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Ken Griffis interviews Lloyd Perryman on his memories of Stan Jones  (Listen)


GRIFFIS: This recording is being made in North Hollywood, California, on December 31, 1974. I’m talking with Lloyd Perryman, long a member of the Sons of the Pioneers. Mr. Pioneer, I guess you might say. And, Lloyd, I appreciate you coming by and I wanted to try to get some recollections of the great Stan Jones. I’m sure you probably have a greater respect for him and his songs than I do but I just think he’s been such a fabulous person that somebody should record something about him so I thought maybe you’d be good enough to talk, you know, just rambling about him and what you know of him. And we’ll start off by asking when you think you might have first heard the name Stan Jones.


LLOYD: Well, I think it was the same year that we recorded Riders in the Sky which would have been 1949. Now, it’s possible I may have heard of him ahead of that because Stan came down from up in Death Valley where he was a park ranger. They have this entertainment up there each night for tourists who’d come in and they’d talk about Death Valley and somebody usually entertains. Well, Stan was a park ranger, as I said, and he written a lot of material and so they’d sit around a campfire and Stan would sing these songs. Well, so many people said that Stan’s songs were worthy of being recorded and that they thought they he could possibly get something done if he brought them down and showed them to some of the people in the Hollywood area.

            So Stan finally became convinced and he was a large fan of the Sons of the Pioneers so the first person that he started to look for was Bob Nolan because he respected Bob’s songs and he respected his work. So he went to Bob Nolan’s house – he found out where he lived and went out there - and, evidently, he must have shown Bob a lot of songs, among which was Ghost Riders in the Sky. With Stan’s presentation…. He played a little 4-string tenor guitar and I doubt very seriously if they had the same meter because Stan’s meter…. He didn’t mind if he had five beats in a bar or fifteen. It didn’t make much difference to him. So, anyhow, the song Ghost Riders in the Sky didn’t impress Bob particularly. There was another song that he did take a copy of. I believe it’s, oh, I’ll think of the song in a little while. We finally recorded it for RCA but RCA didn’t release it. They weren’t, evidently, too impressed with either our recording of it or the song itself.


GRIFFIS: So, apparently, that was recorded on that same session that you did Ghost Riders in the Sky in April of ‘49.


LLOYD: Yes, according to a fellow by name of Ken Griffis’ records. Why, it jives out real good with a tune There’s No One Here But Me. This is the song that Bob was impressed with. He liked the song very much. In fact he had told me, prior to my meeting Stan Jones, that “this fellow came down, he had a lot of material. It was on the rough side. It wasn’t finished as they could be.” In fact, Stan’s songs 9 times out of 10 were…. He’d have a beautiful idea, he’d write beautiful lyrics and he’d have some parts of every song that he ever wrote, I guess, that was so completely original. He’d have these thoughts and then, when he got that portion of the song done, why, his interest, evidently, kind of faded and there’d nearly always be spots in Stan’s songs, frankly, I thought were weak spots. But then he had so many strong points – those the big thing – and, as I say, original, fresh, different ideas. And he could write…. I don’t know how many songs a day that man could write, if he wanted to.


GRIFFIS: Well, were you impressed with – at that time, say in 1949 or ’50 when you first met him – did he strike you as being a great songwriter or was he just one of the guys that comes along and has a good song or two? Do you think, at that early point, you were impressed with him?


LLOYD: I had paid very close attention to the lyrics to Riders in the Sky, naturally, and also to the song that we recorded, No One Here but Me. And I was impressed with the quality and originality in the lyrics.


GRIFFIS: Did the song, Ghost Riders in the Sky, particularly strike you as going to be a real great thing or was it just one that sounded good to you at the time? Did it have …?


LLOYD: The minute I heard it, it was a smash hit. Vaughn Monroe had recorded it and it became a hit just overnight. Frankly, we had recorded the song prior to the time that Vaughn Monroe recorded it and it became quite a thing down at RCA Victor that no one, absolutely no one, could be in the studios at this time shortly after this happened. Because we had recorded Ghost Riders in the Sky. Vaughn Monroe had never heard it.


GRIFFIS: He was on RCA, too, wasn’t he?


LLOYD: I think he was but somehow they got the song and recorded it and it was a smash hit immediately. But lyrics such as he had in Ghost Riders in the Sky, why, anyone that paid any attention to lyrics couldn’t help but be impressed with the quality and the originality and the thought that was behind Ghost Riders in the Sky.

