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Q&A 2014




Would Bob Nolan's Life Make a Movie?


February 27, 2014

Myself and my husband, Ned, have an Old Time Radio website called RUSC which we have been updating non-stop, every week for the past 15 years. It's a massive resource!

I found your website about Bob Nolan who was involved in old time radio a long time ago, and we have him listed as a star of old time radio in our database, as you can see on  (although I'm still updating which shows he performed in!) I know there was definitely at least one 'Command Performance' broadcast..

I wondered if you would be kind enough to recommend the site to your readers, or maybe link directly to the Bob Nolan page.
Best regards

Joy Norris



May 16, 2014

Bobye, I did answer your messages but you must not be receiving them. Have you checked your "Trash" and "Spam" folders?


May 20, 2014

Hi, Calin:
I came upon your site while playing some of my Nolan and SOP music in my cloud, and I just wanted to drop you a note to let you know how much I still enjoy your grandfather's music. Truly, it still brings me to tears in so many instances, the words are so poignant and the music is the perfect vehicle for conveying the words. I've played his Sound of a Pioneer album into the ground, and I still get stopped in my tracks when He Walks with the Wild and the Lonely comes on. Love that, and so many others. I hope you're well and that your family continues to be blessed by your grandfather's gifts and passion. God's blessing for you all. Thank you for sharing your grandfather with us.

Would Bob Nolan's Life Make a Movie?  (Your comments and suggestions.)


May 25, 2014 Movie on Bob Nolan's Life (by Ray Kraft)

Okay, I've been thinking there should be a movie about Bob Nolan for a long time. But for a long time I've had no idea who to cast as Bob Nolan.

I just watched a move, "Don Jon," starring Joseph Gordon Levitt . . . he's the guy. His face resembles a young Bob Nolan, with a little makeup work he'd be a ringer. He has a good speaking voice, somewhat like Nolan's', I haven't heard him sing, but with some voice coaching and maybe a little digital work he could be a ringer for a young Bob Nolan. And, he's a really good actor, not well known not well established, but he can do it, he can inhabit the role, the part. I got "Don Jon" at Redbox today.

Check it out. Yeah, it's a very Un-Nolanish part, maybe, although I got a hunch that Bob Nolan was more than a bit of a rake in his youth, so maybe it's not such an Un-Nolanish part!

Look at some of the other movies about country singers.

"The Last Ride," the Hank Williams story, the last couple of days of it.

"Honky Tonk Man," loosely fictionalized from the Hang Williams story, starring Clint Eastwood, with a cameo by Marty Robbins singing the title song, "Honkey Tonk Man."

"I Walk The Line," the Johnny Cash story.

"Nolan" is a richer, deeper, story than any of these, he was a richer, deeper, singer, and songwriter, and poet, and philosopher. The story needs to be told, so it isn't forgotten. It wouldn't be a high dollar production, no big CGI, it could be a Best Picture, Best Actor, quality production on a relatively low budget.

If it doesn't get done, a billion people will never have any idea who Bob Nolan was, what a genius songwriter and poet he was, how, almost single-handedly, he defined and redefined cowboy and western music for as long as there is cowboy and western music.


"Hank Williams was one of the greatest songwriters who ever lived . . ." so beings the trailer for "The Last Ride."' You guys gonna let that go in peace? Hank was good, but Bob Nolan was magnificent!


I have long thought that "Wandering" is the best of the Bob Nolan songs, purely from a poetic, musical, point of view, as well as an emotional one. It doesn't get better than this. Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, they didn't have this depth. If I were writing a Bob Nolan movie, I'd use this over the trailing credits. Bob Nolan had his wandering days on the freights . . . "Emperor of the North" is a model for part of the Bob Nolan story. Who else could write this stuff [The Touch of God's Hand], or sing like this at 69? - this is a movie that needs to be made, a story that needs to be told.


Writing the end of the movie, a lot of it could be the recording of "Sound of a Pioneer," with the music from the record dubbed into the acting, not the whole record, but several of the most memorable songs. Find someone to do the Marty Robbins part on "Man Walks Among Us." Even if the vocals are 100% dubbed, I think Joaquin Phoenix is the guy to do the walk on for Marty Robbins in the studio for "Man Walks Among Us." He's got the chops
- Ray Kraft


We think it is an excellent idea, Ray. We don't have any idea of how to initiate it, unfortunately. What do you Bob Nolan fans think? Any comments or suggestions?

Cast Miles as a young Clarence.

- Calin Coburn













Image: Miles Coburn and Great Grandfather, Bob Nolan


    There've been some other really good movies about singers and songwriters and musicians, such as "Ray, the Ray Charles story".
    There's a lot of meat it the Bob Nolan story, the homeless years, riding the rails, the hobo, and a lot I don't know that you and Calin do, how it got started with Leonard Sly and Tim Spencer, the early years when the Rocky Moutaineers were doing live radio in L.A., the Madison Square Garden show in 1947, as I recall, when the Pioneers packed the Garden for 19 consecutive nights, something no other musical performance (so far as I know) has ever done.
    I'll see if I can ask a few people, see if they know a way to get started, how to get to someone who might be interested in producing and directing. Talk it up to people you know, somebody will know somebody.

    The Charlie Parker Story. Produced and directed by Clint Eastwood. Wonder if he'd be interested in the Bob Nolan story, he's gettin' old, but he did "Behind The Curve," last year, produced, directed, starred. Good baseball story. He's done music. He's done a lot of Westerns. Western Music should be a natural. Anybody know anybody who knows Clint?

    The Bobbie Darin story (Beyond the Sea) Kevin Spacey directs and stars as Bobby Darin, and he's AWESOME, singing in his own voice, he's a ringer for Darin, and a huge fan, he grew up very poor, his mom told him his voice was his ticket out of the slums . . . never in good health, died way too young . . . get it if you can, worth buying on Amazon.

