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Way Out There

(Bob Nolan)


A lonely spot I know where no man will go

Where the shadows have all the room,

I was ridin’ free on the old S. P., softly humming a Southern tune

When a man came along, made me hush my song,

Kicked me off away out there.


Refrain: (A trio yodel that sounds just like the old train whistle.)


As she pulled out of sight, I turned to my right,

The left, and everywhere,

But all I could see was a cactus tree

And a prairie dog playing there.

Saw the prairie dog feed on the tumbling weed.

That’s his home away out there.


So I threw down my load in the desert road,

And rested my weary legs.

Watched the sinking sun make the tall shadows run

Out across the barren plain.

Then I hummed a tune to the rising moon.

He gets lonesome ‘way out there.


And then I closed my eyes to the starlit skies,

And I lost myself in dreams.

Dreamt the desert sand was a milk and honey land

Then I woke up with a start.

There’s a train coming back on that one-way track

Gonna take me ‘way from here.


As she was passing by, caught her on the fly.

I climbed in an open door.

Then I turned around to that desert ground

Saw the spot I will see no more.

And as I rode away heard the pale moon say,

“Farewell, pal, it gets lonesome here.”


(McDonald photo)



        "Way Out There" celebrated Bob Nolan's boyhood. He was a self-admitted hobo for much of his young life. Unable to afford a ticket, he used the train every chance he could - on top of it, inside it or underneath. It was the fastest way a young fellow could see the country and, because it was risky, it was exciting. The song was also Bob Nolan's first copyright song (1933 10 02) under the original title, "Away Out There" with an arrangement by his friend, Slumber Nichols, who was classically trained in music. Bob wasn't. The song also became Bob's introduction into a paid radio job that grew quickly into fame if not fortune. Bob Nolan talks about "Way Out There" and the Pioneer Trio's first audition on KFWB to Ken Griffis on January 12, 1972:


NOLAN: It was a Jimmie Rodger’s-style song called Away Out There. It was written about my freight train hoboing around the country, see. Evidently, Jimmie Rodgers was a professional hobo, too, before he finally started making records for, I believe, it was RCA Victor.

GRIFFIS: Now, this song Way Out There. Was the basis of this in a poem…?

NOLAN: No, it was just a backdrop [for] an excuse to do this train whistle yodel that I had written, see. I wrote about 8 short verses and at the end of which I would yodel like Jimmie Rodgers used to do. Jimmie used to write all his own songs and they were just short verses in order for him to yodel, see? We was rehearsing mostly my tunes. Yes. We still had the song Way Out There which we had developed now into 3-part harmony yodel, see, and it was a sensational thing to listen to because we really pepped it up and the rhythm was just frantic, it was so fast. We had developed our yodeling breaks to where we could break real fast, you know, just like trip hammers. It was strictly a gimmick tune but it was so impressive to hear that every time we sang the doggone thing, we just knocked people off their stools. We had Tumbling Tumbleweeds. No, it wasn’t Tumbling Tumbleweeds at that time. It was still Tumbling Leaves. I had written the song out in West Los Angeles and also had also finished Cool Water and, oh, what were the songs we had in our audition repertoire? We’d go from fast to slow and then right back into one of these tearing tempo tunes. We had an audition repertoire of about 8 songs that lasted for about 20 minutes, see, and this was our audition. And we never did – at the time that we was accepted – we’d never get through the doggone thing. We’d get to this one song Way Out There and when we finished that, they’d say, “Well, you’re hired!”



Bob also introduced the song in various ways in the Teleways Transcriptions in 1947-8:


"Back when I was growing up, when a guy was broke and wanted to get someplace, he didn’t hitch a ride in a car, he just hit the rods on a freight. I wouldn’t recommend that as a means of travel any more. It sometimes gets you into trouble. There’s something in the rolling wheels of a train that makes music in your ears and starts your heart to pounding. That’s the way it affected me back in the days when I was riding the rods. But then, a railroad brakeman had a different idea [and kicked me off the train.]" (Teleways)


When Bob Nolan was interviewed by Edythe Jacobs for her book, SING YOUR HEART OUT COUNTRY BOY, he told her: 


             "This was my very first tune. There was something about the lure of the road and the knights of the road that prompted me to join them. For approximately four years, my young life was spent in riding the rails and enjoying the ‘romance of the road’. I traveled everywhere in this country, moving along on a capricious thought. I actually composed ‘Way Out There’ when I was enjoying the freedom of boyhood travel."


        The song became popular because of the unusual trio yodel and the Sons of the Pioneers recorded it for Decca in August of 1934, the same month they included it in the Standard Radio Transcriptions. Cross and Winge included the sheet music in "The Sons of the Pioneers Song Folio No. 1" in 1936. In 1935 the trio and the song were featured in "The Old Homestead". A year later, a Paramount short, "Star Reporter of Hollywood" featured the Sons of the Pioneers singing "Way Out There" and, ten years later, Republic Pictures featured it again in "Song of Arizona".


Recordings by the Sons of the Pioneers:

1934 Standard Radio Transcription #1681

1934 Decca

1935 The Old Homestead soundtrack

1937 Decca

1940 Orthacoustic Radio Transcription

1946 Song of Arizona soundtrack

1950s Lucky U Ranch radio show

1950s Smokey the Bear radio show

1959 RCA

1983 RCA

2009 The current Sons of the Pioneers' 75th Anniversary show


TRANSCRIPTIONS with "Way Out There"


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Cue sheet from "Song of Arizona" courtesy of the Brigham Young University



Standard Radio Transcription, 1934  #1681

10-2-4 Ranch Show Date: 07/14/43 (06)

Orthacoustic "Symphonies of the Sage (064397)

Teleways Transcriptions: #8-58-74-220-242

Lucky U programs courtesy of Larry Hopper (some confusion of TRanscription numbers)

    18 December 1951. Transcription Disc TR-150, 151
    28 January 1952. Transcription Disc TR-214, 215
    21 February 1952. Transcription Disc TR-250, 251
    23 April 1952. Transcription Disc TR-337, 338
    14 July 1952. Transcription Disc TR-443, 444
    1 September 1952. Transcription Disc TR-499, 500
    30 October 1952. Transcription Disc TR-541, 542
    11 December 1952. Transcription Disc TR-599, 600

Lucky U shows without the Sons of the Pioneers:
    11 March 1953. Lucky U Transcription Disc TR-730, 731
    5 May 1953. Lucky U Transcription Disc TR-808, 809

Smokey the Bear 1955: Show #1



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