         I was mistaken. It wasn’t our record that Vaughn Monroe heard. It was someone else from another company other than RCA who had recorded the song and, either Vaughn Monroe himself or someone associated with RCA or him, heard the song and rushed right down and recorded it for RCA and got it out immediately. And it was an overnight success.


GRIFFIS: Now, how long after Vaughn Monroe’s was put out do you think RCA released yours.


LLOYD: Oh, it was some months after it had become almost a standard, you know. 


GRIFFIS: Well, do you think if you had been the first one out you probably could have had a real smash on that?


LLOYD: I think there’s a great, great likelihood because it was, it is a great song.


GRIFFIS: I don’t know whether Bob Nolan…. You know – you’d hate to say any detracting remark about such a great person as Bob Nolan but I didn’t think Bob’s voice was particularly good on that recording of Ghost Riders in the Sky.


LLOYD: I have to agree with you. I think it was one of the poorer jobs that Bob ever did on a song. He, seemingly, would have the perfect voice for Ghost Riders in the Sky but this particular day…. It’s a hard song to sing until you get used to it. The meter is kind of strange in the rhythmic background. It makes it a little difficult to know just exactly when to start in and Bob wasn’t the greatest on meter, to begin with.


GRIFFIS: Well, he sang it a little bit low, he hit a low spot – he was struggling a little bit there.


LLOYD: Yeah, I think Bob was trying a little too hard that particular day. It wasn’t one of his better things but it’s still a great song.


GRIFFIS: Oh, fantastic! Even at his worst, he’s great.


LLOYD: Yeah! Well, I meant the song itself.


GRIFFIS: Tommy, I thought, did a fairly good job on it.


LLOYD: Yes, Tom did a great deal better job. Bob wasn’t, at this particular time when we recorded that, I don’t think he was really prepared to record. He hadn’t taken the time to get the song as well and complete in his mind. And another thing, as I said, the rhythmic background was another thing that bothered Bob quite a little bit. He’d just have to almost count. In fact, I think that I was standing there pointing at him when he was supposed to start the next phrase. So he could feel it, and, you know….


GRIFFIS: You know, it’s strange because one observation…. Of course my mind’s totally unexpert because I know nothing about music…. Bob Nolan in his heyday when he was doing the early recordings and say ’46, ’47, ’48 and on the Orthacoustics, he always had a fantastic feel for music, though. You could feel it.


LLOYD: Oh, yeah.


GRIFFIS: I tried to say it in the book without getting too pointed on it because it’s only a personal reference, but I felt that Bob had more warmth in his voice than Tommy Doss did…


LLOYD: Oh, very definitely.


GRIFFIS: …and you could feel it. When Bob sang lyrics you got a feeling you got ‘em in him.


LLOYD: He believed it, if he liked the lyric especially, and most of the time the songs that he sang, he either liked the lyric or he didn’t sing it to amount to anything. He was, he had very, very great depth of feeling and still does. Well, who in the world could write the lyrics that he writes without having extremely deep, deep feeling.


GRIFFIS: You can’t deny that and….


LLOYD: It comes out in his songs.


GRIFFIS: … and as I was saying in the book there and trying to keep too much personal observation – the difference there between Bob …. One, perhaps, range and the other feeling. Tommy probably get up higher and get down lower than Bob. But, as far as feel, Nolan just couldn’t be beat, you know.


LLOYD: I have to completely agree with what you wrote in the book because it’s exactly my feeling that Tommy perhaps had, well, he had a great deal more range than Bob ever did. Not, I won’t say a great deal, but a wider range.


GRIFFIS: Did you ever hear his album that he put out, that he recorded down here at Gold Star…?


LLOYD: M-hmm. I heard it.


GRIFFIS: …and he sings all four parts?


LLOYD: Yeah.


GRIFFIS: Pretty damn good, you know.


LLOYD: It’s not too shabby. Tommy, he did a pretty nice job but, frankly, I thought his material could have been improved upon and I think the musical background was very poor. It was poorly done.


GRIFFIS: Right. I have to agree with you on that. But, to get back to Stan Jones, could you give me your impressions of the…. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a picture of Stan. Can you give me a description of him?


