Way Out There
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.”
"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.
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:
TRANSCRIPTIONS with "Way Out There"
Cue sheet from "Song of Arizona" courtesy of the Brigham Young University
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
Lucky U shows without the Sons of the
Smokey the Bear 1955: Show #1