer"

(1917 - 1977)

 

Lloyd Perryman in Spoilers of the Range, 1939, photo courtesy of Wayne Perryman.

 


 

Bob Nolan wrote "Half Way 'Round the World" for his brother, Cpt. Earl Nolan, a US Marine on active duty. Because the Sons of the Pioneers were singing it when Lloyd was in Burma, the song became inextricably bound to his longing for home during his war years in the Far East. Although we hear Martha Mears sing it in a Dr. Pepper show on St. Patrick's Day, 1944, the song was not published until 1947, after Ken Carson had written down the score for Bob. Bob Nolan could not write music and Ken often did that chore for him. Lloyd, himself, was unable to sing the song for years without his voice breaking because it brought back those homesick years. He was finally able to sing it on a Lucky U program on Christmas Day, 1952, and recorded it for RCA Victor 1966. About the same time, Tim Spencer wrote "The Little Guy Who Looks Like You" for Lloyd but it was never commercially recorded. Little Wayne Lloyd Perryman was born on October 18, 1944.

 


Bob Nolan and the Sons of the Pioneers Work Chronology

 

            A complete biography of Lloyd Perryman has never been published and is long overdue. It would be difficult if not impossible to describe just how Lloyd was the glue that held the Sons of the Pioneers together for so many years. He was the peacemaker, the willing worker, the cheerful partner, the unfailingly kind and courteous entertainer, the achingly beautiful voice, the raucous hillbilly voice, the loyal friend and the originator of the stacked harmony that made the group famous. The list would go on and on, continually added to by all who knew him - friends, fans, fellow entertainers. To my knowledge, only Tex Ritter was as well-loved but Lloyd was one step up the ladder from even Tex - Lloyd could sing anything. And, oh, how he could sing! Not only could he sing with a clear, strong tenor and exceptional power of feeling but he was also completely dedicated to preserving that unique harmony that was the trademark sound of the Sons of the Pioneers. The breathing, timing, articulation - every detail was important to him. And his range was superb.

            "And, yes, we did make a concerted effort to avoid any sounds of breathing. That was very important to us. Lloyd taught us a trick on taking a fast or long breath. Just put your tongue up against the roof of your mouth and take a breath. You can hardly tell you are taking one. Tommy could take very long breaths and Lloyd could breathe forever. Go back and listen to a passage on the song, "Lonely Little Room." Partway into that song there's a passage that goes on and on. And on "Wind," I thought we never would come to a place where I could catch a breath." (Dale Warren to Ken Griffis, p. 225, Hear My Song, 1994)

            Lloyd's career, from the time he became one of the Sons of the Pioneers to 1949 when Bob Nolan retired, paralleled Bob's so we have touched that era only lightly on this page. Because we came into the picture far too late to know Lloyd personally, we can really only list a bare outline of his life and sprinkle it with photographs and the tributes of those who knew him, beginning with Bob Nolan. Bob thought the world of Lloyd. Both families were close. Even after both men were gone, their wives, Buddie and P-Nuts, remained best friends until they, too, died.

        Bob said there was no one like Lloyd to interpret the feeling and spirit of his songs. In fact, only Lloyd could sing Bob's difficult compositions as they were meant to be sung. His voice was as integral to the sound of the Sons of the Pioneers as Bob's, or Hugh's fiddle, or Karl's guitar. Even when his voice was tired near the end of his life, his singing still satisfied us.

        Lloyd Wilson Perryman was born on January 29, 1917, in the little farming community of Ruth, Arkansas. He was the youngest of nine brothers and sisters. Three years later, his parents (Samuel and Sally) moved their family to Zion, Arkansas, where they farmed and operated a general store. Although his parents were not musical, there was always music present in the family, church, and community gatherings and Lloyd began playing a guitar when he was nine. The family moved to Wasco, California in 1928 and Lloyd began to seriously contemplate a career in music. In his high school musical events, he found that his listeners loved his voice and he loved singing to them.

        He began appearing on the amateur programs on radio KERN in nearby Bakersfield and he, like everyone else at the time, enjoyed listening to the Beverly Hill Billies. He headed to Los Angeles in 1932 and sang tenor with Bert Crowe and the Sierra Mountaineers for about a year. No pay, of course, other than tips. A growing boy of 15, he was often hungry.

        The year previously he had auditioned for Bennie Nawahi and the International Cowboys and now Slumber Nichols remembered him and asked if he would care to join a new group, Cyclone and His 4-S Ranch Boys, for a tour of the Southwest. Snipe (Carl Cobb), Slumber (Bill Nichols), Slats (Lloyd) and Squire (Ray Head) made it as far as the Dallas - Ft. Worth area in Texas where they performed as the Melody Millers. The tour was not a success but Lloyd was able to regain his place in the Sierra Mountaineers, then appearing on Radio KGER, Los Angeles.

        He worked briefly with the Beverly Hill Billies (less than a year) and in late 1935 joined Jack and His Texas Outlaws on Radio KFWB as Bob Nolan had a few years before. With the Texas Outlaws, he was on air 5 1/2 hours a day, including performances with four other groups on other radio stations. He was thinner than ever but he was gaining experience.