    The Cole Porter Story. GREAT music movie about Cole Porter, great music, great soundtrack CD. Then there's "Amadeus," the Mozart story, and "Immortal Beloved," the Beethoven story. Could be "Wandering," the Bob Nolan story.

    Anybody down at the Western Music Association know anybody in the movie business who might know somebody who might be interested? Maybe Doug Green, Ranger Doug, Riders in the Sky? Jack Hannah? Sons of the San Joaquin. I can ask them about it. But there's a lot of people in the WMA I don't know, I've been out of that loop for a long time.
    I just emailed Larry Maurice, see if he has any ideas. He's got his fingers in a lotta pies. That guy who stars in "Don Jon" - a role VERY unlike the Bob Nolan story - but he has the eyes, as soon as I saw him on screen, I said to myself something like "Oh my God, he's got the eyes, he could do it."
    Gotta find a producer. Director, Screenwriter who can work with you and Cailin to develop the story. Maybe put up something on the website, that you're interested in doing a movie about the life and music of Bob Nolan, you need to find a producer, or producers, director, and writer, see what happens, can't hurt.
    How about Rusty Richards? He knows a bunch of people down south.
- Ray Kraft


May 25, 2014

 I like the movie idea, although I donít know much about the ins & outs of movie-making. I assume the writer (and acting) would have to be really good (in order to get good reviews, so that people would go to see it) because not as many people know who Bob was, compared to, say, Hank Williams, only because the Country genre has a huge audience. The first big challenge is getting financial backing. Closely associated with that is finding the right director Ė and they may be related in that the backing might be easier if a well-known director were already on board.

- OJ Sikes


May 25, 2014




May 25, 2014

OMG! What a fantastic idea!!!! With the baby boomer generation in full swing, I would think there would be a real market for a Bob Nolan story. So many people are familiar with Tumblin Tumblweeds and Cool water and to put a face to the music would be tremendous. I can just hear the "Wow! I never knew much about that fellow-what a life and career!!!"
Bob had such an amazing life and one that would fascinate movie goers who want adventure and a tale of a colorful life. He was handsome, struggled in the romance department, ignored the call of stardom for the sake of stardom, bit of a loner yet loyal to friends. Isn't it everything a young girl dreams about in an untouchable dream hero?????
I just get excited thinking about it!
- Jan Scott


May 25, 2014

What a splendid idea! Yes, twenty-seven of us (from all over the world) would love it, and the others, the hip-hop and rap folks, would have no clue that itís interesting, uplifting, even exciting. There may come a time when all of us are inspired to look back in time, but right now, I fear that the prospects are disappointing. Iím watching our fan-base die-off, and we came along twenty-years after The SOtheP, so it would be a hard-sell, I believe, to motivate those who still watch movies. Maybe the History Channel would take an interest; the subject would be perfect for that medium. You have my vote, but thatís not much, I know.

- Randy Sparks (New Christy Minstrels)


May 25, 2014

Just got done reading the messages. Couldn't help but think about Paul Revere, Evangeline, and Myles Standish, all but forgotten to history until Henry Wadsworth Longfellow produced Epic poems that told their story. I think this movie proposal could do the same thing for Bob Nolan. I can almost see the story:

1. Canadian beginnings - brief but influential.
2. Arizona-bound.

allow me to insert how interesting I found it that Jean in her biography on Michael Earl hardly mentions Bob at all. I wonder if that was intentional or if there just wasn't much interaction between the two.

3. Days of struggle
4. Days of Success

Not sure about what happened in Bob's later years. Would the story end best at the 1947 Madison Square garden? Brimming with excitement and think it's a fabulous idea. Scrolling through my head and thinking of any contacts that I might have. I know a couple of guys in the Independent film industry that I might be able to ask advice from for you if that would be a help.

My thoughts are:
1. Screenplay - Who would write it?
2. Location - Where should it be shot?
3. Who might be left in Hollywood that would be connected to Roy Rogers (Leonard) or his legacy?

Actually the person I think of that loves westerns the most is Tom Selleck. If he could buy in to a project like this, it would get done. Wow. Wow. Wow. My opinion: The sooner the better.
- Trent Boyd


May 25, 2014

    Yes, a movie might be a good idea. But based upon Ray's suggestions it wouldn't get off the ground. It's too song-writer, performer, actor idolizing. He wants a hype to push good, good, good about Bob and his work without looking at the backside; the conflicts with Pearl, with P'nut, with the group, with the publishers, with the hanger ons and credit seekers. It's not the heroic story of a footloose traveler, singer, songwriter (even if he did get blisters in the early days), it's the story of keeping food coming in and shelter over your head of a local talent, in local bands who finally struck gold as a dominant part of a particular organism. The story told in the Hallmark style would bore those whose only interest is the music and do a disservice to Bob's life as he lived it. He was a man with his own standards, own foibles, and definite ideas of sharing work and credit.
    Since there is no 'great' event or conflict it would have to be a story developed within the framework of eras and the people that were most important and connective to Bob and to getting the 'show' together. (King, for instance with his Standard Transcriptions (and all other transcription series also)). How did he really work with the changes in personnel caused by the war, caused by the exit of Len, and later with the assumptions of Hugh Farr. You need conflict for a good story otherwise you may just as well do a concert film.

    I should also note the minimal depth of past films Ray has. Doesn't mention the Hank Williams Story at all. His views are all from relatively recent films. He obviously has no concept of how films are made, or rated for awards: "Nolan" is a richer, deeper, story than any of these, he was a richer, deeper, singer, and songwriter, and poet, and philosopher. The story needs to be told, so it isn't forgotten. It wouldn't be a high dollar production, no big CGI, it could be a Best Picture, Best Actor, quality production on a relatively low budget."
    Since ANY picture could be a Best Picture, Best Actor, quality production on a relatively low budget but aren't since all that award stuff comes after completion of a film not from what someone envisions should happen with no talent input to something he exalts in his own mind.

