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Dave Bourne (1939-2015)

(Tumbling Tumbleweeds - Cool Water medley with Dave Bourne at piano)


Dave "Fess" Bourne was a full-time pianist living in Southern California with his wife, Patty. A trained teacher and the son of a band instructor, Dave's affinity for the music of Bob Nolan began when he joined the Wagonmasters, the singing cowboy group that entertained at Knott's Berry Farm from 1955 – 1968. In 1988 he formed The Lobo Rangers with three of the original Wagonmasters and he continued to perform western music with an emphasis on Nolan compositions. Just before Christmas 2014, Dave recorded the last of Bob Nolan's songs for the website, A Prayer for Christmas Time. We did not realize how ill he was. Dave died on January 30, 2015. We owe him so much. We will miss him greatly.



(Courtesy of Patricia Bourne)


Professor David E. Bourne’s Magnificent Ensemble assembled on Sunday, March 15, to play a musical tribute to a very prolific, talented, gentle, musical soul. Magic piano man David E. Bourne passed away on January 30, 2015 at his home surrounded by his loving family.

David was a piano player, band leader, guitarist, singer, author, historian, actor, teacher and horseman who adored his trusty steed, Boston. He participated in mounted shooting and Wild West Shows for many years, turning into a true California cowboy. He was a loving family man who adored his wife, Patty, an artist, sculptor and singer. He cherished his children, Rachel and Jason, both musicians. His little dogs, Lizzie and Peaches held a special spot in his heart. He enjoyed lifelong friendships with many too numerous to mention and played music with them through the decades.

David was born September 20, 1939 to Ted and Jean Bourne in the Santa Maria area. They moved to Anaheim where Ted became the instrumental music instructor for the Anaheim School District. David started piano at age 6. His father also taught him trombone, baritone and string bass. Music filled his high school years.

At USC, David was on a full scholarship, an active member of Kappa Alpha, and earned his degree in music. During his college years he played piano in the Calico Saloon at Knotts Berry Farm. He continued working at Knotts after graduation playing string bass with the Wagonmasters, the country group who entertained in the Wagon Camp from 1955 to 1968. The Wagonmasters recently received the Pioneer Trails Award from the Western Music Association. His love of Knotts Berry Farm led him to publish the book, “Knotts Berry Farm’s Ghost Town” (A pictorial retrospective 1940-1968).

Shortly after college David was drafted into the Marines. He was the Honor Guard for his platoon and served his time at Los Alamitos where he worked in recruiting but had plenty of time to play music. His life took a wonderful turn when he met Patty. David formed a folk singing group called “The Californians”. A month long gig was on the horizon touring the Southwest. Patty joined the group and at the end of that month both knew their relationship was more than music. They were married in 1964.

1967 found David playing piano at the Hock Shop Bar on Sunset. It became a favorite hangout and musical scene hosted by owner and master banjo player Spencer Quinn. Many of David’s favorite lines were taken from Spencer. While working there David formed the Maple Leaf Club, dedicated to the preservation of classic ragtime piano. Simultaneously he also began his 48 year gig “behind the scenes” at the fabled Magic Castle in Hollywood. He played there until December 2014. David’s gigs were not one-nighters. Almost all lasted decades.

David had many musical irons in the fire. It was not unusual for him to play with three or four bands in a year plus the main gig at the Castle. For many years he led the Resurrection Brass Band, a twenty piece New Orleans marching band. When that disbanded he formed the Dawn of the Century Ragtime Orchestra. The late 60’s and 70’s found him entertaining in downtown L.A. at Casey’s Bar. That lasted 17 years! The 6th and Grand Band evolved from Casey’s. The core players remained with him for the rest of his life. For about ten years he was a regular on the Musicos Rancheros Visitadores ride. He derived much pleasure playing music at the camps in Santa Barbara surrounded by the best horses in the country.

Patty and David considered nature to be “their cathedral”. What better way to enjoy it than “The Musicians Family Campout” in Sycamore Canyon. This “gig” lasted for 10 years during the 1980’s. Every August Patty would organize the 10 to 15 musical families at the campground. Music, singing, good communal food were enjoyed for four days. All were L.A. session players or touring with various recording artists. That drew more musicians from town who jumped out of cars at night with their acoustic instruments to strum and sing around the campfire into the wee hours. These lifelong friends recently celebrated the 50th wedding anniversary of David and Patty at their home in Agoura.

