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Billy Beeman

1927 - 2011

 

 

Thank You, Bob Nolan

- Billy Beeman, August 12, 2006

 

       I thank the Creator for endowing Canadian-born Bob Nolan with the talent and sensitivity to speak in lyrics and melodies of the beauty of His magnificent creation - the land, the people, the flora and fauna of our American West. 

        I have spent many happy hours of my seventy-nine years interpreting Bobís songs on my violin while accompanying the voices of The Wagonmasters, The Reinsmen and The Lobo Rangers. 

       My first exposure to Bob Nolan's songs was in 1936 when I heard The Sons of The Pioneers at the Texas Centennial. They were appearing at Cavalcade of Stars Show while my younger brothers Bobby, 8, and Don, 6, were playing at The Ford Motor Company Pavilion as guests of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. I was 9 years old at the time and have been playing Bob Nolan songs thousands of times ever since.

        Some nine thousand shows by the Wagonmasters at Knotts Berry Farmís Wagon Camp with Dick Goodman, Jim Eisenberg, Eldon Eklund, Don Richardson, Harvey Walker, Dee Woolem, Rachel (Cadwallader) Beeman, Vern Jackson, Dave Bourne, Bill Hazel and Bobby Beeman always included Bob Nolan songs.

        In August of 1979 I thought I was finally going to meet Bob Nolan. Dick and Dixie Goodman had been visiting Bob in Big Bear and had invited him to come with them to our Annual ďBeeman BashĒ in Placentia, California. Bob was planning to come with them but at the last minute he said that he thought he should stay at home as he was not feeling like making the trip. Of course we did not know how seriously ill he was. Dick extended his apologies to the crowd of some 65 musicians and families who came to brighten up our days as we all waited for my wife, Rachel, to recover from the coma she had been in since her brain surgery on November 5, 1977. Rachelís death came in April before Bob died in June of the following Year, in 1980. 

        Within weeks the world lost two of its most talented individuals and I spent the following four years as a recluse writing poems and music to help me through my depression. Listening to Bob Nolanís music with my brother Bobby helped me through this dark period of my life. 

 

Courtesy of Dave Bourne

 


 

Bob Nolan

(Billy Beeman 1993)

 

From the palette of your lyrics

Your music fills the canvas of my mind.

I listen and the majesty and mystery of nature I behold.

The beauty of the moment is suspended now forever in your lines

From beyond reality

In Heaven's master gallery,

Your masterpiece will touch a kindred soul.

 


 

In 1994 while in Yosemite, I wrote "Wild Rivers Song" while wondering what Bob would say about the scenes I was experiencing.

 

Wild River's Song

© words & music Billy Beeman 1994

 

Over the mountain and down through the canyon

I ride to the wild river's song

Over rocks and rills as it hurries on

I halter my pony beside rushing water

And camp by an old water-fall

The stars shine down on a night bird's call

As all of creation defines what it means to be free.

 

Freely beholding the wonders of nature

I know this is where I belong

Free from the everyday fight for survival

I find peace of mind in the wild river's song.

 

I watch the reflections of tall timber reaching

Like arms in a prayer reaching high

Up to the sky where eagles fly

The wild river endlessly seeking its path

'Til at last it is home to the sea

Let it ever be. Let it ever be

As all of creation defines what it means to be free.

 


 

Bob Nolan's "Let Me Share Your Name" is performed on this page by The Lobo Rangers, featuring Billy Beeman's violin. Billy had a website honouring that marvellous group, The Wagonmasters. Billy passed away on Tuesday, April 5, 2011.


 

Billy Beeman 1926-2011
 Legendary fiddler Billy Beeman, born in Memphis, Texas on Dec. 19, 1926, passed away in California on the afternoon of April 5, 2011. For over seven decades Billy Beeman impressed his friends and fans with his unique fiddling and songwriting ability. As a child, Billy's first music teacher was the legendary Woody Guthrie, who also started Billy in radio. At first, Billy played guitar, but before he was born, Billy's father had bet Bob Wills that Billy would play the fiddle, and since 1933, he has played fiddle like no one else. As Billy was growing up, Bob Wills was one of his greatest influences, as were Stephan Grappelli, Hugh Farr and Spade Cooley. Cooley once invited Billy to play twin fiddles with him on stage, a great thrill for the youngster. Perhaps as a result of the guidance and friendship he was shown by his musical heroes as a boy, Billy was always been ready to pass along friendly tips to today's youngsters, all of whom greatly admired him.

   Performing with his brothers and sister Shirley, Billy appeared on the same bill with the Paul Whiteman Orch., the Original Dixieland Band, Eddie Foy and the Seven Little Foys, Kay Kyser, Ted Lewis, the Hoosier Hot-Shots, Patsy Montana, Tex Williams, Stuart Hamblen, Roy Rogers (Trigger danced to Billy's music!), Eddie Dean and a host of others. They performed numerous times on the National Barn Dance and worked with Tex Ritter for several seasons. They once played a special request for President Franklin D. Roosevelt. In the 30s and 40s, they worked with all of Hollywood's leading stars contributing their Western music to raise money for the British War Relief. Billy and his family were instrumental in bringing Western music to Knott's Berry Farm in California, where it thrived for years. From 1959 until 1968 Billy led the Wagonmasters at Knott's Berry Farm and recorded several albums with the group which are highly prized by collectors today and have been re-issued on CD. The family also contributed much to continuing the western music tradition in radio in the 1930s and 40s.

   Billy and his late brother, Bobby, were a major force in the creation of the Western Music Association. For the first years of the Association's existence, Billy and the Lobo Rangers were annual headliners at the WMA's festivals, with Billy's fiddle and compositions making up a significant portion of the Rangers' repertoire. CHRONICLES OF AN OLD FIDDLER, Billy's autobiography, documents the extensive career of this spellbinding fiddle player. He was inducted into the Western Music Hall of Fame in 1998. (O J Sikes)

========================

Our wonderful old fiddler Billy Beeman from the Wagonmasters at Knotts and also from the Lobo Rangers died last week at 84. He was simply the best at playing western music. Western music was the music defined by the Sons Of The Pioneers, Roy Rogers' group. It wasn't country, it wasn't pop, it wasn't C&W, it wasn't bluegrass. It was its own genre. It was western. Songs about cowboys, sunsets, stampedes, and all the rest. If you listen to the fiddle on the Lobo Rangers' CD, you'll hear a master at work. He played underneath all of the vocals without getting in the way or being annoying. It was strictly a supportive role. His solos are generally the melody of the tune with no unnecessary embellishments, and completely devoid of ego. This is truly a lost art these days. We will be holding a musical memorial for Billy next month with most of the remaining Wagonmasters and Lobo Rangers. It should be a musical joy as we lay our old partner to rest.
Most Sincerely,
Fess

 

On February 26, 1991 the Lobo Rangers got together for our first recording session.  Later on we moved to another, better equipped studio to record what was eventually released.  On this first session we recorded Billy Beeman's tune "Annie's Waltz" with a vocal.  We opted not to release the vocal version as it wasn't western.  It was written for Billy's daughter Anne's wedding. I thought you might enjoy hearing another great example of Billy's writing.

 
Dave Bourne
6-10-11