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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT BOB NOLAN

 

We have heard varying tales of his birth name and birthplace. What are the facts?

Who were Bob Nolan's parents?

Did Bob have any brothers or sisters?

Did Bob keep in touch with his family?

We have always understood that Bob was born and raised in New Brunswick. Is that true?

What school did they attend in New Brunswick?

How long did Bob live in Boston?

When did Bob change his surname to Nolan?

When did he become Bob Nolan, rather than Clarence Nolan?

Was Bob an American citizen?

What schools did he attend in Tucson?

Bob Nolan said he attended the University of Arizona. Did he?

Who was his first wife and did they have any children?

When did Bob move to California?

How long did Bob work as a lifeguard?

Did Bob get that impressive physique from weight lifting?

When did Bob first meet Roy Rogers (Len Slye)?

What was the name of the first group he worked with as a singer?

When was the Pioneer Trio formed?

When did The Pioneer Trio become The Sons of the Pioneers?

When did Hugh Farr join the group?

When did Karl Farr join the Sons of the Pioneers?

Were the Sons of the Pioneers known by any other name?

When did The Sons of the Pioneers make their first recording for Decca?

When did The Sons of the Pioneers make the first set of Standard Radio Transcriptions?

Was Tumbling Tumbleweeds their first theme song?

When did Bob write Tumbling Tumbleweeds?

When did Bob write Cool Water?

Could Bob actually read and/or write music?

What other instruments did he play besides the acoustic bass and guitar and how proficient was he instrumentally?

What was the first movie featuring the Sons of the Pioneers?

Did he ever do any voice-overs/commercials/narrations?

What is the name of their first movie with Charles Starrett?

What is the name of the last movie in which Bob Nolan had a part?

Did Bob Nolan study with Ernest Hemingway?

Did Bob Nolan have to undergo cosmetic surgery?

Why didn't Bob Nolan star in a series of his own?

How much was he paid for his songs by Republic Productions?

Did Bob Nolan marry a second time?

When did Bob Nolan retire?

Why did Bob Nolan so seldom answer fan letters?

Did Bob Nolan ever record without the Sons of the Pioneers?

How and when did Bob Nolan die?

Did he receive awards for his compositions?


ANSWERS

 

Did Bob ever sing together with Tommy Doss? 
.... the only one I know of is the song "Hillbilly Wedding in June" from a "Lucky U Ranch Show from 1953
Did Bob and Tommy met each other on some other occasions in the 50s and 60s.

 


 

We have heard varying tales of his birth name and birthplace. What are the facts?

Bob Nolan was born Clarence Robert Nobles in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, on April 13, 1908.

 


 

Who were Bob Nolan's parents?

His father was Harry Bayard Nobles and his mother was Flora Hussey Nobles.

 


 

Did Bob have any brothers or sisters?

He had a full brother, Michael Earl (originally spelled Earle) Nolan, a half-brother, Michael Foster Nolan, and a half-sister, Mary.

 


 

Did Bob keep in touch with his family?

He kept a loose connection with his father and brother, Earl. He met his daughter, Roberta (Bobbie Mileusnich), in 1944. Bobbie, her son Calin, and her second husband, Milo, kept in touch with Bob. In his later years, Bob and his half-brother Mike, spent time together salt water fishing. He lost touch with his mother in 1916 and never spoke of her.

 


 

We have always understood that Bob was born and raised in New Brunswick. Is that true?

Bob and Earl spent the 3 years (from 1916 to 1919) on his paternal grandparents' farm in Hatfield Point, New Brunswick.

 


 

What school did they attend in New Brunswick?

In the Fall of 1916 when Bob was 8 years old, he started attending the Hatfield Point School. His first teacher was Clara M. Tingley. He, and later, his brother, attended the school until the end of June in 1919 when they were taken to Boston.

 


 

How long did Bob live in Boston?

He and his little brother remained in Boston with his Aunt Fanny (Frances Nobles) from late summer 1919 until the summer of 1921 when his father, Harry, sent for him in Tucson, Arizona.

 


 

When did Bob change his surname to Nolan?

Either when he crossed the border to Boston in 1919 or when he joined his father in Tucson in 1921.

 


 

When did he become Bob Nolan, rather than Clarence Nolan?

When he joined the Rocky Mountaineers with Leonard Slye (Roy Rogers). He also changed the order of his names from Clarence Robert to Robert Clarence.