From 1989 until 2005 David led his own western singing group, The Lobo Rangers, featuring his wife, Patty. This led to cowboy poetry gatherings throughout the western states where he performed his show “Saloon Piano of the 19th Century. Now fully transformed into a genuine California cowboy, David was the piano player in the Gem Saloon on the HBO hit series “Deadwood”. His saloon piano recordings were used extensively throughout all three seasons of the show. Other acting credits include History channel’s “Wild West Tech”, “The Hunt for John Wilkes Booth” and “The Revenge of Wyatt Earp”.

Added to his busy musical schedule was Marolyn’s parties three times a year, St. Patrick’s Day, 4th of July and Christmas. This was another decade long gig from 2004 to 2014. This was a way to thank his many fans for coming to hear him since his first days at Shakey’s Pizza in Hollywood.

David is survived by his wife of 50 years, Patty, two children, Rachel and Jason, his two little dogs, Peaches and Lizzie and many, many lifelong friends. The center of his life was family. He was so proud of them and loved them unconditionally. He had no regrets. He lived a very full, fun, fun loving musical life on his terms. Patty said David played music every day at their home in Agoura where half of the living room was a stage with piano, drums, guitar, microphones at the ready for friends to stop by and play. Patty said, “The piano keys are silent now, but the music will never leave me.”  (Courtesy of Patricia Bourne)


Video Links:



    "Bob Nolan single-handedly started an entire genre of music. Not many composers can claim that, except for J. S. Bach. Even with Be-bop in the early ‘40s, it took Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, and Charlie Parker to establish the medium. With Nolan, I would argue that no one is even in second place. While Tim Spencer had a few truly great tunes, the sheer volume of Nolan’s (high-quality) outpouring of material makes a large shadow over all the “also rans.”

    "Nolan called his material “song poems,” and it is truly an apt appellation. His lyrics stand alone as great poetry.  His melodies are distinctive. For example, the structure of “Vagabond Whirlwinds” is a revolving progression which never seems to end…it continues to flow, like the wind. His harmonic sense was like no other. In “Vagabond Whirlwinds” the second chord of the bridge (a III chord) leaps out and yells “It’s a Nolan chord!”

    "As a full time musician, he sought to grow and not just perform “Cool Water” endlessly, so the wealth of Nolan material offers excellent opportunities in that regard. I consider the quality and variety in his work to be right up there with Irving Berlin and George Gershwin.

    "Western Music will always have a limited market, much like any style of music which is historical. The Internet, the poetry gatherings, and superb groups like Riders in the Sky have all helped to further the music, but in no way will it ever become mainstream. Even in the heyday of the Sons of the Pioneers, the music was not a big seller.

    "Nolan stands alone as a great songwriter and poet. His images of both the desert where he moved as a teen and the North Country where he was born shine through as brilliantly today as when he penned them so many years ago. (Dave "Fess Bourne)


Quick Links

Dave's Background

Dave's Bob Nolan Demos

I Wonder if She Waits for Me Tonight - A Choir Boy Sings All Alone Tonight (comparison)

Dave's Book on Knott's Berry Farm

Dave and Gabby

Saloon Piano CDs

Dave in Deadwood

On Tumbling Tumbleweeds

Legacy of the Wagonmasters

2011 WMA Pioneer Trails Award

Tribute to Drew Daniels

                                                                                                                Photo: Dave Bourne on Boston


Dave Bourne's Tribute to Bob Nolan

When Elizabeth McDonald and Calin Coburn prepared to archive all of Bob's songs in the Southern Folklife Collection at the University of North Carolina, they decided to add an audio example of each song.  Dave Bourne generously volunteered to make clean, new demos for each of the unrecorded songs directly from extant lead sheets, exactly as written. These demos were archived with the printed material. A number of these demos are found on the Lyrics page but you will be able to hear them, too, by clicking on each title in the following list:



The Beauty of Your Smile

The Broken Heart Waltz



Donde esta el mio?

Don't Expect Me Home in the Morning

Heaven is My Island

In This Room

Little Spaceman

My Boy

The Other Side of Somewhere

A Sailor Dreams

Someone I Used to Know

That Cloud

They're Gone

Tumbling Leaves

Vagabond Whirlwinds (with the Lobo Rangers)

Watching the Moon Roll By

Why, Tell Me, Why?