 

"In hindsight, Tim's leaving the group briefly after returning from the Texas Centennial was a pivotal moment for the Pioneers." (Laurence Zwisohn)

 

        And so it was. When Tim left the Pioneers in sympathy with his brother, Leo, who had been released from his managerial chores, it must have seemed that it would be the end of the group. They had to find someone quickly to take his place. During this time, Lloyd was substituting for members of the Sons of the Pioneers when they had to be out of the group and coincidentally he joined Jimmy LeFevre and His Saddle Pals. Roughly nine months later, in September, 1936, Bob Nolan called him up and asked Lloyd if he would like to fill the spot left by Tim Spencer when the Pioneers returned from the Texas Centennial. He never looked back. He was 19 years old.

 


 

        It's pretty obvious the Pioneer blend improved after Lloyd joined the group. That wasn't only because of the quality of his voice. It had a lot to do with the way they stacked their voices.
        What I hear in the stacking of voices after Lloyd joined was a definite attempt to keep the harmony parts in a comfortable range for each one of the singers so that no member was straining to reach a note, whether it be a high or low one. That is what contributes most to the quality of blend associated with vocal groups...keeping everyone singing in a comfortable range.
        Most melodies stay within a certain range whereby the middle voice can handle the whole thing with no difficulty. In that case, the tenor sings a regular tenor part usually three notes above and the baritone fills in the remaining note of the chord below the melody (i.e. "When Payday Rolls Around".). However, some melodies may traverse a full octave range or more during the course of a song. When that happens, its best to assign parts of the melody to individual ranges.
        That's why they often distributed different parts of the melody line to different members of the trio as they proceeded through a song. Once the decision was made to stack voices so that everybody was singing in a comfortable range, that procedure was applied to all songs, regardless. The stacking, of course, was the baritone on the bottom, the tenor on the top, and the third voice in the middle. Whether Lloyd was responsible for that, I don't know. I do know that he was definitely responsible for the interpretation and vocal stylings of most of the songs the Pioneers did down through the years.
        Tumbling Tumbleweeds is a classic example of this procedure. With the voices always stacked the same (baritone on the bottom, then the middle voice, and finally the tenor on top), the first two lines of the song begin with the melody in the tenor or top part. In the third line the melody is carried by the middle voice, and in the fourth line ("Drifting along with the Tumbling Tumbleweeds") the baritone or bottom part carries the melody. The voices remained stacked the same regardless of who is carrying the melody. This is repeated throughout the song. Most all the top Western vocal groups have followed this same procedure down through the years.
        The main goal was to have every member of the trio comfortable with the range he was singing in. The logical result was to have Bob Nolan on the bottom, Tim Spencer in the middle, and Lloyd on top. This arrangement never varied. From that point, it was just a matter of picking a comfortable key for all three to sing in depending on what the melody did in any particular song.    

        Also, remember the blend prior to Lloyd was a little more strained because Tim Spencer was handling the tenor chores above Leonard Slye and often singing at the top of his range. When Lloyd became part of the trio, Tim dropped down to the middle range and the sound became much more relaxed and smooth. Also, Lloyd added an exceptional tenor voice to the blend, much better suited for that part than Tim's. (Dick Goodman of The Reinsmen)

 

Left to right: Hugh Farr, Leonard Sly, Jimmy Masters, Lloyd Perryman, Bob Nolan and Karl Farr

(Calin Coburn Collections)

 


 

        I do think that my father had a natural ear for harmony.  I remember him rehearsing with the group in the livingroom and he would sing each part to the other guys and have them sing it back to him.  Then they would all sing together and he would correct one of them and do it again. (Wayne Perryman)

 


 

Photo courtesy of Ed Phillips

 


 

My father's idea of his responsibility was his share and half of yours. (Wayne Perryman)

 


 

        In 1937 the Sons of the Pioneer were given a spot on Peter Potter's Hollywood Barn Dance at KHJ with the Stafford Sisters and the Four Squires, etc. Years later, Christine Stafford said to Ken Griffis, "Dobbs [Lloyd's nickname] was one of the nicest people who ever lived besides being as talented as you can get. I simply can't believe anyone can sing as beautifully as he did."

        His first part in a movie as a member of the Sons of the Pioneers was in The Old Wyoming Trail a year later, in 1937. He sang his first solo, My Saddle Pals and I, in Outlaws of the Prairie the next month. But it was in a later Charles Starrett film, Rio Grande in 1938, that his lyrically beautiful rendition of Bob Nolan's Slumber Time on the Range, drew audience attention. The Sons of the Pioneers never did commercially record the song and it was "lost" until the old Columbia / Starrett films appeared again, this time on video.

 

Rio Grande 1938

Lloyd singing Slumber Time on the Range

 

Clockwise from centre: Hugh Farr, Karl Farr, Lloyd Perryman, Leonard Slye, Bob Nolan, Donald Grayson and Ray Whitley.

The Old Wyoming Trail 1937

(Calin Coburn Collections)

 

Left to right: Lloyd, Don, Pat, Bob and Hugh.

Outlaws of the Prairie 1937

(Calin Coburn Collections)

 

West of Cheyenne, 1938

Lloyd, Iris Meredith and Charles Starrett

 

South of Arizona, 1938

Lloyd, Hugh and Pat singing When Payday Rolls Around.

