THE VOICE OF A
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".
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.
O Susanna (Stephen Foster)
Uncle Ned (Stephen Foster)
Here Dem Bells (David S McCosh)
Abulbul Amir (Percy French)
At the End of the Lane
(Fred Howard/Nat Vincent)
Sweet Betsy from Pike (John A. Stone)
Baltimore (J. G. Evans)
Prairie Lullaby (Billy Hill)
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
Glendy Burke (Stephen Foster)
Louisiana Belle (Stephen Foster)
Hard Times Come Again No More (Stephen Foster)
Going Home (Carson J. Robison/Vernon Dalhart)
Coming Through The Rye
Little Old Sod Shanty (Will S. Hays)
Ring Ring De Banjo (Stephen Foster)
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)
The Hills of Old Wyomin' (L. Robin and R. Rainger)
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
I Love You Nelly (unknown)
1940 Orthacoustic "Symphonies of the Sage"
What Wonderful Joy (Charles W. Vaughan)
duet with Lloyd Perryman
With Someone Like You
(Glenn Spencer) from
Bullets for Rustlers
They Drew My Number (Tim Spencer)
Cielito Lindo (Quirino Mendoza y Cortes)
Plain Old Plains (Cindy Walker)
You Broke My Heart, Little Darlin' (Tim
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)
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)
Bob stated that
"Trees" was his favorite song.
(Joyce Kilmer / O. Rasbach)
Have I Told You Lately That I Love You (Wiseman)
Chant of the Wanderer (Nolan)
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)
(Ghost) Riders in the Sky (Stan Jones)
Low, Little Dogies (Tim & Glenn Spencer)
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
House of Broken Dreams (Walton Berkely)
I Can't Lie to Myself
(Al Trace / Jimmy James - original writers)
(Rollins / Rich / Barlow)
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.
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)
Wonder When We'll Ever Know (Fred Rose)
Old Betsy (George / Bruns)
Yaller Yaller Gold (Blackburn / Bruns)
decided that the Sons of the Pioneers should "graduate" to Rock'n'Roll.
Bob did not take the lead in these songs.
Song of the Prodigal (Glenn Spencer)
Searchers (Stan Jones)
Ballad of the Cowboy Sailor (Ginna / Hopkins)
High Ridin' Woman (Adamson / Sukman)
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)