    Don't forget Bruce Willis for Herbert Yates.

- Lawrence Hopper


May 25, 2014

    First of all, I don't think it's fair to call to mind films like The Charlie Parker Story, or the Ray Charles Story or the Bobby Darin Story. Those fellows were widely known before those films were made. Furthermore, those gentleman had turbulent lives that lent themselves readily to the screen. Bob was a private man and, as far as I know, his life was not punctuated by the kinds of sensational aspects that were inherent in these other lives. What's more, I feel that any movie, apart from one that focused purely on his artistic achievements, would be seen by him as an invasion of his privacy. I think this consideration needs to be borne in mind here.
    In summary, I feel that those of us who appreciate his music and hold him in high esteem for his integrity and quiet dignity don't need a movie to keep his memory alive. And if there were a movie made I feel that his life story would not generate the kind of broad-based interest to make it financially worthwhile. Perhaps that observation alone is proof of what a worthwhile life it was.

    One other tangential thought, Elizabeth. When Holly Warren wrote "Public Cowboy #1", she had the good sense to get it out shortly after Gene died. As you know, it's a fine book. But at that time Gene's memory was still fresh. I also hoped to see an honest biography on Roy. Now I have no hope of ever seeing this happen. Fewer and fewer people remember both Roy and Gene today. And they died in 1998. Bob died in 1980 and he was never nearly as popular as Gene or Roy.
- Bob Serkey

May 25, 2014

I remember Ray Kraft from the early days of the WMA, a good songwriter.

Here's what I think about such a project.

#1 Nolan's name is not exactly a household word except to the cognoscente, and that group is really a small, small element of the movie going public. You would have to get it produced soon enough so that even that small crowd would still be alive to see it.

#2 The most important aspect of the project would be in the writing, as Shakespeare observed, "The play's the thing."

#3 I see this biopic as a cable production and not a major studio feature.

#4 If I were in charge of such a production, I would hit it from the documentary standpoint, thus allowing plenty of room for archival footage of Nolan and the SOTP.

#5 I would have a committee composed of folks like, you, Calin, Doug Green, and other knowledgeable Nolan devotees, like Dick Goodman, for example, who would oversee the entire project and to insure that it didn't get hokey, or corny, or non-factual, for that matter.

#6 If the documentary path is chosen, it would be far cheaper than a major production. You might divide the project into sections and have specific individuals write up the historical aspects of each part i.e., early life, founding of the Pioneers, movie aspects, songwriting and recording aspects, and Nolan after retirement, for example.
- Fess (AKA Dave Bourne)


May 25, 2014

    Well it sounds like a good idea but it seems Hollywood would want some type of dirt or scandal in his life for box office attraction and Bob didn't have any of that in his life. But you know Hollywood they would probably put some in somewhere even if it isn't perfectly true. Bob was not an alcoholic, do drugs, run around and he was not gay. He lived a clean spiritual life as far as I know and hope.
    How about someone contacting Snuff Garrett, Clint Black, Riders in the Sky and others like that to ask for assistance and contacts? It sounds like an exciting idea that I do support but I would be worried about how a studio would make it.

    If Harry Cohn couldn't convince Bob to be his "Golden Boy" on the screen what right do we have to make his life public? We all know he wouldn't have wanted the fame or the money. He would have been uncomfortable enough with your website. But he probably could have lived with that because at least here he can be celebrated for what he, too, felt was enduring about his life. These would-be screenwriters need to understand that a man who escaped regularly to Big Bear treasured his privacy. It seems to me that we would desecrate his essence by bringing his life story to the screen.
- Fred Sopher


May 26, 2014

    Yes it would [make a movie], but the audience would be limited. For the very reasons others have already stated. HOWEVER - it's all in how it's marketed. And by whom. The bigger the name, the bigger the market.
    Yes, I remember Ray - a nice and very talented man and maybe would know of an entertainment lawyer who would be able to offer advice before getting in too deep with the slick Hollywood types. Or maybe a literary agent who would come on board to represent you/Calin or be able to recommend a good script/screenwriter.
    I would be VERY careful if somebody in Hollywood does show any interest - and not sign over ANY rights if you do get a request for a script or even a 'treatment' - the basics of who, what, when, where, why - written. And get final script/film editing approval rights - ya gotta fight for them - unless you are putting up all or the majority of the money and then you basically can call the shots. That's where the advice of an entertainment lawyer would come in very handy. Pricey, but could save you some major heartburn.
    Am sure you've already considered the money aspect - you're talking tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of dollars for a quality production - sets, costumes, location scouting/use, crews (and the ever present unions unless you go to a right to work state like Texas) equipment, film, professional editing, security, catering, etc.
    The Discovery or maybe the Learning Channel or History Channel would be excellent places that should consider a project like this. More of a documentary than a movie - which should be tons cheaper to film. And with a known name for the voice-over. Tom Selleck or Clint Eastwood - maybe. Good ones to pursue with the idea, that's for sure.
    Also, RFD TV - if not as a producer, then Patrick Gotsch, the owner, might be able to put you in touch with somebody like producer Larry Black, who does the Country's Family Reunion shows and has done a TON of videos.
    And if it's done well enough, the film could also be offered to music schools, film schools, etc for teaching purposes. Lots of possibilities, but getting there - well... am not trying to be a wet blanket - just trying to be Devil's Advocate.
    However, that being said - Snuff Garret, if he's still around and able, would be a good place to start since he's been around and working in/for Hollywood for a long, long time. He might know an independent studio or film maker who might be interested and would be able to keep costs down better than the suits in a big studio.
    What about Hal Spencer as a source - he's been around since before I was born and he must have influential contacts in the business. Maybe among his Nashville friends.
    An off the wall idea would be Bill Gaither - am not sure if you're familiar with him, but he's very much into Gospel Music and has a ton of tv shows and albums. Don't have any idea if he's familiar with Nolan, but contacting him might be a good opportunity for backing or advice.
    Garth Brooks - he's been actively promoting himself the past few months and might see either financing or narrating a good step. He's recorded a few western songs too. Or Randy Travis - who seemed to enjoy that program he made with Roy Rogers. He was at their 50th Anniversary (me too) and is a big Roy fan - so who knows.
    Like I said, it's a great idea, and I would like to see something come of it.
- Michelle Sundin