 

Karl, Pat, Hugh, Lloyd and Bob

West of the Santa Fe, 1938

(Calin Coburn Collections)

 

Left to right: Charles Starrett, Pat, Hugh, Bob, Karl and Lloyd.

Rio Grande 1938

(Calin Coburn Collections)

 

Washington, DC. (Calin Coburn Collections)

Lloyd and his pretty bride, Violet (Buddie), turned the tour that year into a honeymoon. They had been married on September 6, 1938, in Las Vegas, Nevada.

 

The Thundering West 1939

Pat, Karl, Bob and Lloyd

 

        The Sons of the Pioneers began a new syndicated radio show, "Sunshine Ranch", originally aired over KNX and the Mutual Broadcasting System. They appeared daily on KHJ from 7-8 am every morning, on Saturday Night Frolic with the Stafford Sisters and even one of the early television test programs. At the same time, they were on the Columbia lot six days a week.

 

Bob, Lloyd, Hugh and Karl disturb Pat's sleep.

Texas Stampede 1939

(Karl E. Farr Collection)

 

Karl, Pat, Lloyd, Hugh and Bob

North of the Yukon 1939

(Ed Phillips photo)

 

Back: Bob, Lloyd and Pat          Centre: Hugh, Tim and Karl         Front: Charles Starrett and Iris Meredith

Spoilers of the Range 1939.

(Calin Coburn Collections)

 

Iris, Lloyd and Bob

Western Caravans 1939

(Photo from Ed Phillips)

 

Lloyd, Hugh, Pat, director Sam Nelson, Bob, Tim and Karl

The Man from Sundown 1939

(Calin Coburn Collections)

 

Lloyd and Pat

Riders of Black River 1939

 

Hugh, Karl, Tim Bob, Lloyd and Pat

Outpost of the Mounties 1939

 

Karl, Tim, Lloyd, Starrett, Bob, Pat and Hugh

The Stranger from Texas 1939. (Ed Phillips photo)

 

Lloyd, Bob and Tim

Blazing Six Shooters 1940

 

Lloyd and Bob singing Hill Country

Texas Stagecoach 1940

 

Tim, Bob, Hugh, Lloyd, Pat and Karl

West of Abilene 1940 (Calin Coburn Collections)

 

Lloyd singing Come and Get It!

Outlaws of the Panhandle 1941

 

    The first cross-country tour the Sons of the Pioneers made was to Chicago in 1939-40. Intending to stay a week, they remained almost a year on the Uncle Ezra Show and appeared in various cities. Lloyd told Ken Griffis that he recalls one performance at a theatre in Chicago that had its anxious moments. Tim was away for a few days and Pat was supposed to fill in for him but that night only Lloyd turned up for the show. As he frantically tried to prepare for a solo performance, Pat appeared and, finally, the Farr Brothers. They decided to put Hugh into the trio because Bob Nolan still wasn't there. Halfway through the evening, they saw Bob slowly walking down the center aisle eating a hamburger. He chose a seat in the front row and watched the show!

 

Hugh Farr, Bob Nolan, Tim Spencer, Pat Brady, Karl Farr and Lloyd Perryman

(Photo courtesy of Wayne Perryman)

 

    While they were in Chicago, they placed about 200 songs on transcription for NBC's Orthacoustic Recording Division, completing them in August. These were the famous "Symphonies of the Sage" and were drawn from for succeeding radio programs. They were also the best example of pure, classic Sons of the Pioneers sound. The group returned home to Los Angeles in September of 1941 and signed with Camel Cigarettes to be a part of the Camel Caravan, appearing at military bases on the West Coast.

 

Chicago 1940 (Calin Coburn Collections)

 

While they were in Seattle, they heard from Roy Rogers. They were to report to Republic Studios on October 23 to join him in a new series of movies, starting with Red River Valley. As in the Charles Starrett pictures, Lloyd had no major speaking roles. He galloped around the countryside with the Sons of the Pioneers on location and was visible in most of the close-ups. His voice was heard plainly in all the singing.

 

Karl (seated), Bob, Sally Payne, Hugh, Roy, Lloyd, Tim, Gabby Hayes, Hal Taliaferro and Pat Brady

Red River Valley 1941 (Calin Coburn Collections)

 

    They completed Red River Valley in early November and near the end of November 1941, they signed to do a series of 15-minute radio transcriptions for the Dr. Pepper Bottling Company with Dick Foran and Martha Mears called "10-2-4 Ranch". In December 1941 they signed with the Mutual Network to do a series of radio programs each Saturday night called Radio Rodeo. At the same time, they started working on the next Roy Rogers movie, Man from Cheyenne, quickly followed by South of Santa Fe.

 

South of Santa Fe 1942 (Calin Coburn Collections)

Left to right: Bob, Roy, Secretary, Pat, Robert Homans, Lloyd.