LLOYD: Stan was of medium height, I’d say 5’ 9”, 5’ 10”, something like that. A pretty well built man. He’d been an outdoorsman all of his life and spent a lot of time outdoors. He was a little self-conscious of the fact that he was balding slightly and he used to let his hair grow a little extra long so he could kinda grow it over the bald spot and kind of cover it up a little bit. He has a very pleasant, pleasant face. A very nice-looking man, in my opinion. (Of course, I thought so much of him naturally he would be appealing to me.)

        If you met Stan and talked to him, why, you certainly wouldn’t be impressed because his mind worked so far ahead of what he was saying. He had an extremely active mind and you had to know Stan awhile to realize how very, very brilliant he was. There isn’t anything that I ever found – of course, I don’t profess to be brilliant – but there’s no subject that you could find that Stan Jones wouldn’t have a great knowledge about. Oh, he read, read, read books. He was a speed reader but he still retained what he read. A lot of people, in my opinion, that read too fast, don’t retain much. Stan Jones retained it.

        In fact – this is just a little anecdote – my wife and I thought there was a possibility that maybe Stan professed to know more than he actually did because, as I said, you couldn’t mention anything – Biblical, historical, dates, anything that Stan didn’t have a great deal of knowledge about. Well, with our lack of knowledge as to whether he was right or not, we decided that we would get the encyclopaedias out and some extra books and read up about the conquistadors when they came into Mexico. (chuckles) And Stan was coming over. He used to come to my house or I’d go to his at least once a week, sometimes two or three times. We’d stay up all hours of the night, singing and talking about music and whatnot. Anyhow, this night, well, we got all the knowledge we could get about the conquistadors. Stan came over. We directed the conversation around to this time. Well, he knew all they had in the encyclopaedias and all the books we’d got plus a great deal more information and it was just amazing, the man’s memory. He had the most active mind that I’ve ever come in contact with.


GRIFFIS: Did he ever indicate what kind of schooling he may have had?


LLOYD: He told me that he had decided…. His father, I think, was a doctor or…. He was in medicine in some manner. And Stan had taken at least pre med training in college and, I believe that he said he went to Arizona College because he was raised over in southern Arizona. I think that he studied medicine because he had a tremendous knowledge of the human body and the anatomy – what did what and…. It was just amazing, as I said again, his knowledge was almost unbelievable.


GRIFFIS: What about his musical background? Did he ever indicate where he’d got his first interest in music and did he learn to read and write music?


LLOYD: No. No, Stan didn’t. I don’t think he could read a note and I think it’s very unlikely that he had much, if any, musical background because of the way he played his little tenor guitar. And his lack of being aware of whether he put too many beats in a bar or two few beats in a bar would indicate that he had never had any basic musical training. But, boy, the ideas – and I think that I’m repeating myself. I think the man could have written 15 songs a day if he took a notion and every one of those songs would have some points of interest that would fascinate anyone who care about lyric. He was a ….  He had so many, many beautiful phrases. And, as I say, every time he came over to the house he would have 6, 7 8, 10 songs that he would sing for me and I would say, “Well, I don’t think much of this”, or “I like this.” A lot of his songs I would finish because, as I said, I would try to keep a right number of beats in a bar and I even, sometimes, would add a little to his songs or, maybe, take away a portion to get it to come out right to where other people might conceivably be interested in them because, as I said, I love the man and I wanted his songs to do well. It’s very possible that I may have hurt, rather than helped! [laughs] But my intentions were right.


GRIFFIS: What about his writing down the songs? So when he came over, did he ever have anything written down on paper?


LLOYD: It was always in his head. On occasion – now, he had a secretary. Her name was Pat and she was a very nice lady. In fact, she lived with Stan and his wife. She, evidently, took them down, typed them out and then I really think Stan would have someone come over and he would sing the songs and then they would write them down the same way as Bob Nolan did because Bob couldn’t write his stuff, actually. He had a little bit more basic musical knowledge, I think, than Stan did but, as far as actually putting them down on paper, why, they’d have to have someone come over and hear the songs and then put them down. But Pat would type out the lyrics, at least, and then – I really don’t know who it was that Stan had that came over to copy down his music. Anyhow, he had quite a job getting it arranged to where it would come out the right number. [laughs]

         I was just reminded of some lyrics in one of Stan’s songs that, to me, are just really beautiful – a song called Autumn Soliloquy. Leaves are falling, wild geese calling, the skies are clear each dawn. The autumn leaves, the waters tease so they put their white caps on. What a beautiful picture! You know, you can…. This is Autumn! You can so definitely feel it in the winds tease the water a little bit so they put their white caps on. Isn’t that beautiful?