May 26, 2014

    I read the thread and can't get nearly as excited as some of the others that have chimed in. I've seen most of the movies that people cited. Except for "Ray" most of them weren't very good and received marginal reviews at best. The subjects were tragic figures and I would think at least part of the appeal the movies had were from the same people that gawk at car accidents.
    No one mentioned "The Buddy Holly Story", "Great Balls of Fire", "The Doors", "Something for the Boys". For every *good* biopic, there are dozens that bomb. IMO if the film is done badly, Bob at best would experience a temporary rise in popularity and at worst run the risk of forever being associated with schlock. Not a very dignified legacy.
    Bob led an interesting life and while his music is widely familiar his name is not. I would think the movie would be of very limited appeal and a difficult project to sell. Or worse, heavily fictionalized to make it viable, ie sex and scandal. The only biopic that I can think of made in the last 50 years that didn't rely on that was "Coal Miner's Daughter". Another hurdle, there is no way to tell the story about Bob without telling the story of Roy. What kind of control and financial interest would RR Inc. insist on?
    Ultimate the decision would be up to the family? I'd love a documentary - has anyone approached any PBS stations? I think Bob would appreciate that.
    Sorry to rain on your parade. I just don't see it. Please keep me posted on what transpires.
- Kathy Kirchner


May 26, 2014

    A number of the replies have touched on the realities of building a movie for a general audience that would support the investment and give a decent return to the investors. I am by no means an expert on this subject but have been involved with the film industry by chance and that I grew up in SoCal around that culture. Investors such as a major studios set the rules and parameters using a formal that fits the current state of the industry. Those making the final decisions have their input on what makes a film successful. Thatís why we see violence, sex, action and numerous other facets of a film used to stimulate the minds of the general audience the film is meant to please. Myself, those projects I was close to disappointed me as I am more of a documentarian than an entertainment based writer.

    Ken Burns does a subject proud and his work is meaningful and will hold up over many generations as it is fact based and truth is more interesting than fiction over the long haul.
    A film focusing on Bobís life alone is probably not a home run as they say. The subject to too narrow and the audience too small. A documentary on The Sons or Cowboy, Hillbilly and Mountain music would have more appeal. With that said, documentaries are not financed easily. Like my books, they are often a labor of love with hopes to break even. Anything above that is appreciated. I would love to see a Bob Nolan film but the likelihood of getting financing on his life alone would be a tough sell. It often comes down to the funding. If a benefactor would pay for the film and all involved in building it, that would be great. But as soon as the suits from studios get involved, there goes the documentary and here comes their so called formula for success and with that may just do the Bob Nolan legacy a disservice.

    Bob Nolan and his era is a great idea to build a film around. A documentary of the phenomenon of B Westerns and pre 1950 Cowboy music or those subjects would make it of interest to at least a narrow audience who loves that history. Just how this would be accomplished would need to be thought out and executed by those with not only love for that period but people with great insight so it does not turn into anything less than what it should be. The cost of building a film is high even if on a shoestring budget. I find the film industry as a whole to be consumed by itself and those in charge. Thatís why actors that think for themselves go rouge and build a film they are in charge of not the suits.

    A graduate student who is exceptional maybe even brilliant that wants a subject for their Ph.D. or Masters who is attending a quality college could that specializes in film may help with this project.
- Gary Lynch
Sonoita, AZ


May 26, 2014

    I think a documentary would be a much better idea. AND long overdue. If you could find somebody with a video quality, high end digital movie camera, and have a script or outline to work from, it could be done a lot easier than a full blown studio production. And Calin would have control of it from start to finish. That would take out the possibility that it would be exploitive or sensationalized. Which indeed is what 'sells' these days in LaLa Land.
    Am not sure how it could be edited, but again, working from a clear treatment/outline, you could film it progressively, or by segments, which would easier on the budget and tempers, and then fit it all together as you wished. Then you could find a 'name' to do the voice over. Too bad Rex is long gone - he loved the music and the man. Maybe Junior. Or maybe Mike Rowe - a very popular voice over guy right now (Dirtiest Jobs, Ford commercials, Deadliest Catch) or even better - Sam Elliott!!! The personification of the Western Man, with a great and recognizable voice. Geez, if you could get him behind it - that would be phenom!
    Remember also, you would have to get permission from whomever holds the rights to any SoP performances to show them. Whether it be the SoP or Columbia Pictures, record labels...Sheesh - just featuring Bob would be the best, he was more than talented. Way beyond that.
    Kinda gets the juices flowing, doesn't it! The possibilities and knowing the tribute would be there for those who remember and those who should.

- Michelle Sundin


May 26, 2014

    I either have met Ray or have exchanged e-mails with him. I donít recall which. I have spent some time reading through the various views on the website about such a venture, and I do think that there should be some place for such a presentation. I considered your question a bit before reading the responses, just to have a basic position from which to consider them. Although I have had merely a toe dip in the entertainment business, I have been fortunate to have friendships with several people who are deeply into it, so I base my view on what I have learned from them.
    I agree with those who think it would be impossible to do a major theater film on Bobís life, precisely because he was such a private person and that to build something beyond that would be either inaccurate and a disservice to Bobís memory. I do think that something about his music, perhaps even the exploration of why he wrote some of his more noted ones and some of his excellent less known ones, provided this did not invade his privacy, would be an excellent and a much needed project for tv. The first show that comes to my mind is the one that does a lot of biography, ďAmerican Experience.Ē I also think it would be imperative that those few remaining people in the business who knew Bob or his music best should be the primary resources for such a venture. Snuff, of course, I would consider indispensable, but Larry and Doug would be next to him.
    The website is a wonder!
- Gene Davenport

