Sons of the Pioneers

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Sons of the Pioneers
Sons-of-the-Pioneers-1946.jpg
Roy Rogers and the Sons of the Pioneers in Rainbow Over Texas (1946)
Background information
Genres Country, Western
Years active 1933–present
Labels Decca, RCA, Vocalion
Associated acts Roy Rogers
Website Official website
Past members

Roy Rogers
Bob Nolan
Tim Spencer
Hugh Farr
Karl Farr
Lloyd Perryman
Pat Brady
Ken Carson
Deuce Spriggens
Shug Fisher
Ken Curtis
Tommy Doss
Dale Warren
George Bamby
Rusty Richards
Luther Nallie

See the Timeline

The Sons of the Pioneers are one of America's earliest Western singing groups[1] whose classic recordings set a new standard for performers of Western music.[2] Known for the high quality of their vocal performances, musicianship, and songwriting,[3] they produced finely-crafted and innovative recordings that have inspired many Western music performers and remained popular through the years. Since 1933, through many changes in membership, the Sons of the Pioneers have remained one of the longest-surviving country music vocal groups in history.[4]

Origins[edit]

In the spring of 1931, Ohio-born Leonard Slye—the cowboy singer who would later change his name to Roy Rogers—arrived in California and found work as a truck driver, and later as a fruit picker for the Del Monte company in California's Central Valley. He entered an amateur singing contest on a Los Angeles radio show called Midnight Frolics and a few days later got an invitation to join a group called the Rocky Mountaineers.[5]

In September 1931, Canadian-born Bob Nolan answered a classified ad in the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner that read, "Yodeler for old-time act, to travel. Tenor preferred." The band was The Rocky Mountaineers, by then led by Leonard Slye. After listening to the tall, slender, tanned Nolan sing and yodel, Slye hired Nolan on the spot. Although Nolan stayed with the group only a short time, he stayed in touch with Slye. Nolan was replaced by Tim Spencer, who had been working in a Safeway Stores warehouse.[4]

In the spring of 1932, Slye, Spencer, and another singer, Slumber Nichols, left the Rocky Mountaineers to form a trio, which soon failed. Throughout most of 1932, Slye and Spencer moved through a series of short-lived groups like the International Cowboys and the O-Bar-O Cowboys. Spencer left the O-Bar-O Cowboys and quit music for a while. Slye joined Jack LeFevre and His Texas Outlaws, who were a popular act on a local Los Angeles radio station.[6]

In early 1933, Slye, Nolan, and Spencer formed a group called the Pioneer Trio. The three young singers rehearsed for weeks honing their singing. While Slye continued to work with his radio singing group, Spencer and Nolan began writing songs for the group.[4]

Early success[edit]

By early 1934, the group consisted of Leonard Slye, Bob Nolan, and Tim Spencer on vocals, with Nolan playing string bass and Slye playing rhythm guitar. During that time, fiddle player Hugh Farr joined the group, adding a bass voice to the group's vocal arrangements. He also sang lead on some songs. Later that year, the "Pioneers Trio" became the "Sons of the Pioneers" through a radio station announcer's chance remark. Asked why he'd changed their name, the announcer said they were too young to have been pioneers, but that they could be sons of pioneers. The name was received well and fit the group, who were no longer a trio.[4]

By the summer of 1934, the Sons of the Pioneers' popularity and fame extended beyond the Los Angeles area and quickly spread across the United States through short syndicated radio segments that were rebroadcast all over the country. They signed a recording contract with the newly founded Decca label, and on August 8, 1934, the Sons of the Pioneers made their first commercial recording. That same day, the immensely popular crooner Bing Crosby also made his first Decca session.[4]

One of the first songs recorded by the Sons of the Pioneers during that first August session was written by Bob Nolan, "Tumbling Tumbleweeds", that would soon become a staple in their repertoire. The original title "Tumbling Leaves" was changed to give the song a western character. Over the next two years the group would record 32 songs for Decca.[7]

