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JACK HANNAH

(Sons of the San Joaquin)

 

Bob Nolan was a genius lyrically as well as musically. He was and still remains the greatest writer of authentic Western songs. His poetry was superb and he knew how to write songs so the poems were a marriage to the melody. No one in the Western world is his equal. Nobody. (Jack Hannah, January 5, 2009)

 

 

When our family was young, Joe, Bob and I were raised on Pioneer music and gospel songs. It was a charming life we lived and the Sons of the Pioneers were our heroes. Our dad was considerably religious and he didn't want us exposed to risqué movies so he said, "You can go to Roy Rogers movies or Gene Autry, and Wild Bill Elliott, and Johnny Mack Brown." So when the Pioneers would come anywhere in the vicinity to sing, my Mom and Dad would pack us up in the car and we'd go listen to them.

So we got to listen to the Sons of the Pioneers throughout our lifetime and as a result we knew all the songs they knew because we would sing them at home. I've got 55 continuous hours of reel-to-reel transcriptions right here in my house and it's all put on CDs. So that influence was imbedded in us like your insides are embedded in your carcass. It just seeped out of us. That's how it was.

When I was playing pro ball in the Milwaukee Braves farm system, I met the Sons of the Pioneers walking down the street in Lincoln, Nebraska. We struck up a tremendous friendship (especially the Farr Boys, Lloyd and I) and they said, "You'd like to meet Dale Evans and Roy Rogers?" I said no, I didn't want to bother famous people because they always have someone harassing them. They said, well, OK. We parted and I went to play baseball that night while they went over and did the Fair. At the Fair they talked to Dale Evans and Dale said, "I'd like to meet that young man." And so I had breakfast with her, her secretary, and their two adopted children, Dodie and Debbie.

 

 David Martin Graham photos

 

As a result, I met Roy and became good friends of the Sons of the Pioneers because we would do shows on the same show that they were on. It was always marvelous to see how humble they were and hear how they praised us. They would talk to us as if we were the Sons of the Pioneers! It was great to know those guys.

We lived the cowboy lifestyle. I ride all the time and work cattle, rope and break my own horses. It influenced my life so much that all I ever wanted to be, if I couldn't be a major league star, was a cowboy. I left pro ball in 1962 because of an injury and became a teacher and a coach. The next 30 years was spent in education.

My nephew would come to the birthday parties for my father, the patriarch in the Hannah family. All the Hannahs who revered my father would come. We'd all be in the back yard eating and visiting and Dad would always say, "Jack, get the guitar and let's sing some Pioneer music."

 

And as we sang Pioneer music Lon, who was about 28 years old, came sauntering over to where Dad and I and Joe were singing and said, "Hey, can I sing one of those songs with you?"

 

I said, "You don't know this stuff, do you?"

"Well, I've been listening to it for 28 years, and I ought to know some of it!"

So we started singing and Lonnie says, "I'm going to book us up here in the community. Will you sing, Uncle Jack?" I said, "You don't know any songs, Lonnie, just one." About a month later Lon called me and said he had booked us at the Lion’s Club in our home town. He said, “Can you and Dad teach me several songs?” We did and that was the beginning of The Sons of the San Joaquin.
 

The Sons of the San Joaquin: Lon, Jack and Joe

David Martin Graham photo


We really enjoyed the Pioneers. I knew the originals, all except Bob Nolan. I met his daughter, Bobbie, about the second year we were singing at Tucson. She walked up to me with tears in her eyes and said, "You are my father reincarnated." She was kidding but that's the way she felt. She wept as she talked to me about her dad and how proud she was of me because I was writing music in Bob Nolan's style.

 

OJ Sikes, Jack Hannah, Joe Hannah, Bill Nelson

Seated: Bobbie Nolan Mileusnich

Western Music Association Festival, November 1995

(Michelle Sundin photo)
 

Bob Nolan was a genius lyrically as well as musically. He was and still remains the greatest writer of authentic Western songs. His poetry was superb and he knew how to write songs so the poems were a marriage to the melody. No one in the Western world is his equal. Nobody. There was Stan Jones who has written some great songs, but I think the nearest one to Bob was Tim Spencer. They were a writing team that was unsurpassed in history. I have enough unpublished recordings of Bob’s and Tim’s songs that I would never have to write another song. We could go on and do new songs every time we made a new album, just with Bob's and Tim's songs. It was very rich.

 


Jack's wife, Linda, added, "The people in the business say that Jack follows Bob Nolan in his ability to capture words and pictures and emotions of the west. He's had cowboys tell him, "I know you're a cowboy because you could not write the music you write if you weren’t."

Roy Rogers said he believed that the Sons of the San Joaquin are the group singing today that are the most like the Sons of the Pioneers.


 

Western Music Association Festival, November 1994

Left back: Billy Armstrong, Luther Nallie, Jack Hannah, Roy Warhurst, Dale Warren, Gary LeMaster and Rusty Richards

Left front: Lon Hannah, Sunny Spencer, Tommy Nallie and John Nallie

Right: Woody Paul (just off camera), Don Edwards, Doug Green, Roy Rogers & Dale Evans, Jack Hannah, Lon Hannah and John McEwen

(Michelle Sundin photo)

 


 

The Sons of the San Joaquin (Jack, Joe and Lon Hannah), formed in 1987, quickly went on to remarkable success, first with the Sons of the Pioneers songs and then with Jack Hannah's own beautiful creations. The song on this page, Bob Nolan's "Happy Cowboy", is from one of their albums, "15 Years - A Retrospective". Samples and often full songs can be heard on their website www.thesons.com. Their albums are widely available for sale.

 

To find some of their Bob Nolan songs, look for these albums:

 

    

 

       

 

• To hear more of The Sons of the San Joaquin and Jack Hannah's songs, visit their website.

 

• Read the history of the Sons in the book by Ken Griffis: "Sons of the San Joaquin: The Songs, The Music, The Men". (Norken 1999). Since the book was published, the Sons have ridden on to even greater success and respect. They continue to present the West as it was and as it is today.

 

Notes from the Sons:

 

February 2, 2009.

I hope you are getting off to a great New Year.  We are!!!  We just returned from Elko, where we were featured as the "Mystery Guest Performers."  No one knew we were going to be there, and it was a fun experience for us, and it was a sold out house.  Our first appearance at the Elko Cowboy Poetry Gathering was way back in 1989.   I was older than Lonnie is now when we started this venture.  In fact, it launched our career with a bang, a career we didn't even know we had.  We only knew five songs then, and I hadn't written any songs at that time.  We thought it would be our 'one and only' serious appearance.

We had a great year in '08, and are expecting a great one in '09.   Check our web-site for our itinerary, and if we are somewhere close, come and celebrate the Cowboy with us again.  You are special to us.  You have truly enriched our lives. If you are having a cowboy festival in your city and want the Sons to come, call Scott O'Malley at 719-635-7776.

You may have our new DVD, and now we have a CD of that live show.  It is available at a special price on our web-site.  As a matter of fact, for the month of February, we are having a Valentine's special, and all of our products are on sale for 20% off.  At check out just use the discount code 5138.

We hope that 2009 is a happy and healthy year for you.

Jack