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BOB SINGS

THE VOICE OF A PIONEER


Much has been written about Bob Nolan's unique baritone voice. Tim Spencer referred to Bob as "our bubbling baritone". It is universally recognized that Bob's distinctive voice was an integral part of the sound of the Sons of the Pioneers. Without that voice, or the voice of Tommy Doss which was so similar, the Sons of the Pioneers lost the classic sound that made them so popular.

 

The Sons of the Pioneers sang hundreds of songs by other composers and we have received many requests to hear more of Bob's solo voice. We have chosen a few from various recording sessions. Click on a title below and, while the song plays, you can look at a picture of Bob or the Sons of the Pioneers.


The Sons of the Pioneers' first recording session was for Decca on August 8, 1934, and the songs they recorded were their own compositions. Their first recording was Bob's Way Out There and the trio was Leonard Slye, Tim Spencer and Bob Nolan with Hugh Farr providing violin backup.

Shortly after this initial Decca session, the Sons of the Pioneers made several hundred recordings for KFWB's program director, Gerald King, for his new radio transcription company, Standard Radio in Los Angeles, CA. These 16" discs were leased to radio stations and introduced the Sons of the Pioneers across America. Each song had to be performed perfectly the first time. There was no room for error. In those early days, many of the songs Bob sang were written by Stephen Foster and Bob became known as "The Stephen Foster of the West".


 

NB: The songs on this page may take awhile to load after you click on them.

Many thanks to O J Sikes and Luis Roberto Costa for cleaning the early recordings for us.

 


 

1934 Standard Radio Transcriptions
O Susanna (Stephen Foster)
Uncle Ned (Stephen Foster)
Here Dem Bells (David S McCosh)
Abdul Abulbul Amir (Percy French)
At the End of the Lane (Fred Howard/Nat Vincent)
Sweet Betsy from Pike (John A. Stone)
Belle of Baltimore (J. G. Evans)

Prairie Lullaby (Billy Hill)
 
1935 Decca

In March, the Sons of the Pioneers recorded several more sides for Decca. Leonard Slye (Roy Rogers) was usually the lead singer but Bob led this one.

When Our Old Age Pension Check Comes to Our Door (M. Stone)
 
1935 Standard Radio Transcriptions

The Glendy Burke (Stephen Foster)
Louisiana Belle (Stephen Foster)
Hard Times Come Again No More (Stephen Foster)
Going Home (Carson J. Robison/Vernon Dalhart)
Dixie (Dan Emmett)
Coming Through The Rye (Robert Burns)
Little Old Sod Shanty (Will S. Hays)
Ring Ring De Banjo (Stephen Foster)
Auld Lange Syne (Robert Burns)
Old Oaken Bucket (Samuel Woodworth/George Kiallmark)
Waters of the Blue Juniata (Marion Dix Sullivan)
Swing Low, Sweet Chariot (Sarah Hannah Sheppard)

 1936 Standard Transcriptions
When The Bloom Is On The Sage (Fred Howard/Nat Vincent)
Listen To The Mocking Bird (Alice Hawthorne/Dick Milburn)
Whispering Hope (Alice Hawthorne)

 1936 Decca
The Hills of Old Wyomin' (L. Robin and R. Rainger)

1937 ARC

The Sons of the Pioneers recorded for Columbia, then known as ARC (American Record Company). As before, most of the songs the group recorded were traditional songs or songs they wrote themselves. The best example of Bob's voice at that time was on the recording of his own song, I Wonder if She Waits for Me Tonight, but he also sang lead in the following song:
I Love You Nelly (unknown)

 

1940 Orthacoustic "Symphonies of the Sage"

What Wonderful Joy (Charles W. Vaughan) duet with Lloyd Perryman

 

1940 Columbia Pictures

With Someone Like You (Glenn Spencer) from Bullets for Rustlers

1941 Decca
They Drew My Number (Tim Spencer)
Cielito Lindo (Quirino Mendoza y Cortes)
Plain Old Plains (Cindy Walker)

You Broke My Heart, Little Darlin' (Tim Spencer)

1943 Decca

They recorded once more for Decca but Ken Carson usually took the lead part.
 

NOTE: Bob and Ken Carson sang several Spanish songs en duet. Bob could speak Spanish fluently while Ken said he sang the words phonetically.
Pajarillo Barranqeño (unknown)
La Borachita (unknown)

Cuatro Milpas (unknown)


1945 RCA
Timber Trail (Tim Spencer)
You Don't Know What Lonesome Is (Carling / Washburne)
My Best to You (Isham Jones / Willadsen) duet

Don't Fence Me In (Cole Porter)

1946 RCA

Bob stated that "Trees" was his favorite song.
Trees (Joyce Kilmer / O. Rasbach)
Have I Told You Lately That I Love You (Wiseman)

Chant of the Wanderer (Nolan)

1947 RCA
You Never Miss the Water  (Kent / Secon)
No Rodeo Dough (Loeb / Harris / Coben)
Power in the Blood (Jones)
Rounded up in Glory (O. Fox)
The Whiffenpoof Song (Minnigerode / Galloway / Pomeroy / Vallee)

1949 RCA
(Ghost) Riders in the Sky (Stan Jones)
Lie Low, Little Dogies (Tim & Glenn Spencer)

1952 RCA

On November 18, RCA had Bob Nolan record without the Sons of the Pioneers. To Bob's disappointment, the company did nothing further to promote the recordings and they were seldom heard.
The Mystery of His Way (Bob Nolan)

The House of Broken Dreams (Walton Berkely)
I Can't Lie to Myself (Jones / Hart)
An Angel in the Choir (Rollins / Rich / Barlow)

1953 RCA

Bob made the last of his solo recordings for RCA on July 3. Among them was the current theme to the popular television program, Dragnet.
Manhunt (Parker / Simon)

 

At the same session, Nolan recorded two of his own songs. Marilyn Tuttle, Rose Lee Maphis and Lou Dinning backed him and Marilyn remembers that day very clearly.

Tumbling Tumbleweeds

Cool Water
 

1955 RCA

Back with the Classic Sons of the Pioneers, for recording only. (Bob was officially retired.)
Ballad of Davy Crockett (Blackburn / Bruns)
How Great Thou Art (Hine)
I Wonder When We'll Ever Know (Fred Rose)
Old Betsy (George / Bruns)

Yaller Yaller Gold (Blackburn / Bruns)

1955 RCA

RCA arbitrarily decided that the Sons of the Pioneers should "graduate" to Rock'n'Roll. Bob did not take the lead in these songs.

1956 RCA
Song of the Prodigal (Glenn Spencer)
The Searchers (Stan Jones)

1957 RCA
Ballad of the Cowboy Sailor (Ginna / Hopkins)
High Ridin' Woman (Adamson / Sukman)

1979 Elektra

Bob Nolan's last album was released in 1979. Because the Sons of the Pioneers were under contract already, he had to use a studio backup but he said he was happy with that. The album contained several of his own songs and these. That Old Outlaw, Time was prophetic.
Can You Hear Those Pioneers (Rex Allen Jr.)
Man Walks Among Us (Marty Robbins)
Ride Me Down Easy (Billy Joe Shaver)
That Old Outlaw, Time (Cliff Crofford)