 


 

Was Bob an American citizen?
Not officially, through a connivance of his father.  When Harry assumed the name Nolan in the United States he joined the Army, enlisting at Phoenix in October 1917.  He lied about his age, he was 34 saying he was 32, to get in and also gave false information as to his birth place.  He said he was born in Somerville Massachusetts.  This was where his sister (you fill in the name) went to live after she married and left Canada.  The army was too busy to check the credentials of every enlistee during the war.  Harry remained in the service, a tailor at Camp Funston, Kansas, a part of Fort Riley, until the Armistice was signed in November 1918.  At that point all non-essential personnel were discharged by a general telegraphic order.  Harry was given a ticket back to Phoenix and his discharge papers which included his "American" birth date and place.  As an American citizen he would have no problems enrolling his sons in school as long as their names matched.  Thus Clarence Robert Nobles became Clarence Robert Nolan on his arrival in Arizona.  The later effect of Harry's lie would put a damper on Bob's wanderlust.  Though professing he wanted to travel all over he was restricted to a trip to Hawaii because a passport was not required to visit the islands, a U. S. Territory.  A driver's license was suitable identification.  If he applied for a passport then his background and that of his father would have been investigated. (Lawrence Hopper)

 



What schools did he attend in Tucson?

He enrolled in the 7th grade at Safford Junior High School in September 1921, transferred to Roskruge Junior High in January, 1922. Graduated from 8th Grade on May 25, 1923. He continued his education at Tucson High School until 1928 when he graduated from the 12th grade.

 


 

Bob Nolan said he attended the University of Arizona. Did he?

Jon Alquist (U of A Alumnus Association) searched the records for all possible variations of Bob's name, all classes and extension courses, night school, etc, and came up with nothing. Bob Nolan graduated from Tucson High on May 25 1928 and married just over a month later, on July 7 1928. He had no time to attend university and no money to pay for it or support his family even if he had attended. Why did he say he had some university courses in harmony structure? Our best guess is that it started as part of the fictional "bio" that Hollywood demanded and, for some reason of his own, he continued it or let it go on. His talent, aside from his High School choir instruction, was natural, untaught.

 


 

Who was his first wife and did they have any children?

He married 16-year-old Tennie Pearl Fields. Thirteen months later, they had a daughter, Roberta Irene Nolan. Their marriage lasted until the end of 1930, although they were seldom together during that time. Pearl died on December 31 1962 at the age of 50.

 


 

When did Bob move to California?

Bob traveled continuously after graduation, crisscrossing the country, looking for work and adventure. By 1929 he was living "permanently" in California, employed as a Los Angeles County Lifeguard on the beach at Venice.

 


 

How long did Bob work as a lifeguard?

Two years. The growing Depression made his job redundant and he was laid off.

 


 

Did Bob get that impressive physique from weight lifting?

Bob was a natural athlete but his physique was not from gym work; it was a family characteristic. Only his brother, Earl, worked out on a regular basis. The rest of the family did not lift weights or work out and yet the men, right down to the present generation, were built just like Bob.

 


 

When did Bob first meet Roy Rogers (Len Slye)?

He met Len Sly(e) on Wednesday, September 30, 1931, when he answered an ad in the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner for a "Yodeler for old-time act, to travel. Tenor preferred. 1727 E. 65 St."

 


 

What was the name of the first group he worked with as a singer?

The Rocky Mountaineers. Roy was singing with an instrumental group, The Rocky Mountaineers", and needed another singer for duets. They soon added another, Slumber Nicholls, to make a trio. Bob worked with the group for 10 or 11 months. Hungry, he quit the music scene altogether and took a job as a golf caddy at the Bel Air Country Club golf course and remained there until the end of 1933 when Roy and Tim Spencer (who had replaced him in Roy's group) convinced him to try again.

 


 

When was the Pioneer Trio formed?

Late in 1933 when Bob, Tim Spencer and Roy formed the trio to sing with the instrumental group, Jack and his Texas Outlaws, on radio station KFWB in Hollywood.

 


 

Were the Sons of the Pioneers known by any other name?

The Pioneer Trio was known, from 5-6pm as Farley's Gold Star Rangers, and in the late evening they joined the Jack Joy Orchestra "painting the old west in song".

 


 

When did The Pioneer Trio become The Sons of the Pioneers?

 According to Les Adams, the first printed appearance of the "Sons of the Pioneers" name was in a newspaper radio log dated March 3, 1934.

 


 

When did Hugh Farr join the group?

Hugh Farr joined the Sons of the Pioneers between November 1933 and February 1934 and remained with the group until 1958

 


 

When did The Sons of the Pioneers make their first recording for Decca?

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.  

 


 

When did The Sons of the Pioneers make the first set of Standard Radio Transcriptions?

August, 1934.

 


 

When did Karl Farr join the Sons of the Pioneers?

Karl joined them before September, 1935, in time to record the second set of Standard Transcriptions,

 


 

Was Tumbling Tumbleweeds their first theme song?

No. They used "There's a Blue Sky Way Up Yonder" until "Tumbling Tumbleweeds" became popular. On December 15, 1934,"Tumbling Tumbleweeds" hit #13 on the charts.

 


 

When did Bob write Tumbling Tumbleweeds?

