Home Page











Slide Shows

Special Features



















Sky Ball Paint

& The Devil's Great Grandson

(Bob Nolan)


Sky Ball Paint
(Bob Nolan)

Old Sky Ball Paint was a devil’s saint,
His eyes were a fiery red.
Good men have tried this horse to ride
And all of them are dead.
Now I won’t brag but I rode this nag
Till his blood began to boil.
Then I hit the ground and ate three pound
Of good old western soil.

Singin’ hi ho, whoopee ti yo,
Ride him high and down you go,
Sons of the western soil.


I swore, by heck, I’d break his neck
For the jolt he gave my pride.
I threw my noose on that old cayuse
And once more took a ride.
He turned around and soon I found
His head where his tail should be
So I sez, sez I, perhaps he’s shy
Or he just don’t care for me.

In town one day I chanced to stray
Upon old Sheriff Jim.
For a whoop and a holler and a counterfeit dollar
I sold the nag to him.
But when he plants the seat of his pants
In Sky Ball’s leather chair,
I’ll bet four bits when Sky Ball quits
That Jim will not be there.


The Devil’s Great Grandson
(Bob Nolan)

Old Skyball Paint was the devil’s saint,
His eyes were a fiery red.
Good men have tried this horse to ride
And all of them are dead.
Now I won’t brag but I rode this nag
Till his blood began to boil.
Then I hit the ground and ate three pound
Of good old western soil.

Singin’, “Hi-ho, lad, don’t you make me mad,
I’m the devil’s great grandson.
And I’m doin’ my best to tame the west
With my great big forty-four gun.

In town, you see, to have a spree
When I meets old Sheriff Jim.
With fistic fun and my big six-gun
I buys the town from him
For a whoop and a holler and a counterfeit dollar.
Then I ask for a bill of sale
And my face turned red ‘cause the contract said
Just thirty days in jail.

Where the greasewood bats wore stetson hats
And the bad men all run free,
Where they sold the jail at a bargain sale,
That’s the land for me.
Where the desert ants wear buckskin pants
And help me rule the land.
With the ants and the bats and my two gats*
I’ll rule with an iron hand.


The lyrics to Sky Ball Paint are from "The Sons of the Pioneers Song Folio No. 1", Copyright 1936 by AMERICAN MUSIC, INC.

The lyrics to The Devil's Great Grandson are from "Bob Nolan’s Folio of Original Cowboy Classics No. 1", ©1939 by AMERICAN MUSIC


TRANSCRIPTIONS with these songs


Karl E. Farr Collection


        Sky Ball Paint, one of the most popular of Bob Nolan's songs, was based on a horse he used or owned at the time he wrote it, at some time before 1935. When Douglas B. (Ranger Doug) Green asked him the source of his inspiration, Bob replied, “That more or less came from Stuart Hamblen. He had a song called Ride an Old Paint and Lead an Old Dan and I just took the name Sky Ball Paint from that word. That was my horse, so that’s why I wrote it. But there was no inspiration. It was all fantasizing, which most of my stuff is.”

        It is possible that Bob created the name “Sky Ball” by combining the two words, “skewbald” which meant “having large patches of white and brown or any other color except black” and “piebald” meaning “covered with patches or spots of two colors”.

        In ten of the Starrett films we have viewed, Bob chose a paint horse, one of them the distinctively marked animal (above) that he shared with Don Grayson and Iris Meredith.





Sky Ball Paint was recorded for the 1935 Standard Radio Transcriptions and the paint horse in the photos above didn’t appear in the Starrett movies until 1937 in "The Old Wyoming Trail". Initially, Donald Grayson (Starrett’s second lead in the first films of the series) rode the beautiful paint pony which Bob later inherited along with the role. However, he wrote the song well before he ever rode that particular animal.

        By 1935, the Sons of the Pioneers were appearing as entertainers at rodeos and the sights and sounds had become familiar. When Bob wrote about a bucking horse he knew what he was talking about. This song was one of Roy Rogers' personal favorites and he opened many a rodeo performance with it for the rest of his life, adding his exuberantly wild yodel as an alternate chorus.


Sky Ball Paint:

Standard Radio transcription #2543, 1935 04

Teleways Transcriptions (1947)

Smokey the Bear transcriptions (1950s)

Roy Rogers and the Muppets

Roy Rogers and the Statler Brothers

Ken Curtis

The American Cowboys, 1986 (Robert Wagoner, Dick Goodman & Rusty Richards)


The Devil's Great Grandson:

The Sons of the Pioneers, ARC December 14, 1937

Cattle Raiders, (Columbia / Starrett 1938)

Orthacoustic "Symphonies of the Sage" (1940)


        Sky Ball Paint and The Devil's Great Grandson appear in sheet music and on recordings as two individual songs although the melody is the same. The major difference is the chorus although, when the Sons of the Pioneers sang the song, they would borrow verses freely from its alternate. Why Bob thought he had to re-work Sky Ball Paint in 1938 and call it The Devil's Great Grandson for the Columbia picture, "Cattle Raiders", is unknown.  Perhaps Lawrence Hopper has the answer when he reflects, "The double need for material to fill a December 14th recording session and also have songs ready for pre-production work on an up-coming Starrett film forced Bob to ‘dust off’ Sky Ball and rework it. With both the recording session at ARC and the pre-recording at Columbia, Bob moved some of the parts around, opened with the same verse and wrote enough new material to qualify the song for a separate copyright."

        Sky Ball Paint was registered for copyright on March 16, 1936 and published in "Sons of the Pioneers Song Folio No. 1" by CROSS & WINGE INC, 1936.

        The Devil's Great Grandson was registered for copyright  on February 16, 1938 and published in "Bob Nolan's Folio of Original Cowboy Classics No. 1" by AMERICAN MUSIC INC, 1939.




Lyric card from the repertoire box



Standard Radio transcription #2543, 1935 04

Orthacoustic "Symphonies of the Sage Devil's Great Grandson (064442)

Teleways Transcriptions: (Devil's Great Grandson) #46-90-165

                                     (Sky Ball Paint) #21

Lucky U programs courtesy of Larry Hopper:

Sky Ball Paint

7 December 1951. Transcription Disc TR-135, 136
25 January 1952. Transcription Disc TR-212, 213
3 March 1952. Transcription Disc TR-264, 265
10 June 1952. Transcription Disc TR-405, 406
23 June 1952. Transcription Disc TR-423, 424
29 July 1952. Transcription Disc TR-453, 454
8 October 1952. Transcription Disc TR-509, 510
5 November 1952. Transcription Disc TR-549, 550
9 February 1953. Transcription Disc TR-684, 685

26 February 1953. Lucky U Transcription Disc TR-712, 713
15 April 1953. Lucky U Transcription Disc TR-780, 781

Smokey the Bear (Sky Ball Paint) 1956: Show #1