Film and television career[edit]

Between 1935 and 1984, the Sons of the Pioneers appeared in 87 films, several movie shorts, and a television series.[8] In 1937, the Sons Of The Pioneers signed a deal with Columbia Pictures to appear in a number of movies. In 1938, Leonard Slye was offered a contract as an actor with rival Republic Pictures. Part of that deal required him to officially leave the group. Leonard Slye changed his name to Roy Rogers, and went on to achieve major success as a singing cowboy in the movies. Roy Rogers and the Sons of the Pioneers still remained close throughout the coming years. When their contract with Columbia Pictures ended, they signed a new contract with Republic Pictures to be with Roy. They were soon appearing as highly popular supporting players in many of Roy Rogers' movies.[9]

In addition to their appearances and filmed performances, their music was used in numerous other films and television shows. They recorded songs for the John Ford movies Wagon Master in 1949 and Rio Grande in 1950, and performed the theme song for the John Ford classic The Searchers in 1956. "Tumbling Tumbleweeds" was used in the Coen Brothers film The Big Lebowski in 1998.

Passing of an era[edit]

In 1971, Bob Nolan and Tim Spencer were both elected to the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. In 1972, most of the surviving members of the Sons of the Pioneers, including the original Pioneer Trio of Roy Rogers, Bob Nolan, and Tim Spencer, gathered at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles for one last performance. In 1976, the Sons of the Pioneers were inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

In 1979, Bob Nolan returned to the studio for the final time and recorded a successful solo album of classics and newer compositions titled Bob Nolan – The Sound of a Pioneer.

The late 1970s saw the passing of an era, as many of the founding members of the group died. Tim Spencer died on April 26, 1976. Lloyd Perryman, who had been with the group since 1936, died on May 31, 1977. Hugh Farr, who had retired from the group in 1958, died on April 17, 1980. Bob Nolan died on June 16, 1980.

Sons of the Pioneers today[edit]

Following the death of Lloyd Perryman in 1977, Dale Warren, who had joined the group in 1952 and continued on until his death on August 8, 2008, took over the leadership of the Sons of the Pioneers, guiding them into the 2000s. They continued to perform in concert and recorded as well with a lineup that featured, amongst many others, Luther Nallie (guitar, vocals), Rusty Richards (vocals), Doye O'Dell (guitar, vocals), Billy Armstrong (fiddle), Billy Liebert (accordion), Gary LeMaster (lead guitar)and Rome Johnson (vocals).[4]

The current "Trail Boss" of the Sons of the Pioneers is Luther Nallie (vocals), who joined the group in 1968. Other current band members are Tommy Nallie(guitar), Ken Lattimore (vocals), Randy Rudd (guitar), Mark Abbott (bass), and Ricky Boen (fiddle). In 2001, a book about the group was published, titled The Sons of the Pioneers by Bill O'Neal and Fred Goodwin.[10]

Legacy[edit]

In 1977, the Smithsonian Institution, which designates certain artists and performers who have made a noteworthy contribution to the arts and culture of America, named the Sons of the Pioneers as "National Treasures".[11]

In 1995, the Sons of the Pioneers were inducted into the Western Performers Hall of Fame at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

The Sons of the Pioneers were the first Country and Western group to sing at Carnegie Hall, and the first to perform at the lavish nightclubs in Las Vegas.[12] The group has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6845 Hollywood Blvd. for recording.