Probably early in 1931 after his wife left him for good. He wrote it originally as a poem, "Tumbling Leaves". Due to constant mispronunciation from his radio audience, he changed it slightly, renamed it "Tumbling Tumble Weeds", and sold it.

 


 

When did Bob write Cool Water?

In 1925, when he was in the 10th grade in Tucson High School. He set the poem to music many years later and it was finally registered for copyright on November 23, 1936.

 


Could Bob actually read and/or write music?

Bob could read a certain amount of music but he could not write it. He hired someone to write it out for him. For at least twenty years he would call the Bob Ross Music Service in Hollywood and they would send over someone to put the music to paper as Bob sang and played his little Martin guitar. When Ken Carson was a member of the Sons of the Pioneers, he would often help by writing out Bob's music for him.



What other instruments did Bob Nolan play besides the acoustic bass and guitar and how proficient was he instrumentally?

According to his brother, Earl Nolan, Bob's first instrument was the ukulele which is still in the possession of his grandson, Calin Coburn. He was an indifferent guitar player but he learned the chords well enough to accompany himself in the privacy of his own home and to make demos of his songs. He learned the chord progressions and loved to chord up and down the chromatic scale. This sound often made its way into his compositions. He became a good bass player.

 


 

What was the first movie featuring the Sons of the Pioneers?

Liberty's "The Old Homestead", August 10, 1935. They also appeared in several shorts and Bob's voice was used the previous year - dubbed in for Ken Maynard in Mascot's "In Old Santa Fe", 1934.

 


 

Did he ever do any voice-overs/commercials/narrations?

Once that we know of. Snuff Garrett had Bob do a voice over on a documentary of western artist Olaf Wieghorst's life.

 


 

What is the name of their first movie with Charles Starrett?

Columbia's "Gallant Defender", November 30, 1935.

 


 

What is the name of the last movie in which Bob Nolan had a part?

Republic's "Night Time in Nevada", September 5, 1948.

 


 

Did Bob Nolan study with Ernest Hemingway?

Bob attended a day-long seminar with Ernest Hemingway in 1937. He said it forever changed the way he wrote. "I would write a song and go home and live with it and re-edit it and re-edit it until the words became a — what did he call it? a sword, not a word, a cutting sword."

 


 

Did Bob Nolan have to undergo cosmetic surgery?

Yes, he had his aquiline nose shortened at Columbia's Harry Cohn's order. No actor refused an order from Harry Cohn.

 


 

Why didn't Bob Nolan star in a series of his own?

He enjoyed acting in the second lead position but he absolutely did not want to be a star with all it entailed - particularly the loss of privacy.

 


 

How much was he paid for his songs by Republic Productions?

Fred Goodwin is in possession of a music non-exclusive license for motion pictures for a song Tim Spencer wrote for "Lights of Old Santa Fe" - "Trigger Hasn't Got a Purty Figger". Tim was paid $200.00 for the song so we must assume that is what Bob Nolan received for his own compositions.
 


 

Did Bob Nolan marry a second time?

Bob married Clara Brown on June 11, 1942. He called her P-Nuts because she was so small. Their marriage lasted until his death and there were no offspring. P-Nuts died On April 15 1994 at the age of 83.

 


 

When did Bob Nolan retire?

He left the Sons of the Pioneers in 1949 but recorded with them for RCA until September, 1957. He spent his retirement years working on his songs and fishing, emerging only rarely for public appearances.  He spent the summer months in his cabin on Big Bear Lake and the rest of the year at his home at Studio City.

 


 

Why did Bob Nolan so seldom answer fan letters?

Bob received a lot of fan mail over the years and enjoyed reading it all. He would intend to answer it, too, but seldom did. In fact, when he did answer, he would write a rough copy first and have it checked for spelling errors. His poor spelling skills embarrassed him. The average person knew nothing about dyslexia in those days and often judged people by their spelling. He knew that, too. He was a highly intelligent man but he couldn't spell. Those fan letters, even though he didn't often answer them, meant a lot to him.
 


 

Did Bob Nolan ever record without the Sons of the Pioneers?

He recorded 8 songs for them from 1952-53 without the Sons of the Pioneers. His last recording, "Bob Nolan - The Sound of a Pioneer" recorded in 1978 and released in 1979, was without the Sons of the Pioneers because they were under contract already.
 


 

How and when did Bob Nolan die?

He was returning from a day's fishing with his half-brother, Mike, and his daughter, Bobbie. He pulled up to a gas station and before the attendant reached his car, he died of a massive heart attack. He was immediately cremated and most of his ashes were scattered on the Nevada desert where his daughter lived. He died on June 16, 1980 at the age of 72.

 


 

Did he receive awards for his compositions?

Many. See the Awards page.

 


 

Please let us know if there are other questions you would like answered. Email Elizabeth.