May 26, 2014

    YES! I've always thought Mr. Nolan's life (and the story of the SOPs) would make an INCREDIBLE stage musical or movie! SO MUCH history and material! I've also always wished I could be involved with a project like this too! As a songwriter myself, or an actor or...in ANY way! Heck, I'd run and get the coffee! :-)
    But seriously, I really do believe this project would bridge a huge generational gap between what we consider "Pop Music" today and what Mr. Nolan's contribution to "Pop Music" was back in his day! This project simply NEEDS to be done! Please do let me know if there is ANY way I can help.
- Rob "Tumbleweed Rob" Wolfskill


May 26, 2014

No way is it feasible today to make a Bob Nolan biopic. Other than our group and fans of Western music who would know who he was? That would be fan worship ignoring reality and common sense, much as I wish it were possible.

- Colin Momber (UK)


May 26, 2014

I'm sorry but I have the same sentiments as Colin, Editor & Publisher of "Wranglers Roost' - the forty four year old B Western magazine. I don't think one on Roy would work either unfortunately.


 - Bruce Hickey (NZ)


May 26, 2014

The Nolan Movie is a great Idea, but it will have to be done pretty soon if Dick Goodman , Bob Wagoner and I are going to keep the phrasing, feel, and arrangements honest. There's always the recordings, but it is amazing how many get it worn even though they have them to go by. Still a great idea. Hope someone really does it. I would love to see it.

- Rusty Richards


May 26, 2014

    I do not know Ray Kraft, but I am certainly familiar with the song "Silver Spurs".
    I would rather see a "documentary" on Bob Nolan, say in the style of Ken Burns. A documentary would allow the producer to use all of these wonderful interviews about Bob (and by Bob), using the actual voices of the Pioneers, etc. I fear that in a movie, they would try to embellish his life in ways that might not be flattering to Bob, and that would not be fair. There is always that risk.
    After saying that, if a movie were to be made, maybe the focus should be on the history of the Sons of the Pioneers. In that case, there would have to be equal billing for both Bob Nolan and Leonard Slye.
    I guess the fundamental question is "would Bob approve of a movie about himself?". I never got the chance to meet him, so I don't pretend to know how he would feel about it. But judging from what others have said through the years, it sounds like he was a very private person, so who knows.
    It's an interesting idea, but my personal opinion is that a Ken Burns style documentary, with all of the actual music and excerpts of some of the interviews would be a wonderful thing.
- Jeff Wagoner


May 27, 2014

    I read all the comments. Good. I disagree with some of them. I think the people who criticize me for not having any idea how movies are made are too funny, I didn't claim to be any kind of expert.
    I don't think it should be a documentary, that's a VERY limited audience. I think it should be a biopic, done with the quality of "De-Lovely," including all the conflicts, beginning with childhood, divorce, being left with his grandfather, never seeing his mother again, never even knowing her name . . . just "mother."
    To work, it has to be done very well, can't be half ass, have to recreate the times, the 20s, 30s, 40s, have to cast the Sons of the Pioneers as they were in the 30s, 40s, that will take a bunch of work and voice coaching, but it can be done. Will people who aren't fans come out to see it? Only if it's really good.
    I had a neighbor for awhile, a jerk, he was a drummer in a metal band, and they were bad, they made Metallica sound like Mozart, but he was a good drummer. We got together and played a couple of times, me and my guitar, he on the drums, had some fun, he had never heard of Western music before, but he picked up on the lilt pretty fast. I played the casettte, Sierra, Legends of the West. He was amazed. He'd never heard anything like that before. He said, "You guys were 30 years too late, if you'd been in the 50s you'd have been HUGE." Probably right.
    Look at the singers people go for on American Idol, England's Got Talent, etc. Paul Potts brought down the house doing opera. Most people know quality when they hear it. One of the writers thought he could get the idea to Clint. You gotta talk to him.
    If you do it as a documentary, you sell it to the devout. If you do it as a biopic, a musical drama, it could be big, it could go to the Oscars.
    Look at what was it, "Silver Linings Playbook," the movie about two mentally ill people and all their drama, that took more Academy Awards than anything else. It will be different, full of music that lots of people have never heard of, but the people who have heard of it keep packing the Chuckwagon Ranch theaters summer after summer, and the Sons of the Pioneers shows in Branson, and they keep coming out for Riders in the Sky and the Sons of the San Joaquin. I'm not in the movie business loop, I just think it's a great idea, I hope you can give it your best shot.

    Silver Linings Playbook Watch this movie. Very unusual. Nobody had ever heard of the characters before the movie came out. Who would have thought a movie about mentally ill people would be nominated for Best Picture, and pick up a couple of other Academy Awards for Best Actor, Actress, Supporting?

    Honky Tonk Man with a walk on by Marty Robbins. I just noticed that Rotten Tomatoes scored Honky Tonk Man 93%! - I can't remember ever seeing RT score another movie that high. Clint plays a washed out country singer who's trying to survive and dying of tuberculosis. His big break, he gets a chance to record his song, Honky Tonk Man, then starts coughing blood halfway through. Marty Robbins is Smoky, the guitar player, who steps in and saves the song.

    The Pianist - Nobody  in America - including me - had ever heard of Vladislav Szpilman, until Roman Polanski made "The Pianist," I think it got Best Pic. I watch it again every couple of years. Amazing, sad, beautiful, inspiring film, story. And how about "42," the Jackie Robinson story? Great movie. How many people today remember Jackie Robinson, learned of him from the movie?
    If there's no way to expand the base of people who know about Bob Nolan and the Pioneers, then as people my age and older die off, the music will vanish, because nobody will know about it. I'm 62, and it is a rare occasion to meet anyone younger than myself who has ever heard of Bob Nolan or the Pioneers. When I moved to Sacramento in 1993, I spent the next ten years! trying to get a band of any size together to do Western music, didn't work, I interviewed maybe 40 musicians, some of them very good, but none of them had ever heard of Bob Nolan or the Pioneers.