Dave Bourne, Elizabeth Drake McDonald, Suze Spencer Marshall, November 2002

        Recently, Dave's part in the TV series, Deadwood, has made his Saloon piano playing CDs even more popular. Check out his website.


Dave with Ian McShane in scenes from Deadwood

(Courtesy of Dave Bourne)




Dave has produced at least 5 CDs of his saloon piano music which he made popular during his Deadwood series. Write Dave to find out more about these CDs which are are $17 each postpaid in the US. If you live out of the country, email Dave at saloonpiano@roadrunner.com



         Dave has also written a beautiful book recording the history of Knott's Berry Farm in pictures:




Note Dave's resemblance to Gabby Hayes, his favorite movie cowboy?

In Dave's words:

        After graduation from AUHS, I attended USC for five years. I’ve spent most of my life playing piano in clubs in the Hollywood/L.A. area. We have lived in Agoura Hills, California since 1977. My wife Patty is a singer, potter, and painter

        We have one married daughter who lives and teaches piano in Agoura Hills. You can see her amazing paintings on the web at http://rachelsart.mysite.com. We have one son in Playa Del Rey who plays reggae music with his band of 20 years. You can check him out at http://urbandread.com/home.htm

        My specialty in the past several years has been saloon piano of the 19th Century. It has led me to many amazing old west venues all over California, Nevada, New Mexico, and Arizona. I’ve even played a couple of folk festivals in Lowell, Massachusetts and Bangor, Maine. I worked on the first season of HBO’s “Deadwood” as a featured background player, and was pleased to have them use my saloon piano recordings on the soundtrack for all three seasons that the show ran.

        I’ve done several episodes of “Wild West Tech” on the History Channel, where I can be seen as a fiddler, and a doctor. The most recent thing I’ve done is “The Hunt For John Wilkes Booth” that just aired In December on the History Channel, featuring myself as a banjo picker in the barn dance scene.        

        I’m still working the clubs regularly four nights a week. About once a month we go to a fun western festival and set up the old piano.

        It’s a wonderful thing to get paid for what you enjoy doing. It’s been a great run.



On Tumbling Tumbleweeds

(by Dave Bourne)


When I hear this great old song I always tense up when the bridge arrives.  There’s apparently a lot of individual interpretations of what the chords are supposed to be in the first two bars.  It seems that most folks play it this way.


   G7                         C

I know     when night has gone

         D7                     G7

that a new world’s born at dawn


I thought I took my version from the early Pioneer’s recording of it. My version…


   G7                         C

I know     when night has gone

         B7                     Em 

that a new world’s born at dawn


I came across an original copy of the sheet music from 1934. Nolan (or his publisher) has it this way.


   Fm6 G7                         C

I know          when night has gone

         Am6#  B7                      Em B7 G7

that a new            world’s born at dawn


(Note  The # on the Am6 chord would appear to be a misprint.)


I kind of dig the sheet music chords but I’m still satisfied with a straight B7 to Eminor, probably because I first heard it that way and have been doing it for over 50 years now.



The Legacy Of The Wagonmasters

December 28, 2010
Dear Friends,
    I have just tried unsuccessfully to put another western vocal trio together. It has caused me to reflect on the legacy of The Wagonmasters. It’s interesting to note how several of us Wagonmasters have sought to keep the music going. During the Wagonmasters heyday at Knott's Berry Farm, from 1955 until 1968, the basic musicians were (at different times) Dick Goodman, Billy, Bobby, and Rachel Beeman, Harvey Walker, Eldon Eklund, Vern Jackson, Don Richardson, and myself.
    After Dick left in 1959 and Don in 1962, they formed The Reinsmen, who performed for well over 30 years. In the late 1980s I put together The Lobo Rangers which featured 4 original Wagonmasters, myself, Don Richardson, and Billy and Bobby Beeman. Our last concert was in May of 2005. Michael Fleming left the Lobo Rangers around 1995 and formed his own western trio “New West.” Although they are mostly inactive now, they still get together for an occasional concert. At some point in the 1990s the trio “Chaparral” was formed with Harvey Walker and Don Richardson. They are still performing a few dates a year. I think it’s a tribute to the western musical genre that the spirit of the music seems never to wane. Bob Nolan’s amazing music continues to inspire.
    On a final note, I found the musicians in the Wagonmasters to be particularly adept at not only playing several instruments each, but also knowing pretty much everyone else’s vocal parts, so we could mix and match at liberty when regular members were absent. I have often said that Knott’s was the best job I ever had. That still rings pretty true with me, even today.
Dave Bourne