GRIFFIS: That’s fantastic.


LLOYD: Then it goes on and it’s just as good all the way through.


GRIFFIS: Now, this song as never been recorded, as far as you know, has it?


LLOYD: I don’t think so. At one time, years ago, Ken and Tommy (in fact, the whole group) went over to Johnny Bond’s house and recorded, I think, something like 50 or 60 numbers that Stan had written. We put them on tape and at that time I don’t think any one of us had a tape recorder to play them back on so we had them transferred onto acetates, Well, unfortunately, the tape recorder that we recorded them on was recorded slow so when they were transferred, why, naturally, it was speeded up and the quality on those things is real bad because it’s higher. We sang like 3 sopranos, you know [chuckles] on the songs. But we recorded a whole slew of them and it was love’s labour lost, as far as we were concerned.


GRIFFIS: Well, Johnny Bond – did he have the same equipment he has over there now? It’s usually pretty good, I think.


LLOYD: I don’t imagine it was because he would have had the right speed on them. But just something happened to the recorder and we weren’t aware of it.


GRIFFIS: Who was the trio on them?


LLOYD: Bob, I mean Tommy and Ken Curtis and myself.


GRIFFIS: Oh, my God! How valuable that would have been if it had come out right.


LLOYD: Oh, I wanted them just for my own personal use and I would have loved to have had several of those songs because so many of them were so beautiful and, if you’ll notice…. I have a list which I intended to bring with me but I’m sure that Olive, his wife, or Pat, the secretary, definitely will have a list of everything that Stan ever wrote. That was written down, we’ll put it that way. And placed with the publisher. They will have records of it, and if they don’t, I’ll have. I have a list that Stan gave me of so many of his things and I’ve got manuscripts of Stan’s songs at the house that, very likely, nobody else but myself would have heard of, maybe.


GRIFFIS: I didn’t know about these recordings. That would have been just fantastic to hear the three of you together. You fellows sounded so great that time. Now, would Johnny Bond still have these original tapes?


LLOYD: I don’t know. I should have asked Johnny about that but I haven’t asked him about it. I wish….


GRIFFIS: Well, how about me asking?


LLOYD: Wait a minute. Wait a minute. It wasn’t Johnny Bond, I don’t believe it was. I believe it was Eddie Dean. It was at his house that we did it.


GRIFFIS: I wonder if Eddie still has that.


LLOYD: You know, I should ask him. Or we can ask him and it’s possible he may have them.


GRIFFIS: I think it would be fantastic, regardless of the quality. It would be great just to have the songs themselves, you know. If I could get them from Eddie, I’d be glad to make everybody a copy of them.


LLOYD: Well, that’s so great. I loved them.


GRIFFIS: It’s possible, you know. I don’t know how much you can improve, you know, but you can adjust the speed on a tape recorder and I don’t know how much that would improve the sound by reducing the speed or increasing it a little bit to see if it would make some….


LLOYD: It’s very possible it could be done because it should have been good quality recording.


GRIFFIS: Well, would it be best for you or me to ask Eddie?


LLOYD: Why don’t you give him a call? It’s just possible he might still have them.


GRIFFIS: I’ll give him a call. I’d like to say hello to Eddie, anyhow, while I’m out here so I’ll give him a call.

         I would say that you, probably, were about as close to Stan as probably most people were during this period. Now, what years would you consider the most productive for Stan? You met him in 1949. How long did the association continue as far as being interested personally in Stan?


LLOYD: Well, it went on until Stan’s death because he was a dear friend. A man that I thoroughly respected and enjoyed being around. And his productive years were any year, or any week or any day. Actually, the man was so prolific. He could write so many songs and all of them, as I’ve said before, had beautiful, great, great spots in them. Now we recorded several of his songs.

        One thing, actually, when I first really got acquainted with Stan was when we did the musical background for Wagonmaster. And, as you know, Stan wrote all the songs in that – Wagons West, Rollin’ Dust. Here’s a strange little thing. I know you’ve heard the recording of Rollin’ Dust. Well, when Stan originally sang it to me, why, he had all the verses and [sings] but there was no bass Rollin’ Dust in back of it. So, while we were rehearsing it, I got the idea of trying to have Hugh and Karl sing bass on the Rollin’ Dust, Rollin’ Dust. Well that wasn’t in when Stan first showed it to me. It wasn’t in until shortly before we went down to do it. And Whitetops and Chuckawalla Swing and all of those songs.