    Just 'cause 90% of the people now have no memory of Bob Nolan, doesn't mean it can't be a good, inspiring story that a lot of people will go see. Voice over. The story begins. "When I was eight, my mother left me with my grandfather, my dad's father. I never saw her again. I never knew her name. Just, mother. Grandad was good to me, then my dad took me away to live in Tucson. I was alone a lot, wandering out in the desert . . . going to school . . . I began to write some poetry. I remember this one . . . Tumbling Leaves ..."

- Ray Kraft


May 27, 2014

    Bob's story is fascinating. He came as close to living life on his own terms as anyone I've ever known. The drama of his early life, the struggles with the Rocky Mountaineers and the early Pioneer days. We both agree that he was a musical genius who wrote song that will still be sung and played far into the future. Those are some of the positives about his story.
    The negatives include: Country and Western music (which Hollywood lumps together,,, they don't know there's a difference) has never fared well on the big screen with the exception of Urban Cowboy an O Brother Where Art Thou. Studio heads know nothing about music except what they heard when they were driving to work that morning. They've never heard of Bob, the Pioneers or, quite probably, Roy.
    As best I see it, the strongest likelihood of doing something about Bob would be in two different areas. T Bone Burnett has produced the music for several films in recent years including O Brother Where Art Thou. If he could be interested in Bob's story that would be important because he has contacts in the film industry but that would also entail his willingness to get involved beyond record production.
    The other way is to attract interest to Bob via a biography. A quality biography would lay out all the fascination of Bob's life and career. The drama, the success, the failures and the lasting impact of his music. But that involves finding a writer willing to dedicate several years to this, getting a publisher and hoping the book turns out well and attracts interest.
    On the whole I'd say it's discouraging. Various producers have talked about a film based on Roy and Dale's life for years. Several have gotten started and none have made it very far even with the approval of Roy, Dale and their manager At Rush. A lady I know has been trying to get a film made about Dale's life before she went into Roy's films. The drama of her story would make an amazing film.... She's not gotten very far even with Cheryl Rogers' support (the lady took out an option on Cheryl's book).
    So while you and I would love to see such a film. and even tho the story has the substance to make it a success the problem is there aren't any car crashes in the story... or aliens kidnapping Bob.... or bombs blowing up... or the CIA interrogating Bob.... kind of a dull story when you think of it.

    On a more serious note another possibility would be a documentary on public television... if you can get a producer and get underwriting from some wealthy individual or company. There's another documentary possibility about which I know nothing but you do. Bob was honored by a Canadian Music organization and Bob is quite possibliity the most important musical figure to come from Canada. So CBC or the Canadian equivalent of public television (if there is one) might be the place to go for a documentary. The best thing would be a documentary... and that's not hopeless. PBS (public television) here does some good documentaries. That's the best route and the story is worth telling.
- Laurence Zwisohn


May 27, 2014

    Bob's life, if highlighted and dramatized in the right places, could be interesting enough to merit a movie. Probably not enough to be profitable, though. To tap into a larger audience, you could make it more of a film about the singing cowboy thing as a whole, through the eyes of Bob Nolan. Or using the story of his life as a way to talk about it. 'Cause you could pique people's interest about singing cowboys. It's a really intriguing cultural phenomenon.
    Unfortunately no groups now are going to do the Pioneers justice, so the music in the film might be a challenge if you don't overdub. And there would have to be lots of music, of course! 
    The group of people who would be interested in 'the life of Nolan' is a very small niche, and they already know most of it anyway. Thus, I think it would be safer to broaden the focus. The movie would have to be so masterfully done that it broke out of the realm of 'singing cowboy fanatics' (which unfortunately is not a big enough group to make the movie viable).
- Madison


May 27, 2014

    In order for the film to be really successful, I think it would have to be something of a sociological study on singing cowboys in American culture. To tap into a larger audience, you could make it more of a film about the singing cowboy thing as a whole, through the eyes of Bob Nolan. Or using the story of his life as a way to talk about it. 'Cause you could pique people's interest about singing cowboys. It's a really intriguing cultural phenomenon.

- Anonymous


May 27, 2014

I have the movies Ray Kraft wrote. It' very interesting to know the things about the singers we like, especially in movies. A movie about Bob Nolan will be a wonderful oportunity to all of us SOP fans to know in movies, the Nolan's story. I'll like to see details about Nolan's life, and the moments he wrote the songs we know.
Very nice idea.
- Bob Costa (Brazil)


May 27, 2014

    For someone to cite Holly George-Warren's "Public Cowboy no. 1" as an example a fine biography they are doing themselves and the world a disservice. The crate of crap is loaded with factual errors, a failure to explain much of the material presented, anachronistic data, wrong attributions, and a clutter of "how Gene got his name" without ever putting any effort into discerning the closest to the truth (and missing a most apt explanation). She includes multiple pictures of the fan club president when one is more than sufficient while not giving us a glimpse of Gene's 'magic' railroad pass on which he did all sorts of things without regard to railroad rules or regulations.
    By page 47 I had 26 post-it notes citing errors, oversights and general lack of depth. Clutter isn't depth. She combines material in the sessionography so that the two different issues of Frankie & Johnny, with two different writer credits are lumped together with no explanation or background. And then there is the completely useless, but space saving decision not to list release numbers, only the label abbreviations to make collector's pull their hair out in aggravation for the lack of information. But then she knows her stuff. After all, years earlier she was editor on a country music book in which it was stated that Billy Hill wasn't a real name but a joke on Hill Billy.
    I've got to "jet off" right now. That last is a quote from the Autry book when Holly describes Gene's duties in the South Pacific years before there were jet transports.

