Dr. Gene Davenport
(1935 - 2018)
Gene L. Davenport, a very busy man, made room in his life for his love of western music. He loved Bob Nolan's lyrics and constructed a book, hired an artist but was finally discouraged from publishing by the copyright fees. We have a copy of his book and the introduction reads:
Apart from the highly intellectualized approach of some mid-twentieth century poets whose lines were more for the printed page than for the ear, the true test of any poem always has been how it sounds when read aloud. Poetry is for the ear, not for the eye. Imagery and phrasing are everything. In a good poem the various characteristics of poetry itself are appropriate to the subject matter of that poem. The syllables of a good romantic poem are smooth and round. A poem describing rapid action is good if it contains brief, jabbing phrases portraying vivid imagery.
By these criteria, most of Bob Nolan's lyrics are wonderful poems set to music. Bob once said in an interview that with him a description of what he wanted to portray came first and then came the words, which means that his songs are poems set to music. Whether it be the classic "Cool Water", the overlooked "In This Room" and "April", the phrasing and the choice of consonant and vowel sounds, to put it simply, fit.
Bob was heavily influenced by the Transcendentalist poets of New England, and the consequent awe of nature permeates his work. It was only natural perhaps that, in light of this influence, in his later years he turned to the Pantheist philosopher Spinoza, for whom God, nature, and all things are one. This explains two of his most theological (though not Christian) songs - "Three Friends Have I" and "Wandering". It is unfortunate that Bob's image as a western singer and song writer and the fact that his words were published as song lyrics have led collectors of poetry to overlook his work for the graceful poetry it is. (Dr. Gene Davenport, April 10, 2002)
Gene Davenport: Musician, historian and former president of the Sons of the Pioneers fan club (by O. J. Sikes)
Gene L. Davenport, 82, died at his home in Jackson, TN, Sept. 9th, 2018, one month before his 83rd birthday. Born in Alabama, Gene graduated from Birmingham Southern and completed his post-graduate work at Vanderbilt University. In 1963, he began teaching at Lambuth College (later, University) in Jackson, TN, where he was the Chairman of the Religion and Philosophy Dept. for many years, until a stroke curtailed his activities and he retired in 2008.
His local obituary said, “Gene earned many awards and honors during his life, but these were never his focus. He cared about the people around him and about making the world a better place. Some of his favorite work was with mentally disabled children. He raised his daughters to see all people the same – not what color they were, not how rich or poor they were, but to get to know and care for the actual person. He was deeply concerned and vocal about social justice.”
Western music was a part of his life from the time his mother decided to name him Gene, after her hero, Gene Autry! He enjoyed music, especially Western music, and was an accomplished musician, writing songs and recording in the 1990s with his group, the OK Chorale. In the 1980s he edited a newsletter for Sons of the Pioneers fans, Tumbleweed Times, and he especially enjoyed talking about the Pioneers with Bob Nolan’s daughter, Bobbi, and Tim Spencer’s son, Hal, at early Western Music Assn. conventions. In later years, he hosted a Western music show on the local radio station in Jackson. He also wrote a weekly column on religion and social issues for the Jackson Sun newspaper.
1. (Ghost) Riders in the Sky
2. Cool Water (Bob Nolan)
3. (If I Could be) Back in Texas
4. Under Fiesta Stars
5. The Wish
6. By a Campfire on the Trail
7. The Search (Sunrise Reverie)
8. Ghost Town
9. A Faded Photograph
10. Lonesome Old Cowboy
11. Silent Trails
12. The High Sierras (Bob Nolan)
14. Till You Return (Bob Nolan)
15. Campfires in Heaven
16. Down in Old Metamoros
17. Colorado Trail
18. Vagabond Whirlwinds
19. The Eagle's Heart
20. Somewhere Along the Trail
21. Where are You?
22. Early Autumn