 

Sunset on the Desert 1942 (Calin Coburn Collections)

Bob, Lloyd, Tim, Hugh, Pat and Karl

 

Lloyd, Gabby, Bob, Hugh, Sally Payne, Karl, Roy and Tim

Romance on the Range 1942 (Calin Coburn Collections)

 

Back: Tim, Karl and Pat. Front: Bob, Lloyd and Hugh

Sunset Serenade 1942

(Fred Sopher photo)

 

Hugh, Tim, Bob, Roy, Lloyd, Karl and Pat

Ridin' Down the Canyon 1942

In 1942, the Sons of the Pioneers and Roy Rogers made 8 Roy Rogers films for Republic and one with Gene Autry (Call of the Canyon). This is all in addition to their radio shows and their personal appearances. It was also in 1942 that they crossed the continent to appear at the Madison Square Garden Rodeo with Roy.

 

Singing at Madison Square Garden, New York City. (Calin Coburn Collections)

 

Lloyd and Buddie

(courtesy of Wayne Perryman)

 

Bob, Roy, Lloyd and Tim

Idaho 1943

 

        In April of 1943, Lloyd was called up into the Army, becoming a Sergeant in the Army Air Force early in 1944. He remained until January, 1946, receiving his usual cut of the Sons of the Pioneers' take. Ken Carson replaced him in the trio. A great deal of Lloyd's service time was spent in a hospital bed in Burma, fighting off malaria. He was terribly, terribly homesick.

Last 6 months in the service (interview by Johnny Bond) Cool Water

 

Excerpt from the Prairie Prattler Vol 2 No 3:

        October 18, 1944 was a very happy day for S/Sgt. and Mrs. Lloyd Perryman. Why? On this eventful date, the stork dropped a little stranger down in Hollywood. The Lloyd Perrymans are the proud parents of a son - Wayne Lloyd Perryman. From all reports, little Wayne looks like his famous daddy.


Lloyd has had his address changed again:
S/Sgt. Lloyd W. Perryman, 39570629
36 Spt. Soc. Co. H2-MCAC-FWB
Echron, APO 689 c/o Postmaster
New York, New York
 

        The attractive and personable wives of the Sons of the Pioneers often got together and they became close over the years. The stork graces this table and Buddie is the guest of honor.

 

Left to right: Margo (a friend), Peggy "Mrs. Shug" Fisher, Fern Allen, Claudina (twin of Fayetta), Fayetta "Mrs. Pat" Brady, Rosita "Mrs. Hugh" Farr, P-Nuts "Mrs. Bob" Nolan, Mae "Mrs. Karl" Farr, Velma "Mrs. Tim" Spencer and Buddie "Mrs. Lloyd" Perryman.

(Calin Coburn Collections)

 

Lloyd returned in early January of 1946, followed shortly by Pat and the Classic Sons of the Pioneers were together once more. In March they recorded several songs for RCA including the most famous rendition of Tumbling Tumbleweeds and The Everlasting Hills of Oklahoma with Country Washburne directing. The men quickly donned their western costumes and began work with Roy Rogers in Republic again. Their first film together was Under Nevada Skies, released on August 26, 1946.

 

1946 Reunion of the Sons of the Pioneers at Republic Pictures. (Calin Coburn Collections)

 

(Calin Coburn Collections)

 

Buddy and Lloyd

(courtesy of Wayne Perryman)

 

Pat, Roy, Lloyd, Dale Evans

Home in Oklahoma 1946

 

In 1947 a great many Teleways Transcriptions were made. These transcriptions were syndicated across the country and the programs were broadcast from small and large radio stations all across North America. They were so well-crafted that many people to this day believed that the Sons of the Pioneers were actually present in their local radio station for the show.

 

Bells of San Angelo 1947

Lloyd singing Lazy Days by Tim Spencer

 

Lloyd in near left armchair.

Springtime in the Sierras 1947

 

Pat, Lloyd and Bob

On the Old Spanish Trail 1947

(Ed Phillips photo)

 

Although Doye O'Dell replaced Lloyd in this scene, the 1947 recording of Cowboy Country is much the same.

Gay Ranchero 1947

 

Lloyd grooming Trigger while singing Serenade to a Coyote

Under California Stars 1948

 

Lloyd is second from the left

Eyes of Texas 1948 (Calin Coburn Collections)

 

Tim, Lloyd, Hugh,

Walt Disney's "Melody Time" 1948

(Calin Coburn Collections)

 

Bob, Jane Frazee, Andy Devine, Tim, Hugh, Karl, Lloyd, Pat (kneeling)

Night Time in Nevada 1948

(Les Adams photo)

 

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

 

Courtesy of Josie Shapira.

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

(Photo on left courtesy of Josie Shapira; right courtesy of Karl E. Farr.)

 

        The Sons of the Pioneers continued to perform in the movies. They provided the vocal score for Stan Jones' songs in Wagonmaster, a precursor of the Wagon Train TV series starring Ward Bond.

 

 

 

 

 

 

1950 Lloyd and Buddie Perryman at Caspar WY

Courtesy of Josie Shapira

 

(anonymous collector)

 

On December 1, 1950, Lloyd, Ken Curtis, Tommy Doss, Shug Fisher and the Farr Brothers were in New York City and recorded seven songs and providing backup for The Three Suns, Vaughn Monroe and Ezio Pinza. Back home, Rex Allen signed them to be part of his 1950 radio show sponsored by Phillips Petroleum. Joining the Pioneers and Rex were Ginny Jackson, Wade Ray and Frankie Messina.