Timeline[edit]

Since 1933, 41 singers and musicians have been official members of the Sons of the Pioneers.[13]

  1. Roy Rogers (as Leonard Slye) (1933–37) lead vocals, guitar
  2. Bob Nolan (1933–49) baritone vocals, bass
  3. Tim Spencer (1933–36, 1938–49) tenor and lead vocals
  4. Hugh Farr (1934–59) bass vocals, fiddle
  5. Karl Farr (1935–61) lead guitar
  6. Lloyd Perryman (1936–43, 1946–77) tenor and lead vocals, guitar
  7. Pat Brady (1937–43, 1946–49, 1959–68) bass
  8. Ken Carson (1943–47) tenor vocals, guitar
  9. Deuce Spriggens (1943, 1954–55) bass
  10. Shug Fisher (1944–46, 1949–53, 1956–59) bass
  11. Ken Curtis (1949–53) lead vocals
  12. Tommy Doss (1949–63) baritone vocals
  13. Dale Warren (1952–2008) lead and baritone vocals, bass
  14. George Bamby (1959–60) accordion
  15. Roy Lanham (1961–86) lead guitar
  16. Wade Ray (1961–62) fiddle
  17. Rusty Richards (1963–66, 1974–84)
  18. Billy Armstrong (1966–72) fiddle
  19. Bob Minser (1967–68) tenor vocals, bass
  20. Luther Nallie (1968–74, 1980–2004, 2007–present) vocals, lead guitar, bass
  21. Billy Liebert (1974–80) accordion, arranger
  22. Doc Denning (1980) fiddle
  23. Dale Morris (1981–83) fiddle
  24. Tommy Nallie (1983–88, 2012-present) drums
  25. Sunny Spencer (1984–2005) vocals, multi-instrumentalist
  26. Jack Nallie (1984) bass
  27. Jack LaRoux (1985) bass
  28. Gary Foster (1986) bass
  29. Gary LeMaster (1986–2006, 2008–12) tenor vocals, lead guitar
  30. Daryl Wainscott (1987–93) keyboards
  31. David Bradley (1989–93) vocals, guitar
  32. John Nallie (1993–2000) lead vocals, keyboards, and drums
  33. Roy Warhurst (1994–97) fiddle
  34. Ken Lattimore (1998–present) tenor vocals, fiddle
  35. Randy Rudd (2001–present) lead vocals, guitar
  36. Preston Eldridge (2001–06) bass
  37. Jarrett Dougherty (2001–02) drums, comedy
  38. Waylon Herron (2004–06) vocals, guitar
  39. Justin Sifford (2006) vocals, guitar
  40. Ricky Boen (2006–present) fiddle
  41. Mark Abbott (2006–present) bass[13]

Honors and awards[edit]

Discography[edit]

Albums[edit]

