(1908 - 1989)
"If Hamblen was in the room, Hamblen was the whole crowd." (Wesley Tuttle)
I think I knew Bob Nolan better than any man alive. Bob Nolan was a strange, strange man. When we got back to California [from Washington, DC], I told him, I said, “Bob, your songs have expired….” He said, “I don’t care.” That is the truth. I said, “You come over to our house. You’re crazy. Come over here.” He came over to our house and my Suzy sat down and wrote out the forms to renew his copyrights. You talk about a …. I don’t even like to talk about it. [Breaks down.] That man was so…. He didn’t know what he was. He was a such a genius.
There never will be another man like him. He was such a strange weirdo. You call him whatever you want to. I loved him. I appreciated him like nobody else. I think I’m one of the few men in the world that I could call him on the phone and he would talk to me. He wouldn’t even answer the phone for somebody else.
In fact, when he bought his cabin out in the mountains…he had a cabin up there where he would leave in the spring and wouldn’t come home until the fall. Now I couldn’t understand that because he’d leave P-Nuts down in the valley and he’d go up into the mountains and he’d come back 5 months later. One day I was talking to him about it and I said, “Well, Bob, I want to come up and see your cabin.” He said, “Don’t come.” And I said, “Why?” and he said, “I don’t want to shoot you.” “You don’t want to shoot me? I’m your friend. What the hell are you talking about?” He said, “That’s my cabin and I don’t want nobody there except me. That is where I do my work.”
I said, “Well, when do you figure out you’re coming home?” And he said, “When I open the door of my cabin and look out and see the frost on Old Grayback, that’s when I figure on coming home because I know a storm is coming.”
Bob Nolan was the strangest man I’ve ever known. But I recognized the thing about him – he was such a great genius. Anybody that is a great genius is nuts. You know, that’s the truth. I can’t figure out how a man would want his body burned and spread out over the desert. And he said definitely he didn’t want nothing like this [party for him]. The good Lord made just one like him. He’ll never make another. One day he called me and he said, “I’ve got cancer and I want you to have my music.” I don’t want no part of Bob Nolan’s music. I’m not like him.
He didn’t want any hound dogs, he didn’t want any horses. He had one dog and his wife will tell you that when that dog died…. I heard about the dog dying and I went over and I said, “Bob, my daughter raises a lot of those Labrador retrievers so we’d like for to give you one.” And here’s what he said, “No. My dog and I talked that over before he died and he didn’t think I needed another dog.” I never had a man talk to me like that in my life. People say he was crazy. Maybe he had an insight I never had. That was Bob Nolan. A strange, strange man.
When he told you something, he wanted it to be the truth.
The above is an excerpt from Stuart Hamblen's speech at the memorial for Bob Nolan at Rex Allen's ranch on July 27, 1980, a month after Bob's death, courtesy of Michelle Sundin. The song you hear is Stuart Hamblen's "Texas Plains" sung by Rusty Richards and the Sons of the Pioneers in 1986.
1974 12 08 Stuart Hamblen and Bob Nolan at the Palomino Club. (Read more.)