        And then every day, as I say, Stan was coming up with a song that he’d just written and, again, never quite finished. For instance, his song of Lilies Grow High. Why he sang that for me and I immediately liked it because I liked the lyrics on it. And then, again, I don’t know if I helped his song or hurt his song as far as popularity was concerned, but I put a bunch of extra chords to it that Stan didn’t know – didn’t know how to play in the first place - the chords that were in the song when it finally came out. But the basic things were there; the basic good material, good lyric and everything was always there. Every song that he ever came out with always had this basic quality.

        Stan, as I say, remained a very dear friend of mine. He and his wife, Olive, and they have a boy, Stan Jr. They call him “SJ”. This was the only child that he had with his wife when he remained with Olive. He had been married previously and he had a daughter, I think, by his previous wife, as I recall. But I wasn’t acquainted with her and they’ve since separated and… But, anyhow, his wife Olive is a very wonderful woman. She’s a bright woman but there isn’t anybody that I’ve ever met, frankly, that had the knowledge of one Stan Jones. He knew so many things and knew so much about so many things. He was a truly fascinating man to me.


GRIFFIS: Now, one of his songs, When He Walks By, is that Stan’s?


LLOYD: No, that’s Bob’s!


GRIFFIS: What am I thinking of. You did two or three of his on that album.


LLOYD: Woodsman’s Prayer? Yeah, we did several of them.


GRIFFIS: I’m trying to think of …. One’s particularly beautiful that you did on that Hymns of the Cowboy. I don’t have the album here. I was thinking of one of Stan’s but I’m so impressed with the fellow who had such a feel…. I guess he’s the nearest thing to Bob Nolan as far as really putting beautiful words together. Very descriptive words.


LLOYD: Yes. He and Bob, in my opinion, are the greatest lyricists that ever lived. Stan would write a lot more tunes in a given length of time than Bob ever would. And, as I said again, a little bit rough on the edges where Bob would completely – he wants his song completed exactly as he wants it before he turns it loose. But Stan, on the other hand – I think he lost interest after he got started and got a song going real good and he had the lyrics in that he wanted, then to heck with it. He lost his interest! 


GRIFFIS: Lloyd, I’m trying to think of the year that Stan Jones passed away. Do you recall when it was?


LLOYD: You know, it’s awful, I really don’t. I can go back and eventually figure it out because I know that Rusty Richards was making his first appearance with our group at Cactus Beach in Jackpot, Nevada, when we got the word that Stan had passed away. So that has to be about ’63, ’64.


GRIFFIS: It would be the Fall of ’63 or the first part of ’64, right?


LLOYD: I think that’s right.


GRIFFIS: It’s been 10 years. What did he die of?


LLOYD: Cancer. Stan had…. Some time, quite a long time prior to the time that he passed away, why he was in the hospital and they had to remove some lymph glands. I don’t know exactly the extent of the operation but it’s a pretty severe operation. They were known to be malignant at that time. It was their hope that they had gotten it all but the last time that I saw Stan, why, it was pretty obvious that he was aware that it wasn’t going to work out for him. He was aware that he had this and it was…. He was deteriorating and it was a pretty sad sight because Stan was such an active man. He was very quick in his actions, his physical actions. He moved quickly.

        The last time I saw him, why, it was a kind of a heart breaking thing because he was lying on the sofa in his home. My wife and I went by to visit. We were starting out on a trip. It must have been close to the time that we were going to go to Jackpot because, had it not been or if we weren’t extremely busy, why I’d have seen Stan again. But it was obvious to me that Stan was aware that this was about it.  Knowing him, and thinking as much of him as I did, why, it tore me up pretty good.


GRIFFIS: I imagine so. He was a fantastic songwriter. I just wish more people appreciated his efforts, you know.


LLOYD: You know, that would be pretty nice if…. I’d like to see someone, someone who has the ability to take a lot of Stan’s songs and, even possibly do a little bit of a remodel job on some of them because there’s a quality in his stuff that it’s conceivable that it could be successful financially because, if anyone takes the time to listen to the lyrics that he has. And the originality in his melodies. Because there isn’t one that he ever wrote that didn’t have original thoughts, original ways of – something in the melody and the lyric that…. [tape stops]