 

The Rex Allen Show (Les Adams photo)

Left to right: Shug Fisher, Hugh Farr, Ken Curtis, Tommy Doss, Rex Allen, Lloyd Perryman and Karl Farr

 

Lloyd and Rex

 

  

Back: Hugh Farr, Ken Curtis, Tommy Doss, Lloyd Perryman and Karl Farr

Seated: Shug Fisher

 

The 1950-1953 Sons of the Pioneers trio: Ken Curtis, Tommy Doss and Lloyd Perryman.

 


           "The Sons of the Pioneers and their "Lucky U Ranch" on KHJ Television is gaining steadily as one of the top programs of its kind in the West. The Pioneers maintain their radio program daily on the same station at 1:30pm. The TV show is 3:30pm and both are Mondays through Fridays." (Brad's Newsletter, Dec. 26, 1952, courtesy of Fred Goodwin.)


 

                Rex left and the Rex Allen Show became The Lucky U Ranch with Lloyd as host and George Putnam as announcer. The program was a half hour daily, five days a week and the format of this show was superior to their earlier radio shows in that it was well-planned and scripted. The Pioneers "lived" on a ranch on the desert, Betty Taylor was the local school teacher who had a crush on Tommy Doss. Shug Fisher and Ken Curtis took over the comedy sections - Shug with his exaggerated stutter and Ken with his imitation of a country bumpkin, Dink Swink. Guest stars such as Bob Nolan, Stan Jones and Tim Spencer delighted the radio audience.

           

                Starting on October 8, 1952, the Sons of the Pioneers were busy Mondays through Fridays with both a KHJ radio show at 1:30pm and a KHJ-TV show at 3:30pm. Studio audiences could obtain tickets for the shows by writing direct to the station at 1313 N. Vine, Hollywood. The following clipping from the October 19, 1952 Los Angeles Herald-Examiner describes the Lucky U Ranch programs on TV which have since disappeared from sight. The TV show was discontinued in February 1953.

 

 

Karl E. Farr Collection

 

Left: Betty Taylor, courtesy of Josie Shapira

Right: George Putnam, announcer on the Lucky U program.

 

        Although the Pioneers had completed their Republic contract, they hadn't finished with making movies. In 1950, they furnished the movie score for Wagonmasters with a large symphony orchestra - a first for the group. Following release of the picture, they made a fourteen day tour of the Southwest promoting the picture and the four recordings they made for it - Chuckawalla Swing, Rollin' Dust, Song of the Wagonmaster and Wagons West. They provided backup for several more John Wayne-John Ford westerns such as The Searchers and Rio Grande and Ken Curtis sang in The Quiet Man.

        On June 7, 1951, the Sons of the Pioneers appeared in Carnegie Hall in New York City. The second half of the show was turned over to them with Lloyd as master of ceremonies. They sang 20 songs, four of which were Bob Nolan's. Audience response was overwhelming. When the trio sang The Lord's Prayer with a minimum of accompaniment, the audience was absolutely still for several seconds after the song was done. The trio, as always, was perfect a cappella and this sophisticated New York crowd was impressed.

 

 

 

 

While they were in New York, the Pioneers appeared on The Perry Como Show, Texas Jim Robertson's show and the Steve Allen Show. They provided back-up for two Como RCA recordings, Tumbling Tumbleweeds and You Don't Know What Lonesome Is, a song Bob Nolan recorded later.

 

Top: Dale Warren

Centre: Lloyd Perryman, Shug Fisher and Tommy Doss

Front: Hugh and Karl Farr

(Karl E. Farr Collection)

 

        The Sons of the Pioneers made a decision to spend more time making personal appearances. Because Shug and Ken were not eager to start touring again, they retired from the Sons of the Pioneers and Ken become host of the Lucky U Ranch program, changing the name to "Lucky U". The search for replacements for these popular members began. Dale Warren was hired to replace Ken Curtis and Deuce Spriggens came in once more.

 

(Courtesy of the Roy Rogers Family Trust)

 

        Shortly after this, Lloyd took leave of the Pioneers, leaving Hugh as MC. About the same time the Pioneers parted company with RCA because they couldn't agree on contract terms although they did sign Bob Nolan alone. Lloyd returned to the group in February of 1954 and they signed with Decca, recording eight beautiful sides on the Coral label including Montana before Decca lost interest.

        A year later, in February 1955, the Sons of the Pioneers returned to the Victor label - with conditions. The conditions were unacceptable to the group as a whole, but Victor was adamant. They wanted the original trio of Spencer, Nolan and Perryman, excluding Doss and Warren of the current trio. The Pioneers reluctantly signed because recording contracts were becoming rare. Tim's voice gave out once more and Ken Curtis agreed to return for the recording sessions. Bob was back and Pat came, too, replacing Shug who had replaced Deuce Spriggens. The original, classic Sons of the Pioneers were together again for their last recording sessions from 1955-57. Some of the pop and rock'n'roll songs Victor had them sing startled their fans.