  • Cowboy Classics (1952)
  • Cowboy Hymns and Spirituals (1952)
  • Western Classics (1953)
  • Favorite Cowboy Songs (1955)
  • 25 Favorite Cowboy Songs (1955)
  • Twenty-Five Favorite Cowboy Songs (1956)
  • How Great Thou Art (1957)
  • One Man's Songs (1957)
  • Wagons West (RCA Camden Classics, 1958)
  • Cool Water (RCA Records, 1959)
  • Cool Water (BMG International, 1959)
  • Room Full of Roses (1960)
  • Westwood Ho! (1961)
  • Lure of the West (1961)
  • Tumbleweed Trails (1962)
  • Our Men out West (1963)
  • Good Old Country Music (Delta Records, 1963)
  • The Sons of the Pioneers Sing Hymns of the Cowboy (1963)
  • Hymns of the Cowboy (1963)
  • Trail Dust (1963)
  • Country Fare (1964)
  • Tumbleweed Trails (Vocalion, 1964)
  • Sons of the Pioneers Best (1964)
  • Down Memory Trail (1964)
  • Legends of the West (1965)
  • The Best of the Sons of the Pioneers (1966)
  • The Songs of Bob Nolan (1966)
  • Campfire Favorites (1967)
  • South of the Border (1968)
  • San Antonio Rose & Other Country Favorites (1968)
  • San Antonio Rose (Delta Records, 1968)
  • The Sons of the Pioneers Visit the South Seas (1969)
  • Riders in the Sky (1973)
  • A Country-Western Songbook (1977)
  • Let's Go West Again (1981)
  • Columbia Historic Edition (Columbia, 1982)
  • Twenty of the Best (1985)
  • Tumbling Tumbleweeds (MCA, 1986)
  • Teardrops in My Heaven (1987)
  • Land Beyond the Sund (1987)
  • A Hundred and Sixty Acres (1987)
  • Tumbling Tumbleweeds (Universal Special Products, 1987)
  • Collection, Vol. 1 (Bear Family Records, 1987)
  • Collection, Vol. 2 (Bear Family Records, 1987)
  • Collection, Vol. 3 (Bear Family Records, 1987)
  • Collection, Vol. 4 (Bear Family Records, 1987)
  • Tumbling Tumbleweeds (RCA, 1989)
  • Sunset on the Range (Pair, 1990)
  • Empty Saddles (1990)
  • The Sons of the Pioneers (RCA, 1977)
  • Country & Western Memories (Pair, 1991)
  • Country Music Hall of Fame (MCA, 1991)
  • Songs of the Trail (Pair, 1991)
  • Our Best to You (1999)
  • Tumbling Tumbleweeds (Country Stars, 1999)
  • Teleways Transcriptions (Soundies, 1999)
  • Symphonies of the Sage (Bloodshot, 2001)
  • The Essential Collection (South Side Phunk, 2002)
  • Memories of the Lucky U Ranch (Jasmine, 2002)
  • Cigareets, Whusky...And Cool, Cool Water (ASV, 2002)
  • The Sons of the Pioneers: Ultimate Collection (Hip-O, 2002)
  • The Essential Collection (Varèse Sarabande, 2003)
  • RCA Country Legends (Sony Music Entertainment, 2004)
  • Classic Western Harmony, Vol. 2 (2005)
  • Under Western Skies (Varèse Sarabande, 2005)
  • My Saddle Pals and I (USD, 2005)
  • Classic Cowboy Songs (Varèse Sarabande, 2006)
  • The Republic Years (Varèse Sarabande, 2006)
  • Western Hymns and Spirituals (Varèse Sarabande, 2008)
  • Way Out There: The Complete Recordings 1934-1943 (BFR, 2009)
  • Cigareets, Whusky...And Cool, Cool Water (USD, 2010)
  • Sing the Stephen Foster Songbook (Varèse Sarabande, 2010)[15]

Singles[edit]

Year Single Chart Positions
US Country US CAN Country
1945 "Stars and Stripes on Iwo Jima" 4
1946 "No One to Cry To" 6
1947 "Baby Doll" 5
"Cool Water" 4
"Cigareetes, Whusky, and Wild, Wild Women" 5
"Teardrops in My Heart" 4
1948 "Blue Shadows on the Trail" (with Roy Rogers) 6
"(There'll Never Be Another) Pecos Bill" (with Roy Rogers) 13
"Tumbling Tumbleweeds" 11
"Cool Water" 7
1949 "My Best to You" 12
"Room Full of Roses" 10 26
1955 "The Ballad Of Davy Crocket"
1976 "Cool Water" 34
1980 "Ride Concrete Cowboy, Ride" (with Roy Rogers) 80

Filmography[edit]

