Bob Nolan-The Sound of a Pioneer
· Audio CD (October 20, 2000)
· Original Release Date: October 20, 2000
· Number of Discs: 1
· Label: Garrett-Deutz
· ASIN: B000056WHJ
1. Tumbling Tumbleweeds (Nolan)
2. He Walks with the Wild and the Lonely (Nolan)
3. That Old Outlaw, Time (Crofford)
4. Cool Water (Nolan)
5. Can You Hear Those Pioneers (Rex Allen Jr.)
6. Man Walks among Us (Robbins)
7. Texas Plains (Hamblen)
8. The Touch of God's Hand (Nolan)
9. Old Home Town (Nolan)
10. Ride Me Down Easy (Shaver)
11. Wandering (Nolan)
Producer Tommy "Snuff" Garrett of the 50 Guitars fame always loved the old western movies and songs. He and Rex Allen together wrote Rex's autobiography, he knew Gene Autry and he was a close friend of Roy Rogers – but he still didn't know Bob Nolan. One day he took the bull by the horns, got Bob's address from Nudie, the Hollywood tailor famous for Roy Rogers' extravagantly spectacular costumes, and drove over to the Nolan's home in Studio City. He knocked on the door and introduced himself. Bob asked him in and they sat down and watched TV until Snuff decided he'd go. Nothing else was said. Snuff patiently continued his visits and TV-watching with Bob until one day Bob turned to him and said, "You want to record, don't you?" Snuff replied yes, that's what he wanted. This is how Bob remembers it:
A very dear friend of mine asked me to do it and I turned him down at first but he kept at me with good labels and everything. And I finally gave in about six months later and we made a record. I’ve known Snuff for so damn long. When he came to me with it, I didn’t like the idea at the beginning because I had been out of the business for over twenty years but Snuff, he wouldn’t quit, dammit! And it was one of my stipulations that this would be the last one. I mean, I’m not going to follow up on it at all.
First he brought the people with United Artists out here and they liked what they heard and said, “Hell, yes. We’ll do it.” But before they got the record out, why, United Artists was sold and I don’t know who the hell bought it though I know what the price was. Eight million dollars! So, finally, about six months later or maybe a little more, Snuff got Elektra – that’s a Warner Brothers affiliate, I hear – to accept it and so far it’s been doing all right when you consider I’ve been out of the doggone business as long as I have. It’s still on the charts and been on for over ten weeks. I want it to go because Snuff has sunk so damn many dollars in it. The money was just flowing like mad. He got me everything I wanted. I wanted certain voices behind it since I couldn’t get the Pioneers. That was absolutely out of the category because they were under contract to another label. I would have loved to have the Sons.
They’ve given me quite a broad choice of stuff to record by myself, see. They let me choose it. I didn’t like the fact that they specifically ordered Tumbling Tumbleweeds and Cool Water which have been sung so much by the Sons and myself. I didn’t want to do them over again, but they convinced me that that’s what the people would expect, you know, so I did them. I loved the background music and the whole thing was very palatable to me. I was a little reticent to choose too many new ones but he said, “Now give me some of your new stuff,” and I give him three and he wanted more. I said, “No.” I said, “The record won’t be versatile enough to please the people, see?” I said, “Let’s get some other writers in there and have a conglomerative deviation of songs.”
Snuff allowed him all the leeway he could in choosing songs, orchestra and singers but he insisted he wear western garb and "look like Bob Nolan". Years before, Bob had given his hats away and had no more western cut clothing with the exception of one of his Nudie wool shirts. Since it was thirty years since he'd last worn it, he was doubtful of being able to get it on. "But," he told his grandson with that inimitable twinkle, "I put on a girdle and cranked it down!" Snuff provided the hat, slacks and belt and some memorable photographs were taken that day. One of them ended up on the album cover and the other is a favorite in his grandson's collection.
Bob particularly wanted to use Man Walks Among Us, a Marty Robbins song that he often told his friends he wished he had written himself. He asked Marty for permission to use it on his album and for further permission to change a line or two to fit his own personal philosophy. Delighted that Bob had selected his song, Marty agreed. Marty’s original words had been “I look close and see, looking right back at me, the eyes of the young cottontail." Bob changed them slightly to "I look close and see God looking at me through the eyes of a young cottontail. Marty, between performances at The Palomino nightclub in North Hollywood, joined Bob in duet on the piece and added his distinctive guitar runs.
According to Earl Blair, reflecting on the recording of the album, "Bob is letter perfect on each song. It is simply hard to believe that the voice you hear belongs to a seventy-one year old man. It was fascinating to see Bob at work during the recording sessions. Quiet and soft spoken, he rarely blew a take. And between takes, he would lie down in a corner of the studio to rest, his portable tape recorder playing the sounds of a gentle spring rain or the rippling waters of a mountain stream, while some of the most beautiful and poetic music ever written—his music—played back in the studio. This is Bob Nolan…the sound of a pioneer."
The recording sessions were completed in January, 1978, and United Artists was to release it on May 1 in a gatefold album with many photos on the inner liner plus the new one of Bob on the cover. However, it was finally released by Elektra in 1979. The album remained on the charts for 15 weeks and, surprised and encouraged by this public reaction, Bob actually began toying with the idea of recording again.
That Old Outlaw – Time was a particularly poignant choice. Just two years after he recorded the song, Bob Nolan was stricken by a fatal heart attack.