        Coincidentally, the current trio of Lloyd, Tommy and Dale (plus The Farr Brothers, Deuce Spriggens and Shug Fisher) were making transcriptions for different government departments - "Country Music Time" for the Dept. of the Navy and "Smokey the Bear" for the Dept. of Agriculture. Many of these songs were never commercially recorded and the only place we can hear them is from these transcriptions. Celebrities would appear on the Smokey the Bear programs - stars like Hugh O'Brien (Wyatt Earp), Jim Arness (Gunsmoke), Richard Boone (Have Gun Will Travel), James Garner (Maverick), George Burns, Danny Thomas, Lawrence Welk, Raymond Burr (Perry Mason), George Montgomery, Ozzie Nelson and even Ronald Reagan.

 

 

 

Bob Nolan and Lloyd Perryman

(Photo courtesy of Wayne Perryman)

 


 

        My mother's father had a little cabin in Pioneertown and when I was a kid we would go up there sometimes.  Lloyd and Bob would hang out together some times when Bob and Peanuts would come up to visit.  Clearly, Bob and my dad were pals. (Wayne Perryman)

 


 

 

 


 

            We spent a lot of time with Bob and P-nuts. Here is a shot of them at Pioneer town. The older man is Grandpa Thatcher who was a blacksmith with the Rough Riders. He met and married my grandmother in Puerto Rico. You will notice that beer consumption was from larger bottles to avoid the problem of frequent  trips to the cooler. My mom is next to Bob. (Wayne Perryman)



 

      In late 1958, the last of the original members of the Sons of the Pioneers, Hugh Farr, left the group. Hugh had been unhappy for many years and, since he was the last active member of the original group, registered the Sons of the Pioneers name for copyright himself. The matter was resolved in court and Hugh lost his case.  This left the group without a fiddle until Wade Ray joined a year or two later. Also, Shug Fisher retired and Pat Brady returned.  George Bamby and his accordion joined in 1959 and he remained for about a year. Wade Ray remained for about a year, as well.

        Lloyd appeared as Richfield's constable in the "Flaming Gold" episode of a 1959 Rex Allen "Frontier Doctor" series on television.

 

Lloyd Perryman with Rex Allen and  Mark Dana in "Flaming Gold", 1959

 

1959 Sons of the Pioneers Lineup

 

 (Karl E. Farr Collection)

 

    1961 brought tragedy when Karl Farr died of a heart attack during a performance on tour. A news release on September 20, 1961 announced:

 

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.

 

Tommy Doss told Ken Griffis, "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 (Karl E. Farr Collection)

 

Roy Lanham was invited to replace Karl and his guitar. Now, without the Farr Brothers, the Sons of the Pioneers had a different background sound although the trio was faithful to the original harmony.

 

 

        In 1963, after 14 years with the Sons of the Pioneers, Tommy Doss retired although he recorded through 1967 and returned for special appearances. When Tommy left, the "Nolan" sound at last left the music. Lloyd took the lead part now and Dale the baritone when Rusty Richards joined briefly to provide the tenor, leaving again in 1966. Billy Armstrong and his fiddle were hired and, in 1969, Luther Nallie. Billy told Ken Griffis that he found the harmony singing more exacting than he'd expected and that Lloyd didn't hesitate to tell him when he strayed.

 

Each note had to be exact; you couldn't 'swap' notes without it being brought to your attention. The shading, the crescendo, the fortissimo, the pianissimo, so to speak, were all a part of the Pioneers style of singing and I had never experienced that before. It wasn't easy and I came to have a great appreciation for the talent required to sing their music. (Billy Armstrong)

 

 

Mr. Pioneer (Karl E. Farr Collection)

 

       On April 24, 1971, the Sons of the Pioneers were awarded the Wrangler Award by the Cowboy Hall of Fame. It was presented by Joel McCrea and Walter Brennan and accepted by Lloyd, Hugh, Ken Curtis and Pat Brady to standing ovations.

        On April 21, 1972, a 40th anniversary tribute was paid through Marty Robbins to the Sons of the Pioneers at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles when the Mayor read a proclamation naming that day as "The Sons of the Pioneers Day". After dinner a long stage show entertained the Sons of the Pioneers (past and present), their families and fans. Rex Allen, Marty Robbins, Johnny Bond, Jimmy Wakely, Smokey Rogers and Stuart Hamblen sang and the Sons of the Pioneers joined Roy Rogers. Previous members Tommy Doss, Ken Carson, Rusty Richards and Slumber Nichols were there. All the members, past and present, mounted the stage to sing Tumbling Tumbleweeds together in an emotional finale.

 

Tim and Bob at left mike, Roy and Hugh at centre, Lloyd in white jacket at right.

 

        Shortly after this, Billy Armstrong took his leave and in April of 1974, Luther Nallie left being replaced by Billy Liebert and Rusty Richards.

        "Lloyd also appeared in Gunsmoke in 1974 in the episode The Fourth Victim in which he played Henry Meeker, the town telegrapher and one of the victims. He did a good job of it too." (Patricia James)

 

 

Douglas B. Green, aka as "Ranger Doug" of that unparalleled modern western group, Riders in the Sky, tells how this group of the Sons of the Pioneers changed the course of his life:

        If there was a turning point, it came in 1974, when I visited the first (and apparently last) Western Swing Festival that the irrepressible Guy Logsdon helped put on in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I loved western swing - and still do - and was surprised to find the Sons of the Pioneers on the bill. I recall thinking they were sure western, but didn't swing, and if anything I thought they were a little like a quaint relic, somewhat musty and faintly unhip.