- Lawrence Hopper


May 27, 2014

By the way I was thinking about the Bob Nolan movie proposal and remember seeing a movie several years ago about the Superman TV Show that was made by a Hollywood Studio. They really tore down my hero. I remember watching this show as a child and just loved it. But the movie really made fun of Superman and Clark Kent. I fear they would do the same with a Nolan Movie. It seems Hollywood used to make movies with good values and sent a good message but now they praise the evil ones and bring down the good. We stopped going to movies years ago. When I watch a movie on Turner Classic Movies it makes me sad to see how far the movie making industry have fallen.
- Fred Sopher


May 27, 2014

Well, given the recent surge in the popularity of "Roots" Music and Americana this couldn't be more timely. More and more young people are coming into the Traditional American Music fold and Bob Nolan's contribution is a HUGE component of it's history and evolution. I think now is the time to bridge the gap of discovery for these kids along with tugging at the nostalgic hearts of the more mature audience. It's a window that shouldn't be passed or lost. I do hope this gets off the ground!
- Rob


May 27, 2014 RE: Fred May 27 Posting - Superman movie.
    The film you are referring to is Hollywoodland starring Ben Affleck as George Reeves. The film did not make fun of Superman and Clark Kent but presented them pretty much as they were portrayed in the series, a show for children whose discernment of the characters and background was augmented only by the Superman, Action, or World's Finest comics they may have looked through or perhaps read.
    What the film did attempt to do was present the people behind the roles, their ambitions, their drives and some failures. Real people are not comic book heroes. The comic book heroes were portrayed while the cameras were running but at the call of 'cut' you were watching the actors, the real people and they just don't behave the way heroes, comic book or otherwise do.
    Yes, Hollywood did have a knack for making films with good messages and social values but Hollywood also had a knack, a driving force really, to control the lives of their contractees and suppress wherever and however they could behavior that would be anathema to the box office, the bottom line. This behind the scenes manipulation was depicted in Hollywoodland. I'm sure you've seen and enjoyed films starring Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn at one time or another and probably wondered how a good married Catholic guy could be messing around on his wife. This is a case of sneaky Hollywood suppression. The cheating Catholic story was the cover that still allowed both of them to be acceptable to the public with scattered grumbles. The story was covering an even worse situation back there in the day. They were both Gay!
    You're probably worried that a bio pic on Bob would put him in a bad light, outside the halo glow of your hero worship. It doesn't have to be a warts and all story but there have to be some warts because no one is perfect and with out imperfections. Without conflict, loss and travail there is no story of attainment.
    Get over the fact that the entertainment community is heavily laden with imperfect personnel and try to embrace their products for what they are.

- Lawrence Hopper


May 30, 2014

    I enjoyed reading the posts (especially Larry Hopper's!) but on the whole I honestly don't see a dramatic movie as likely. Not enough name recognition, not enough drama. Heck nobody but us flamekeepers knows who Roy Rogers is any more, much less Bob. The three musical biopics that come to mind of recent years (Cash, Charles, Piaf) were about performers who were household names, who either overcame or succumbed to addiction. Whatever demons Bob struggled with (we all have them), he kept them private.
    Those voices calling for a documentary are intriguing, though. The Nolan legacy ought to be exposed to a wider audience, although I think the web site is doing a wonderful job, and in this modern age that is where people are both discovering and preserving, not so much in theaters.

- Ranger Doug


May 30, 2014

    I think it's time to think fusion regarding a Bob Nolan movie. Even if we could put everything from the website into a story about Bob it wouldn't be sufficient to sell it. Especially as a dramatic with music offering.
    The documentary route would be less than fulfilling except for excerpted soundbites of music. (Would 'excerpted soundbites' be redundant?). Keeping in mind the outstanding, brain bending work by Ken Burns on his many documentaries several times I've had the "only the subjects have been changed to create interest" feel from the almost monotone presentations. I was watching the first chapter of "American Roots Music" yesterday, having missed it when first broadcast, and found the mix of interview clips, vintage and new music footage, newsreels and sparse narration comfortable and informative and imbued with a transmitted sense of the past.
    As well done as any of these they wouldn't suffice. We need a mix of vintage footage, re-enactments without the video colorists cramming browns, ochres, yellows and washed out pasty flesh tones down our throats in the name of art. Seems to me that with all those color imbalanced 'artistic' presentations a lot of people are forgetting there were blue skies, green trees and white clouds which our ancestors enjoyed.
    I think the secret to the project is in the title "Tumbling Tumbleweeds" with the membership of the O-Bar-O Cowboys, Pioneer Trio, Farley's Gold Star Rangers and the Sons of the Pioneers becoming the metaphoric windblown, scraggly fauna. It's all there, all the pieces, with each contributing to the complete story. Without the group outlet for Bob's talent he may have become the world's least known oldest caddy in California.
    Doug, thanks for the tip of the Stetson.

- Lawrence Hopper


May 30, 2014

    I have read the opinions of others (at last there was something in Q and A). Some good points and some with which to disagree or have a good discussion. I think some kind of a documentary rather than a movie would be the way to go. A&E, History Channel, etc. have done good jobs in the past. Last night at dinner with a friend, I asked if she knew who Bob was and, of course, her answer was ďnoĒ. However, when I mentioned he was the composer of TUMBLING TUMBLE WEEDS and COOL WATER and possibly a feature on him might be in the works, would she watch it? Yes was her answer.
    Bobís early life was tragic (to me) and how much is known of his wandering years, when he left Pearl and before he ended up in CA? Those missing years would certainly be interesting if we only knew about them. The Pioneer Trio would have to be part of his story, how Tim and Roy convinced him to try again. Without Bobís songs and voice, I wonder how far the group would have gone without him?
    I would love the idea of a presentation on Bob , his works and his life. Movie or documentary? I would go with the documentary.
-Grace Thompson