  • Slightly Static (1935), short
  • Way Up Thar (1935), short
  • Gallant Defender (1935)
  • The Mysterious Avenger (1936)
  • Song of the Saddle (1936)
  • Rhythm on the Range (1936)
  • California Mail (1936)
  • The Big Show (1936)
  • The Old Corral (1936)
  • The Old Wyoming Trail (1937)
  • Outlaws of the Prairie (1937)
  • Cattle Raiders (1938)
  • Call of the Rockies (1938)
  • Law of the Plains (1938)
  • West of Cheyenne (1938)
  • South of Arizona (1938)
  • The Colorado Trail (1938)
  • West of the Santa Fe (1938)
  • Rio Grande (1938)
  • Songs of the West (1939), short
  • Texas Stampede (1939)
  • North of the Yukon (1939)
  • Spoilers of the Range (1939)
  • Western Caravans (1939)
  • The Man from Sundown (1939)
  • Riders of Black River (1939)
  • Outpost of the Mounties (1939)
  • The Stranger from Texas (1939)
  • Two-Fisted Rangers (1939)
  • Bullets for Rustlers (1940)
  • Blazing Six Shooters (1940)
  • Texas Stagecoach (1940)
  • The Durango Kid (1940)
  • West of Abilene (1940)
  • Thundering Frontier (1940)
  • The Pinto Kid (1941)
  • Outlaws of the Panhandle (1941)
  • Red River Valley (1941)
  • Man from Cheyenne (1942)
  • South of Santa Fe (1942)
  • Sunset on the Desert (1942)
  • Romance on the Range (1942)
  • Sons of the Pioneers (1942)
  • Call of the Canyon (1942)
  • Sunset Serenade (1942)
  • Heart of the Golden West (1942)
  • Ridin' Down the Canyon (1942)
  • Idaho (1943)
  • Song of Texas (1943)
  • Silver Spurs (1943)
  • The Man from Music Mountain (1943)
  • Hands Across the Border (1944)
  • Cowboy and the Senorita (1944)
  • The Yellow Rose of Texas (1944)
  • Song of Nevada (1944)
  • San Fernando Valley (1944)
  • Lights of Old Santa Fe (1944)
  • Hollywood Canteen (1944)
  • Utah (1945)
  • Bells of Rosarita (1945)
  • Man from Oklahoma (1945)
  • Along the Navajo Trail (1945)
  • Sunset in El Dorado (1945)
  • Don't Fence Me In (1945)
  • Song of Arizona (1946)
  • Ding Dong Williams (1946)
  • Home on the Range (1946)
  • Rainbow Over Texas (1946)
  • My Pal Trigger (1946)
  • Under Nevada Skies (1946)
  • Roll on Texas Moon (1946)
  • Home in Oklahoma (1946)
  • Heldorado (1946)
  • Apache Rose (1947)
  • Hit Parade of 1947 (1947)
  • Bells of San Angelo (1947)
  • Springtime in the Sierras (1947)
  • On the Old Spanish Trail (1947)
  • The Gay Ranchero (1948)
  • Unusual Occupations (1948), short
  • Under California Stars (1948)
  • Melody Time (1948)
  • Eyes of Texas (1948)
  • Night Time in Nevada (1948)
  • Everybody's Dancin' (1950)
  • Rio Grande (1950)
  • Fighting Coast Guard (1951)[8]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Sons of the Pioneers". Country Music Hall of Fame. Retrieved August 24, 2011. 
  2. ^ "Sons of the Pioneers". All Music. Retrieved August 26, 2011. 
  3. ^ Green, Douglas B. Singing in the Saddle: The History of the Singing Cowboy. Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press, 2002, p. 72.
  4. ^ a b c d e f "Sons of the Pioneers". Country Music Television. Retrieved August 26, 2011. 
  5. ^ Green 2002, p. 74.
  6. ^ Green 2002, p. 75.
  7. ^ "Sons of the Pioneers". Encyclopedia.com. Retrieved August 27, 2011. 
  8. ^ a b "Sons of the Pioneers". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved August 24, 2011. 
  9. ^ "Roy Rogers and the Sons of the Pioneers". Roy Rogers World. Retrieved August 26, 2011. 
  10. ^ "Members". Sons of the Pioneers. Retrieved August 22, 2011. 
  11. ^ "Sons of the Pioneers". Grand Ole Opry. Retrieved August 26, 2011. 
  12. ^ Forsythe, Wayne. "The Sons of the Pioneers" in Country Music, April 1975.
  13. ^ a b "Sons of the Pioneers Timeline". John Fullerton. Retrieved August 24, 2011. 
  14. ^ "Sons of the Pioneers Awards". Sons of the Pioneers. Retrieved August 24, 2011. 
  15. ^ "Sons of the Pioneers Albums". Country Music Television. Retrieved August 24, 2011. 

External links[edit]