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Suzette (Suze) Spencer Marshall

(Tumbling Tumbleweeds performed by The Norman Luboff Choir)



Suze is a direct descendant of Tim Spencer's family and, raised in the company of such a musical group of people, she has countless priceless memories to draw upon. Because she was so emotionally involved with the original Sons of the Pioneers all her life, when she heard that Bob Nolan's mother was buried near her in Portland, she searched for and found Flora's grave. She continues to visit the grave with flowers and sympathy. " If it's not raining, I take my grandpa's old guitar with me and just sit there and play and sing a little."


Bob Nolan's Tucson - a guided tour of the old home sites of the Nolan family.

Though I remember Bob Nolan as a nice man we used to visit and my family played music with, I was too young to know who he really was.  We knew his music, knew he thought up songs with all the parts at the same time, which I didn't think was all that unusual since we knew all the parts.  I figured that must be why he was so quiet, as he must be listening to all those parts going on in his mind at once.  When Calin and Elizabeth asked if I might share any memories about Bob Nolan, there wasn't much I remembered about the person, but did recall a fond memory of an event I remember well when I was just beginning to realize that my childhood musical education was not the same as the other kids in my choir . . .  


As a youngster in the 1960’s, I was reared on clever chord changes, thought provoking lyrics and the rich vocal harmony of western music. Making the jump between thinking harmony and reading harmony parts in choir was a challenge for me, but I enjoyed it very much. One early fall afternoon in 1967, our choir director, Mrs. Betty Faulkner handed me a permission slip for my mother to sign. Our choir was invited to attend Eastern Oregon College for a three day workshop with the Norman Luboff Choir. I had their record, Songs Of The West, from the 1950’s, so immediately recognized this as a very big deal. My excitement increased when we were told we would be performing three songs with them in concert at the college on Saturday night.

Being the youngest in the group, at lunchtime I was required to sit with my teacher, who of course sat with Mr. Luboff. Their conversations about music were fascinating. At lunch on the last day, Mr. Luboff spoke directly to me. He commented that he had noticed I was particularly enjoying the two western songs and was impressed at how quickly I had learned the parts. He asked how long I had been reading music. I remember looking down, wondering how he knew. I looked up to him and admitted that I had not been reading the music at all. He said he thought so as he heard me singing notes that weren’t written.

He said that he was curious to know how I came upon the parts I was singing. I said that they were the color notes that match the words to the picture the song makes. I demonstrated the sunrise notes and nightfall notes that were the parts that I learned from my family. He asked if my family read music. I said I thought so, but these songs they just think up and sing by listening to each other. I told Mr. Luboff that I was sorry. I said I had just begun to learn to read music, was getting most of it, but the color notes to Cool Water and Tumbling Tumbleweeds didn’t seem to be on the page. It was confusing to me so I sang what I knew to be the right notes.

By then I had tears in my eyes and said that I understood I’d not be able to sing with them. Mr. Luboff spoke softly to me. He said, “Oh you’ll be singing with us tonight young lady and you may sing your color notes. If you’ve learned by singing the songs of Bob Nolan then you’ve had greater teachers than Mrs. Faulkner or I.” He said that he was a simple man driven by the love of the human voice in choir. He said “I will remain always under the shadow of Bob Nolan, Tim Spencer and The Sons Of The Pioneers.”



Suze has a CD for sale containing songs she grew up with, performed in the same spirit as the Classic Sons of the Pioneers. She has also written a book with Douglas B. "Ranger Doug" Green of Riders in the Sky. Visit her website at: http://www.suzespencermarshall.com/