        There were just four of them that day - the stripped down version in those lean years for western music - Lloyd Perryman, Roy Lanham, Dale Warren and Rusty Richards, and the minute they hit the stage with Way Out There, The Timber Trail, When Pay Day Rolls Around and the rest, I was blown out of my chair. I was stunned, nearly breathless; here, amid unrelenting barroom ballads and dance tunes was music of such freshness, such force, such...integrity. It appealed to me as a poet, as a musician, and it flung me back into the seat of the theater in Costa Mesa where I spent so many hours as a kid, where I lost my brand new Indian feather headdress the day I got it. What a torrent of memories.

        Tim Spencer's Cowboy Country...is a clever but undistinguished ditty, except for the release. When Lloyd Perryman soars up to "Let me sing my song to the [lonesome dogies]", I still get the chills. Great singing, great song writing.

        I determined that day to learn all I could about the Pioneers and this style of music, and went back to the Country Music Foundation, where I was working at the time, and immersed myself in the songs of Bob Nolan and Tim Spencer, and the music of the classic Pioneers. I absorbed these songs like a sponge, and analyzed them as well, for by then I had some skills as a writer and a musician, and I could appreciate not only the stirring emotional appeal but the remarkable craftsmanship, both in lyrics and in music, that I found there.

         Their songwriting was everything I wanted mine to be: direct, powerful, virile, poetic, tender and sometimes humorous. It is imaginative and unfettered by the traditions and constraints which generally typified the other songs, even western songs, of their era. They were poets and great melodists as well. I tried to see the world through the eyes of Bob Nolan, but I have to admit I learned more of songwriting from Tim Spencer; both were craftsmen with enormous heart, and shaped the music we now sing beyond calculation

        I also found these writers were unfettered by the three and four chord mendacity of so many folk and country songs, and free of the desperate need for a commercial "hook" which made for the catchy but ephemeral hits of the day. These songs of the west were, like the west itself, adventurous musically and lyrically, and it was always an unexpected delight to find a vestige of Keats, for example, in Nolan's Waiting for the Sun to Say Good Morning. In short, this was music that appealed to the head and the heart.

 

On September 24, 1976, the Sons of the Pioneers' star was placed in the Hollywood Walk of Fame and an evening of entertainment at the Hollywood Palladium followed with tributes from fellow performers, Roy and Dale, Gene Autry, and many more.

 

The Karl E. Farr Collection photo

 

Lloyd accepts the Gene Autry Award on behalf of the Sons of the Pioneers, presented by Gene himself.

Left to right: Dale Warren, Rusty Richards, Lloyd, Gene Autry, Billy Liebert and Roy Lanham.

(Calin Coburn Collections)

 

On stage for the finale - Tumbling Tumbleweeds. (Calin Coburn Collections)

Left to right: Hugh Farr, Bob Nolan (behind Hugh), Ray Whitley, Roy Rogers, Rusty Richards, Lloyd, Billy Liebert and Dale Warren.

 

        After the Palladium show, many of the performers gathered at Stuart Hamblen's to round out the evening. Lloyd brought Bob Nolan with him. Marty Robbins was there and the three of them sang an impromptu Cool Water.

 

Back: Gene Bear, Stuart Hamblen, Bob Nolan, Marty Robbins, Hugh Cherry, Harold Hensley and Bill Ward.

Front: Laurence Zwisohn, Ken Griffis, Lloyd Perryman and Claude Hall.

(Calin Coburn Collections)

 

Left to right: Lloyd Perryman, Bob Nolan, Ken Griffis, Tim Spencer and Stuart Hamblen.

(Calin Coburn Collections)

 

On January 2, 1972, Stuart Hamblen gathered together three members of the Classic Sons of the Pioneers - Bob Nolan, Tim Spencer and Lloyd Perryman. The dual purpose of the meeting was to interview the Pioneers for an upcoming KLAC program and interview Bob Nolan for the first time for the biography Ken Griffis was writing. It had been difficult to arrange an interview with Bob at all so Lloyd and Stuart thought a gathering of friends would do the trick. It did. It opened the way for further interviews for Ken Griffis' book, "Hear My Song - the Story of the Celebrated Sons of the Pioneers". This interview was the basis for a KLAC program on January 9, 1972.

 

Wayne Perryman photo

 


 

        I remember we would go up to Big Bear to visit Bob and Peanuts.  It was always great fun.  Bob had a spot where he liked to sit and meditate, I don't think that he called it that.  Anyway, he liked to just sit there peacefully with his eyes shut.  I took this shot. (Wayne Perryman)

 


 

 

        The next year, after 41 years with them, the Sons of the Pioneers lost Mr. Pioneer. In the early part of April, Lloyd had a heart attack while golfing and was rushed to hospital. He underwent what appeared to be successful heart surgery but later died at St. Joseph Medical Center in Burbank, California, of complications on May 31, 1977. The following account was written by Barton Clark, editor of "The Pioneer", the current fan newsletter:

 

        "Lloyd Perryman is dead. Lead singer for the Sons of the Pioneers for 41 years. Died at age 61. A gentleman, now drifting along with the tumbling tumbleweeds."

