Moonlight on the Prairie
(Bob Nolan / Vernon Spencer)
Into the sky to his throne on high
Comes the moon on his midnight ride,
To cover the trail with a silver veil
Over the great divide:
Moonlight on the prairie, campfires burning low,
Moonlight on the prairie, soft winds gently blow.
Into the night, stars shining bright,
I’ll ride o’er the silver sea,
Jogging along, singing a song,
Moonlight on the prairie.
Twilight will come at each set of sun
Again my trail will wind,
Out on the plains where moonlight reigns
Leaving all cares behind.
Painting by Thomas Wosik
One of Bob Nolan and Tim Spencer's few collaborations, "Moonlight on the Prairie" was also one of their earliest publications, first by Sunset Music in 1934 and later that year by M. Witmark and Sons. An immediate hit, the Sons of the Pioneers recorded it for Decca on August 8, 1934 and shortly afterward for the Standard Radio Transcriptions.
The following year, 1935, it was picked up for a Warner Brothers short film "Radio Scout" featuring comedian, El Brendel. The Sons of the Pioneers, aka as the Gold Star Rangers at that time, sang "Moonlight in the Valley", a simple variation of the original "Moonlight on the Prairie":
Moonlight in the valley,
campfires burning low,
Warner Brothers also used it as the title song for a Dick Foran western at the end of 1935 although the Pioneers did not appear in the film with him this time. On a 10-2-4 radio program in August 1945 and another time in 1946, Martha Mears and Bob Nolan discuss the song's origin.
The song was picked up by Shug Fisher and his Ranch Boys, Sonny Dawson, The Beverly Hill Billies, Foy Willing & the Riders of the Purple Sage, Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys as well as modern groups such as The Tumbling Tumbleweeds. You are listening to Dick Foran as you read this. (Many thanks to OJ Sikes for providing the selections.)
Decca on August 8, 1934
Radio Scout, 1935, as "Moonlight in the Valley"
Shug Fisher and his Ranch Boys
First publication by Sunset Music (1934).
M. Witmark and Sons (1934)
Clips from "Radio Scout",1935. The radio announcer is Brendel. The Pioneers are sitting on a log and each is shot off it in turn until only Roy is singing.
NBC Thesaurus 1981 Side A G7-MM-9550-B
10-2-4 Time Show Date: 03/17/44
27 December 1951. Transcription Disc TR-166, 167