of one of John's live Bob Nolan shows.
The John Fullerton Collection.
Fullerton becomes a member of the Sons of the Pioneers
Gosh, I don't know where to begin! In June of 2007 I turn 29 years old. I can
honestly say for 23 of those 29 years I've come to greatly enjoy the song poems
and life of Bob Nolan. When Calin and Elizabeth got this wonderful website
launched awhile back, I was so thrilled to see it I told every audience at each
show and even drew a poster advertising the site, doing my best to send folks to
In the spring of 2005 I began performing a weekly Bob Nolan tribute show at a
vacation resort not far from my home near Branson, MO. The legendary Sons of the
Pioneers have called Branson home for some time now but began making regular
appearances here in the summer of 1983.
I come from a horse and cattle background. Growing up with horses and cattle was
the life at home, having cattle ranchers on both sides of the family. So, as a
youngster when I was first introduced to the Sons of the Pioneers at one of
their Branson concerts in the Fall of 1985, these wonderful songs of the West
and great outdoors fit perfectly with our family lifestyle.
I have to give my Grandma, Evelyn Fullerton, the credit for really getting me
hooked on the Pioneers for it was her idea to take us to see the guys to begin
with. She purchased the RCA "Cool Water" LP at the show that evening in the Fall
of 1985 and we got two signed 8x10 color photos of the group, too. In the months
that followed, I played the "Cool Water" LP over and over. How many
seven-year-olds today even know what an LP is? I remember the students in my
second grade class remembering how strange it was that I would constantly be
humming the group's songs at recess or on the school bus. I was just a SOP fan
who loved their songs and their harmonies. Folks often joke with me after a show
that I was born 70 years too late!!
In 1986 we saw the Pioneers' Branson concert again. My folks had realized by
then that I was really serious about the group. One cold winter day, we were
snowed in and while spending part of the day with my grandparents, I expressed
the difficulty I was having learning the exact lyrics to some of the Pioneer's
songs, especially Bob's on "Way Out There". Granny wasn't sure she had the words
but looked in a couple of boxes and did find the words to "Tumbling Tumbleweeds"
and "Cool Water" and most of the others that were featured on the RCA "Cool
Water" LP. That was enough to get me going. Now I had the exact lyrics to sing
along with the recordings.
We also had the RCA "San Antonio Rose" LP, along with the 50th Anniversary
"Celebration" album and an MCA cassette that had eight songs or so from the
early Decca recordings of 1935. Let me make it clear that at this time I didn't
know the men / voices on the recordings, only knew who Bob and Tim were, thanks
to Dale Warren mentioning them in his thumbnail sketch of the group's history at
each concert. But it was on the MCA cassette that I first heard the voice of Bob
Nolan, only at that time not knowing it was him. Years later in high school, I
would fully discover and appreciate Bob's voice and more of his songs.
When I was ten years old, my Mom signed me up for the Sons of the Pioneers' fan
club, operated at that time by Gene Davenport in Jackson, TN. Gene thought it
was great that I was such a fan of the group and always answered our letters
when we had questions, like the time Mom wrote to him asking where and how to
find the SOP song folios. Gene responded suggesting that we try garage sales and
In 1993, two great things happened that really got me to the next level that
would turn me into a diehard Pioneer fan. That Fall I had contacted Ken Griffis
and purchased a copy of his "Hear My Song, the Story of the Celebrated Sons of
the Pioneers". A great book that I'd recommend to anyone interested in the
background of the group. The day Ken's book arrived in the mail, I was killing
time at Branson's Earnest Tubb Record shop while Mom was in Wal-Mart. At the
Tubb Record Shop, they had some LPs marked 'way down, as they were doing away
with all LPs and going with cassettes and CDs only. Looking thru the "S"
section, there was one of the Pioneers with a price tag of $3.98! It was the
"Lucky U Ranch 1951-53" two-record set. When we got home, there was Ken's
package in the mailbox containing the book. Those two happenings that day were
the real icebreaker, so to speak, and soon I began a quest to locate every SOP
recording. Not long after this, I found a small number of the Roy Rogers' movies
on VHS, so then I got to see Bob Nolan, the actor, and was able to put the voice
with the face.
