I grew up watching Roy Rogers reruns on television. I wouldn't miss one. If I had chores that conflicted, I begged off the chores until later and watched the Roy Rogers movie. They were frequently on television in the fifties and sixties.
When I was 14, I asked my parents for a Roy Rogers album for Christmas. Try as they might, they couldn't find one. Keep in mind, this is before the internet and before CDs made music so massively available. We depended on local record stores to stock vinyl, and they just didn't have the older music.
What my parents did find was a 1963 Sons of the Pioneers album titled "Our Men Out West," part of an RCA series. I thought the album was good but it wasn't Roy Rogers. And I thought the music was a little "modern," or "cowboy country," I might've called it. But I must have played that album 500 times and I memorized all the songs and would sing them while doing my chores or whatever. Then, I began looking for and collecting other Sons of the Pioneers albums. Eventually, I had most of the RCA albums, and still do.
Around 1972 I was working as a dj on a country music radio station. I got the idea to produce a western (not country) syndicated music show. I contacted a couple of stations in the Southeast and they said, "Sure, but you'll have to buy the time." I rounded up some sponsors and began a program that I called "Campfire Favorites," after a Pioneers album. I played Sons records, Roy Rogers, Marty Robbins, etc.
About 1972, I spoke with Ken Curtis while on the set of Gunsmoke at "CBS Studio Center." Gunsmoke was at its peak of popularity and, of course, still under production for CBS. Ken was absolutely the most approachable big star I'd ever tried to speak to. He literally put a sign on his dressing room door that said, "Do Not Disturb," and talked to me like I was an old friend for over half an hour. We talked about his days with the Sons of the Pioneers. I said, "Ken, I'd sure like to interview the Sons of the Pioneers for a little radio show. Could you help me?"
Ken dug around in this little desk and took out a little address book. He scribbled down a number and handed it to me. "This is Lloyd Perryman's telephone number out near Studio City," he said. "Lloyd's a nice guy. He'll be glad to talk to you."
Ken Curtis was right. I called Lloyd Perryman and was greeted with the same open, friendly attitude that Ken had shown. Lloyd and I talked for I guess an hour. I recorded part of that conversation as an interview for the radio show, and I still have the old reel-to-reel recording. (I recorded the Ken Curtis interview, too, but somebody "borrowed" the tape and didn't return it).
In 1975, I was a committed fan of the Pioneers. They had lost their RCA contract and their final RCA album was "The Sons of the Pioneers visit the South Seas," in 1969. By this time, I was a disc jockey on a country radio station. The "Nashville sound" dominated country music and stations just didn't play the Sons of the Pioneers. Occasionally, however, I'd sneak one in, and listeners seemed to love the memories.
I got to thinking. If people still like the Sons of the Pioneers, why don't we hear more about them? I contacted Country Music Magazine, then headquartered in New York city; why, I don't know. It was part of a larger publishing group. I asked them if they would be interested in an article on the Sons of the Pioneers?
The woman reporter that I spoke to at Country Music was familiar with the Sons of the Pioneers. She said, "Wayne, I didn't know the Sons of the Pioneers were still around. Do you think you could find them?"
"Find them?" I replied. "I don't have to find them." She readily agreed to do a national story on the Pioneers. When I contacted Lloyd Perryman, he seemed thrilled. He supplied me with some photos and some additional material. The article appeared nationally in Country Music Magazine in June or July, 1975.
One member of the Pioneers, however, that I could not interview was Bob Nolan. I asked Lloyd Perryman, "I'd sure like to interview Bob Nolan. Do you know how I could arrange that?"
Perryman sort of grinned and shook his head. "Wayne, Bob is a very hard man to find. He spends a lot of his time up at Big Bear Lake and he doesn't appreciate being bothered. I don't mean that he's hard to get along with, it's just that when he quit, he quit, you know what I mean?"
In 1980 I was on the air at WHOS/WDRM radio stations when Paul Harvey "News and Comment" came on the air at 7 AM. Harvey was first to announce to the world: "The last surviving member of the original Sons of the Pioneers is Roy Rogers. Bob Bolan has died." Paul Harvey continued to quote one of Bob's more recent poems, "My Mistress the Desert."
It was like a family member had died. I called my wife. "Bob Nolan died," I said. She knew how I felt. There are millions of people today who remember the day one of the Beatles died. I remember the day Bob Nolan died.
I gave a lot of thought to which song I'd like in the background. So many favorites! Could you use "Trail Dreamin"" from the 1963 Pioneers album? Understand this was arranged by Lloyd Perryman; it's very beautiful. Typical Bob Nolan.