The Legacy of the Wagonmasters of Knott's Berry Farm 1955-1968

August, 2011
Beginning about 1940, Knott's Berry Farm and Ghost Town, which is located in Southern California, was a true mecca for anyone fascinated by the old west. The idea for Ghost Town was born out of a need to entertain the long lines of folks waiting to get into the Chicken Dinner restaurant.
By 1940 Knott's reputation was spreading and they were seating capacity crowds in the dining rooms of their Chicken Dinner restaurant. Mr. Knott built his Ghost Town not only to entertain the guests but also to educate them in the ways of the pioneers. The principle of self reliance, with no government help, was the foundation of this spirit so prevalent in the pioneer settlers of the old west. Walter Knott ( 1889 - 1981 ) wanted the young people of America to have some idea of what the early pioneers endured in building these United States of America, where a poor farm boy like himself could rise to great wealth and national prominence with hard work and perseverance.
The Wagon Camp was constructed in 1949. Here is what Walter Knott wrote about it. "This seats about 800 people and is encircled by 18 covered wagons. It was this fashion to try and give the feeling or to depict how the wagon trains circled their camp for protection from the Indians and then made camp inside the circle of wagons. Each evening in the summertime we build a campfire in the center and have some kind of entertainment."
The first western music in the Wagon Camp was provided by Dick Goodman's group, The Singing Sons. They were all still in high school in 1949 and as each one graduated, new musicians were brought in. In 1955, the group decided to call themselves The Wagonmasters, a name which would last until the group disbanded in 1968. The 1st incarnation of Wagonmasters  was Dick Goodman, Harvey Walker, Don Richardson, Eldon Eklund, Jim Eisenberg, and Dee Woolem. In 1956, at Mr. Knott's suggestion, Rachel Cadwallader, a singer from the Calico Saloon, was added to the group. Dick Goodman said,
"We billed her as The Sweetheart of the Wagon Camp. She was a hit from the start and a real asset to the show from that point on."
In 1958, Dee Woolem left to become The Daisy Kid for the Crossman Arms Co. and worked as a fast draw artist and trick shooter. Don Richardson left for military service, and Jim Eisenberg left to pursue other endeavors.
Replacements included Billy Beeman who had recently returned from Texas.
Billy's family band Shirley and the Beeman Brothers had entertained at the Farm from 1940 until 1952. Dick Goodman continues, "We were very fortunate to recruit a young fellow just out of high school by the name of Vern Jackson, to take over for Jim Eisenberg as baritone lead singer in the vocal trio. Vern had an excellent singing voice and although he had not done much, if any, harmony singing, he turned out to be a very quick study. He was eighteen at the time. By the end of the summer of 1958, Vern's voice was an integral part of our vocal trio sound, so much so that we would end our Sunday night performance with a very impressive rendition of 'The Lord's Prayer' in three-part vocal harmony with just a single guitar accompaniment. It was probably one of the best trio sounds I have ever been associated with."
More changes came in 1959 as Dick Goodman left the group and Don Richardson rejoined the group having just returned from military service.   Billy Beeman assumed the leadership duties, a position he would hold through 1968.
I had started working at the Farm in 1958, playing piano in the Calico Saloon in the mornings and hosting in the dining room of the Steak House in the afternoons. I went to both high school and college with Rachel Cadwallader and upon her suggestion, I was asked to join the group on stand-up bass in the fall of 1959. I thought I had died and gone to heaven for sure.
The line-up of Vern Jackson, Billy Beeman, Rachel Cadwallader, Don Richardson, Eldon Eklund, and myself remained from the fall of 1959 until January of 1962.
The final changes in the group occurred in January of 1962. When Don Richardson left the group, both Vern and I left and joined the Marines. Harvey Walker rejoined the group and Billy brought in his brother Bobby on rhythm guitar and gave him the master of ceremonies duties.
This final line-up of Billy and Bobby Beeman, Rachel (now Mrs. Billy Beeman),