Christmas 1993 was a very special one, indeed. I'll never forget it. My Dad's
sister, Aunt Judy who lives about 4 hours east of Branson, borrowed a collection
of SOP LPs from someone who went to her church. She put all the recordings onto
cassette and gave them to me as a Christmas present. In this collection were the
following RCA LPs – "Hymns of the Cowboy", "Trail Dust", "Down Memory Trail",
"Legends of the West", "Songs of Bob Nolan", "South of the Border", and "Riders
in the Sky". Listening first to the RCA "Songs of Bob Nolan", I immediately
became more aware of Bob Nolan, the writer. That's when I got hooked on Bob.
There was just something about these lyrics. I can't explain it. Listening to
Bob's work, I sensed that here was a man in love with the West and Nature, and
what a great gift he had, putting it all in the form of a song poem. I soon came
to the conclusion that without Bob, American Western Music and the Sons of the
Pioneers would not be what they are today.
Graduating from Branson High School in 1996, I had spent a considerable amount
of time putting together my own Cowboy harmony trio and we focused heavily on
the song poems of Bob Nolan. What I needed were the Bob Nolan song folios and,
as the Internet became available around here, I began to come across these
online antique shops that sold vintage sheet music and songbooks. A gentleman in
Connecticut had for sale Bob Nolan's Cowboy Songs Folio No. 2. I contacted him
by email and learned that the song folio was in mint condition and he wanted $60
for it. Deal! And in 1999, a dealer in Canada had a copy of Nolan's Cowboy Songs
No. 1 and I paid $40 for it. Awesome! Any spare cash I had went to support my
mission – collecting anything and everything on the Sons of the Pioneers. A
couple of years later, eBay arrived on the scene and, in 2001, I began finding
lots of goodies there. Today my collection of Pioneers' memorabilia has grown to
over 600 artifacts and is still growing.
In 2001, a Branson vacation resort hired me to perform weekly a Cowboy-style
music show and I themed it on the Sons of the Pioneers and began showcasing my
memorabilia at these performances. In 2005, I began doing a Bob Nolan tribute
show as, thanks to Elizabeth, I was learning the truth about Nolan's life. The
audiences were responding well. Often ladies would approach me after the show
and admit they had a crush on Bob, recalling those days seeing him alongside Roy
or Charles Starrett. Speaking of Starrett, I'm blown away at how many folks
still remember him. Starrett was great and I wish he and the Pioneers could have
worked together a lot longer.
Folks often ask what is my favorite Nolan song. At the top of the list would
have to be "Tumbling Tumbleweeds". I close every performance with it, asking the
audience to sing along and to select whatever harmony part fits them best.
Sometimes folks take me up on that! One evening, while performing at a resort
for an audience of around 80, down near the stage were some harmony experts -
two different folks who had never met each other, harmonizing perfectly with me
as I sang Bob's baritone part "live". The chills hit me as I could barely finish
the song. What a feeling!
Of course, I'm a frequent performer of "Way Out There" since it was Bob's first.
I don't do "One More Ride" as often but back in high school performed it all the
time, even teaching the lead part to my Science instructor so we could sing it
in the school talent show my senior year. Others that I think are just awesome
are "Chant of the Wanderer" and "Chant of the Plains". Many times onstage, I'll
showcase both of them as a poem without the music, just so the audience can
understand Bob Nolan, the poet. "I Still Do" and "Song of the Bandit" are my
A few years back, someone in the audience requested "I Still Do" and, at the
time, I had not made a track for it featuring my voices doing the other two
parts. It sounded a little strange as a solo! I love "Hold That Critter Down"
and "When Pay Day Rolls Around", using them both as opening numbers to kick off
a show. Bob's spirituals, "The Touch of God's Hand" and "Lord, You Made the
Cowboy Happy" are favorites that I sang in churches over the past 14 years.
"Redwood Trees" I first heard on an SOP "Smokey the Bear" program. Only Lloyd
Perryman could do that song. What a voice! Lloyd was just the greatest and I
mention him in every show, performing his arrangements just the way he created
them. When it came to harmonies and chord structures, Lloyd was tops. I wish I
could have known him.