        The above was delivered by Paul Harvey on his popular newscast. Ken Griffis sent the first news of Lloyd's illness to your editor. It was not particularly alarming. The next paragraph is a direct quote from Ken's letter.

        "The group was appearing up in Washington state and Lloyd wasn't feeling too well. Dale and some others invited him out for a game of golf but Lloyd at first didn't want to go as he felt tired. He finally agreed to go and about the third hole he complained of a hurting in his chest. Dale suggested that he go to the hospital but he didn't think it that important. A few minutes later his color was bad so they rushed him to the hospital. It was touch and go for a few minutes but he finally responded. Dale later said that he was happy that he asked Lloyd to go golfing. If he had gone to his room and lay down, he may never have gotten up. Lloyd is home now. He's able to be up and around and appears to be on the mend. He won't be able to rejoin the fellows for a couple of months. His spot is being covered by Rome Johnson. Guess you know Rome - a great voice."

        A few weeks alter a letter came from Larry Zwisohn which contained very alarming news. "Lloyd is very ill, having had a relapse from his heart attack. His condition is precarious and we are all hoping for a miracle to bring him through."

        The dreaded news came to your editor very late on the night of May 31st. Marvin Grigsby of Arizona was kind enough to phone.

        A service of memory for Lloyd was held on June 4th at 1:30 P. M. at the Church of the Hills, Forest Lawn, Hollywood Hills. Bill Bowen very kindly submitted the following account of the services:

        "The services for Lloyd were conducted by Dr. Kenneth A. Carlson. Wesley and Marilyn Tuttle sang 'Until Then'. Dale Evans Rogers sang 'Safe in the Arms of Jesus', accompanied by Billy Liebert, and delivered a very warm and heartfelt eulogy. Dale described how her career crossed that of the Sons of the Pioneers and her long association and friendship with Lloyd. She mentioned Lloyd's beautiful, clear-as-a-bell voice and his knowledge and love of music, one of his favorite songs being 'The Mystery of His Way' by Bob Nolan. Billy played 'Tumbling Tumbleweeds' as the church services adjourned.

        "Because of his bereavement, Roy Rogers declined giving the eulogy but served as a pallbearer. For similar reasons, Bob Nolan and Shug Fisher declined serving as pallbearer and honorary pallbearer, respectively. Bob sat in the front row of the church. The other pallbearers were Ken Curtis, Dale Warren, Roy Lanham, Rusty Richards and Billy Liebert. The honorary pallbearers were Rex Allen, Johnny Bond, Stuart Hamblen, Rome Johnson, Art Rush, Hal Spencer, Jimmy Wakely, and Bill Ward.

        "In addition to the immediate family, there were approximately 200 relatives and friends in attendance, including Western film and music celebrities Harry (Dobie) Carey Jr., Eddie Dean, Russell Hayden, Harold Hensley, Doye O'Dell, Cliffie Stone and Hank Worden. Lloyd is survived by his wife, Violet (Buddie), and son, Wayne."

        A memorial concert, a benefit for Lloyd's wife, was to feature Rex Allen, Johnny Bond, Ken Curtis, Eddie Dean, Stuart Hamblen, Wesley Tuttle, and Jimmy Wakely with special guest stars Glen Campbell, Marty Robbins, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans and the Sons of the Pioneers. The event was sponsored by KLAC. Expenses in the neighborhood of $100,000 were caused by Lloyd's illness. (Barton Clark, pp. 1-2, The Pioneer, Volume 1 Number 3, July 15, 1977)

        

        Unable to face being a pallbearer, a grief-stricken Bob Nolan sent the verse Lloyd loved, written by Stan Jones, to Buddie and Wayne (read here by Calin Coburn). Less than three years later, Bob, too, was gone.

       

Leaves are fallin'

Wild geese are callin'

The skies are red each dawn.

The autumn breeze the waters tease

So they've put their white caps on.

All nature's asleep 'neath a blanket snowflakes bring

Till softly kissed upon the cheek by the warm gentle breath of Spring.

Now, should I follow the geese and the swallow

Or through the long nite yearn

And stay with the leaves from the barren trees

And wait for your return?

 

The Service of Memory for Lloyd was held on June 4, 1977, at the Church of the Hills and conducted by Dr. Kenneth A. Carlson, First United Methodist Church, Glendale, CA.  The eulogy was read by Mrs. Dale Evans Rogers, the organist was Lew Charles and Dale was the soloist. Interment was in the Remembrance Section, Forest Lawn, Hollywood Hills, LA, CA.

 

© Lori Faith Merritt 2008

 

Left: Wayne Perryman receiving the Western Music Association Hall of Fame Award, November 2008.

Right: Talking over old times with Rex Allen Jr.

 

 

 

I was doing some work at Camp Roberts which is the old Army depot where my dad went through basic training during WWII.

They have this picture of him in their little museum for the old base. (Wayne Perryman)

 


Thanks to Ken Griffis' "Hear My Song" (1994) for the timeline and to Wayne Perryman, Kathy Kirchner, Ed Phillips, Les Adams, John Fullerton, The Karl E. Farr and The Calin Coburn Collections for pictures.