Harvey Walker, and Eldon Eklund was to last until 1968 when the Farm went through some major changes. A fence was put up, they began to charge admission, and the band that had entertained so magnificently for thirteen years was let go. Marion Knott, Walter's daughter, who was in charge at the time, was later heard to state that letting the Wagonmasters go was one of the biggest mistakes of her life.
We worked 6 shows a day, 6 days a week during the summers and we worked week-ends during the winter. Year after year the same fans would appear as they always made it a point to include a visit to the Wagon Camp on their vacations. The Wagon Camp was generally filled to overflowing and the crowd would start applauding as soon as we started to appear on stage. We included not only western music and humor but at one point we were joined by one of the Ghost Town characters, Bill Hazel,  who would wander in with his burro and pull up by the campfire to recite traditional cowboy poetry.
Dick Goodman had patterned the Wagonmasters trio harmony to be almost exactly like that of the Sons of The Pioneers. So close was the vocal trio sound to that of the original Pioneers that in 1959 when Hugh Farr sought to start his own group and leave the Pioneers, he came to the Wagon Camp to get his musicians.
During my tenure with the group between 1959 and 1962,  we produced two western LPs and the following line-up from 1962 to 1968 produced three folk oriented LPs.
When Dick Goodman left the Wagonmasters in 1959, he continued to pursue
western music through his next group The Reinsmen, utilizing at least one former Wagonmaster, Don Richardson, and later Harvey Walker,  Dick's love of the Sons of The Pioneers kept that wonderful trio harmony alive for well over thirty years.
Today Harvey Walker, Don Richardson, and Johnny Blankenship make up Chapparal, a top notch western trio still performing primarily in California..
In 1989 I formed The Lobo Rangers which initially included both Billy and Bobby Beeman, Patty Bourne, and David Jackson. Jackson left the group early on and was replaced by another former Wagonmaster, Don Richardson. With the addition of Mike Fleming, our line up of myself, Patty, Billy, and Don was to last through 1995. We produced three cassettes in the early 90s featuring not only traditional Sons of The Pioneers'  material but also original compositions from both Michael Fleming and Billy Beeman.
In 1995, Mike Fleming left to form his own group, New West,  which included guitar wizard Raul Reynoso, and former Lobo Ranger  David Jackson.  This group would primarily feature Mike's original material. Even though they are no longer on the road, this award winning trio still performs several times a year.
The Lobo Rangers  regrouped in middle 90s with the late Drew Daniels on bass and vocals and continued to perform until May of 2005.
Billy Beeman passed away in April, 2011. The recordings of the Wagonmasters are in limbo at the moment but will probably be available in the near future.
• The Reinsmen  CDs are available.
• Chapparal  has many fine CDs available.
• New West  CDs featuring the original compositions of Mike Fleming are available.
• The Lobo Rangers have a new "Best Of The Early Years" available.
Dick Goodman's vision of the west through those wonderful vocal harmonies has kept western music alive in Southern California for over sixty years. I, for one, will always
feel blessed that I was able to participate in this remarkable legacy.
Dave Bourne


2011 Western Music Association Pioneer Trails Award

The Wagonmasters

Dave "Fess" Bourne, Eldon Eklund, Vern Jackson and Richard Goodman, original members of the Wagonmasters.


Eldon Eklund, Fess Bourne, Vern Jackson and Dick Goodman


Our old singing group, "The Wagonmasters" from Knott's Berry Farm, was honored this November [2011] with the Pioneer Trails Award from the Western Music Association. Four of the six surviving members performed at the ceremony at the Kimo Theater in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Tribute to Drew Daniels

We lost our good friend and Lobo Ranger Drew Daniels to cancer on Dec. 1st, 2010. Here is a recording we did with Drew singing the verse (solo) to "Blue Shadows on the Trail". When the group comes in, Drew then switches to the high harmony. He was essentially a bass singer with an amazing range. This is one of my all-time favorite western tunes and I'm so glad we recorded a version of it when Drew was with us.
"We shall meet, but we shall miss him.
There will be one vacant chair.
We shall linger to caress him.
When we breathe our evening prayer." Geo. F. Root 1861


Dave ('Fess) and Patty Bourne with Drew Daniels (Conejo 1985)


Can-Can girls in Spain, September 2011 (First Almeria Western Film Festival)