May 31, 2014

    With a resounding YES, I think there should be a film made of Bob Nolan and the Sons Of The Pioneers.
    Should it be a movie or documentary? I'm no film expert but here's my 2 centsÖ
    My first choice would be to see it happen as a movie. It goes without saying, but make it as big as the budget and copyright permissions will allow. As long as it stays true to the legacy of Nolan and the Pioneers. Especially the music. Perhaps mix and match archival material with recreated. There can be interesting scenes in the story without resorting to the dirty laundry and reality show drama that is so rampant nowadays. With dynamics in the storyline (low and high points), action shots and nice scenery it can hold the attention of the audience. Add in the great music and it should be a winner. And of course include some good publicity.
    It doesn't have to be a huge Hollywood production. As an independent film, it may win over the younger audience and get them interested in the legacy of not only Nolan and his group, but of all things Western. There are generations coming up that have no clue, sadly, of Western Swing music, B Western movies and their stars. This is one way to turn them on to the culture. And besides, many indie films have moved up the ladder to win Academy Awards.
    Incidentally, there was going to be a movie made about Spade Cooley, played by Dennis Quaid, called "Shame On You". It was shelved a few years ago after pre-production. No word as to why, but I do know that there is someone who claims to own the "life rights" to some of the people involved with Cooley. (I'd never heard of this before, until the man contacted me). This may had been a factor in the movie not being finished. Hopefully this is not a problem with production in the Bob Nolan project.
    If the movie idea doesn't pan out, at least consider making Bob's bio into a documentary. Either way, the story needs to be told.
    There are some great ideas posted in this discussion as to the technical aspects and possible actors & musicians, beyond anything I can add.
Best of luck with this!
-Sharon Marie (Carolina Cotton's daughter)


June 18, 2014

Also, Iím sure someone may have told you of this already, but I noticed that Boyd Magersí Western Clippings is advertising an uncut version of "Sunset in Eldorado", and I wondered if you knew about it.


June 24, 2014

In regards to the suggestion of a movie about Bob, I only have this to say. Knowing Bob as well as I did, I can tell you he would not have been open to the idea. Maybe a documentary, (something I would like to see done) but not a motion picture with Hollywood's thought prints on it. Maybe shortly after he retired, but not at this late date. I have to agree with the other "nay-sayers" for the same reasons.

-Dick Goodman


July 2, 2014

Regarding Bob Nolan as subject for a film, here is a modern example of what might be done:

Clint Eastwood's new music movie about the Four Seasons, "Jersey Boys," just hitting the theaters. Couple of reviews I've seen are good. I haven't seen it yet, maybe Saturday, but go see what Clint does with an up-from-nothing band story.

-Ray Kraft


July 3, 2014

    Since virtually every entertainer, entertainment group, story is an up-from-the-bottom tale and every songwriter bio is about the hardworking creators who finally break through thanks to a gimmicky tune or an apt melody for a film factory produced musical it seems there are already scores of plots that can be bent to telling the story of Bob Nolan and the Sons of the Pioneers. You just have to pick one.
    You can think deeper and realize the need here is for a 'hook', something that will grab the future audience and make them want to see the film. Where is the hook? Is it in Bob's song writing, his personal attitude, his experiences with other members of the group or in the general environment in which his, and the group's talents meshed with others and then grew? Was it their luck to be in Los Angeles with the radio stations and film studios who had a need for musical talent? What turned the trick? What series of events made it all possible when without one of those links it never would have happened?
    The hook should be a good one, and not just PR hype since people wise up fast to that kind of thing.It is really necessary to find a hook, to expand and explain through dramatic means the full story with a proper third act. If not you can forget the dramatic, musical, bio flick and be happy if someone can produce something valid for American Experience.

-Lawrence Hopper


August 7, 2014

    A movie about Bob Nolan? Definitely NO! He would never agree to such and those of us who have had the privilege of spending some time with him understand that. You, Ken Griffis, and others have written about him and very well covered his life and works. That's enough.

    Very few of us remain who fully appreciate his talents as a poet and songwriter - and the market for a "movie" is not there. Perhaps a documentary on DVD with film clips of the original Sons of the Pioneers and his music in the background of commentary by the very few remaining who knew him could be acceptable.

    Ray Kraft might have the right intention but he has the wrong idea. I've talked with other Reinsmen about this and we, who spent a couple of weekends with Nolan at Bob Wagoner's home in Bishop, CA, agree with what I've written here.

    Let us respect and honor him by listening to his music and poetry and that is what he would wish were he here to express his thoughts.

- Max "Doc" Denning

August 23, 2014

    I hope my contribution on Bob Nolan is OK. My old history teacher side weighed in. I always loved to compare people and events to put them in perspective w/ the kids. But I didn't have the privilege of knowing the great man. Just hope my angle is viable and appropriate.
    I was recently in LA and appeared at the Coffee Gallery Backstage. Mr. Bob Stane, the venerable proprietor, was captivated w/ my show. That was praise from on high. WMA folks were out in force, as were some high school classmates of mine. Really fun.
    Bob Stane ran the famous Ice House years ago. Steve Martin got a big push there, as did George Carlin and a host of others. In the 70's, I worked there w/ Lily Tomlin (what a sweetheart). The date of my show at the Coffee Gallery was the fateful day of Robin Williams' death. Bob knew him well and had employed the late comedian; we talked about addiction, depression and things that are barely understood by the public. Sad day. Obviously, I avoided any mention of Robin onstage that night.

- Larry B. Wilder


August 24, 2014 (courtesy Fred and Rose Sopher)

The Sons of the Pioneers in Kanab, Utah.


Have you ever seen this?

- Fred


October 8, 2014

So excited!! Glenn is going to be inducted into the Western Music Hall of Fame. The family wants to thank you for all your hard work on his behalf. I know for a fact that Bobs website brought him the recognition he deserves. They used it for info!!! Thank you so much. Will take pics and send you some.
Lois Spencer