In recent times, some of the greatest moments for me are when the young people,
16 and younger, jump in and participate. Folks, America still has some wonderful
Grandparents and Great Grandparents who are showing these youngsters who their
Cowboy heroes were. It's always a joy when kids come up to the tables I display
with all the memorabilia and recognize Bob and the Pioneers, naming all the guys
individually. I always ask them, "How did you know that's Bob?" of "Who
introduced you to Bob?" and they'll reply something to the effect that Grandma
got them started on Roy Rogers movies. Now that the Roy Rogers Dale Evans Museum
has relocated to Branson, I am seeing more and more of these young fans. It's a
Several times in 2006, during my Nolan tribute concert, I would feature "My
Mistress, the Desert" near the end of the program and, before sharing it, tell
everyone the background behind it, then play the recording of Bob telling it in
his backyard that day in June, 1980. As the recording ended, I'd look out across
the crowd and there were no dry eyes to be seen. I'd make a few comments and
then close the program with "Tumbling Tumbleweeds". Again, no dry eyes anywhere,
Than you so much, Calin and Elizabeth, for all your hard work on this site. It's
a dream come true for me to see such an awesome tribute to the greatest composer
of Western Music. As long as I'm around, these great song poems will be shared
with all audiences, as I hope and pray this great American heritage will live
Fullerton becomes a member of the Sons of the Pioneers
John Fullerton with
Roy Rogers Jr. "Dusty" Rogers.
Recorded early 2008
in a bedroom closet on the family ranch near Branson, MO, John Fullerton sings
and plays all parts in these recordings.
2. Will You
Love Me When My Hair has Turned to Silver?
3. Over the
Santa Fe Trail
4. The New
6. Cowboy Camp
7. Old Pioneer
8. Yippi Yi
Your Troubles Away
9. By a
Campfire on the Trail
10. There's a Rainbow
Over the Range
11. Timber Trail
12. Room Full of
13. Read the Bible
14. Circuit Ridin'
15. Praise God,
16. The Everlasting
Hills of Oklahoma
If you wish to
purchase this CD, please email John:
Price is $10
including shipping and handling.
January 12, 2011
Today Tommy Nallie and I got to hang out at Dick &
Dixie Goodman's house in Surprise, Arizona! Dusty and all of us are out here for
a show at the Happy Trails Resort. Since we flew, Tommy & I chose to rent
instruments when we got here. Luther told Dick we were comin out and was gonna
rent so Dick says to have Tommy call, so next thing I know, Tommy gets to play
Dick's bass! Dick picked us up this morning and he takes us to his home and we
meet their family! Dick gives me the option of two guitars, his 1950 Martin
d-28, or Bob Nolan's 1970s Guild guitar! You know which one I picked!!! This is
the blond guitar seen in the 1978 photo where Rusty is holding the sheet music,
they're in the backyard, Bob is playing the Guild. What a guitar! I broke the D
string during "Along the Santa Fe Trail!"
In the pocket of the guitar case is the receipt from April 1977 for the guitar
and a print of the photo i mentioned. I have photographed all of this and will
be sharing it with you soon! What a day! Two years ago i got to wear Bob's vest!
Now I played his guitar in a show!!!! WOW!!!!
I've not done a show since Dec. 13, it feels great to get caught up on some
around the house! I've spent the past two days cleaning and organizing my office
and found some great items that will make great stocking stuffers...
found a six CD set of the Sons of the Pioneers NBC Orthacoustic series from
1940. This is an awesome package that includes 201 songs, each disc features 30
Be the very first to reply to this email if you wish to purchase this set and
it's yours for $25.00
Also I found ten copies of my 15th Anniversary collection CD from 3 years ago.
We are letting these go for $10.00, these are the last copies I have and it will
be retired once they are gone! Songs are: The Night Guard, Far Enchanted
Isle, Empty Saddles, There's A Blue Sky Way Out Yonder, Ghost Riders in the Sky,
Cowboy's Dream, El Paso, Little Joe the Wrangler, Sioux City Sue, Lead Me Gently
Home Father, Ridin' the Winds of the West , You Must Come In At the Door,
Tumbleweed Trail, The Sea Walker and Blue Shadows On the Trail
still have my new 2011 Cowboy Christmas CD, along with a Bluegrass Quartet
collection, and a Best of the West CD.This new three pack is just $20.00 plus
$3.00 S & H.
(Don't forget, my solo CDs feature my one-man band, as I do all the voices and
instruments. The Bluegrass Quartet CD was a fun one to record, I'm doing
primarily 4 voices and two instruments on that one.)
Send a check or money order payable to:
John Fullerton PO Box 523 Branson, MO 65615
John, Luanna, Mykee & Bo wish you many Happy Trails & a Merry Christmas!
Thank you, John, for sharing your
reflections - and your
photos and your copies of
Tumbleweed Topics with us!