Chief White Eagle, Princess Starlight and Ne-ha-Neé
(The Calin Coburn Collections ©2004)
This photograph was found in the small collection that Bob Nolan saved for his grandson, Calin Coburn. The back of the snapshot reads "To Bob Nolan from Princess Starlight and Chief White Eagle. Taken at Sheriff's Picinic [sic] June 21-36."
Bob wrote the song, Ne Ha Neé, while contemplating the cool clear waters of Big Bear Lake where he had his little cabin. He recalled the old Indian legends that he heard in school when he met Chief White Eagle, an extra in the movies of the 1930s, and his wife, Princess Starlight. Their baby daughter's name was Ne Ha Neé and she inspired the song he created in her honor. An Orthacoustic transcription was made in 1940 - the one your are listening to now - with Lloyd Perryman singing the solo.
The song was featured in the 1946 Republic Roy Rogers film, "Under Nevada Skies" with Roy singing the solo part with the Sons of the Pioneers' backing. At the end of the movie, the song was sung again by the full chorus and this is the best rendition of all. There was no commercial recording made.
Bob introduced the song in at least two programs for the Teleways Transcriptions -
1. "From western Canada down to Mexico - with quite a few zigzags, of course - I spent most of my early life in the Indian country. Most of my schooling came in Arizona and there I began to study the history and traditions of Indian tribes; their legends and the tribal stories of our first Americans. And here, also, was born the melodic soul of Ne Ha Neé, the Indian girl whose spirit still lives in the echoes of the lake."
2. "Her name was Ne Ha Neé, Princess Clear Water. An Indian tribe in Arizona told me her legend - how the lake, jealous of the laughter in her voice, took her from the side of the Indian brave who loved her many moons ago. And how the ripples of the lake still sing her song and the echo of her magic voice is in each wave."
Long ago, ‘twas here, I know,
Lived the fairest Indian maid.
Daughter of a chieftain brave,
Here beside the lake she stayed.
Far and near,
The waters clear,
Blessed her from their deep domain.
Blessed her with this lovely name…
Ne Ha Neé,
It must be she is heaven’s daughter
For her eyes and the skies
Form the lake’s clear water.
Sunlight plays, dancing rays
While the ripples bless her
On the shore evermore
Where the waves caress her.
Far along the shimmering shoal,
The shallow waters, clear,
Echo to her lovely voice
As she is drawing near.
See her smile, all the while,
For the sunbeams taught her
To be gay all the way.
Ne Ha Neé, Clear Water.
"As far as Chief White Eagle is concerned, he was an extremely obscure American Indian extra in 1930s, and rarely billed. He was billed for his appearance in TRAILS OF THE GOLDEN WEST (West Coast, 1931) starring Buffalo Bill, Jr. (Jay Wilsey). At the opposite end of the decade he appeared as Chief White Eagle by name on screen but not in the credits of OVERLAND WITH KIT CARSON (Columbia, 1939) starring Wild Bill Elliott. Princess Starlight appears to have been a non-professional." (Jon Tuska, December 1, 2007)