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BOB NOLAN: EARLY LIFE AND CAREER (1940-1941)

 

Bob was living at 2500 Glendale Blvd., Los Angeles, California, still single. (April 22, 1940 census)

 

Bob Nolan and the Sons of the Pioneers Work Chronology

Chicago

Pennsylvania

Orthacoustic Symphonies of the Sage

 

Movies made from 1940-1941:

                TWO-FISTED RANGERS (Columbia / Starrett - 1940 01 04)

BULLETS FOR RUSTLERS (Columbia / Starrett - 1940 03 05)

BLAZING SIX SHOOTERS (Columbia / Starrett - 1940 04 04)

TEXAS STAGECOACH (Columbia / Starrett - 1940 05 23)

THE DURANGO KID (Columbia / Starrett - 1940 08 23)

                WEST OF ABILENE (Columbia / Starrett - 1940 10 21)

THE THUNDERING FRONTIER (Columbia / Starrett - 1940 12 05)

                THE PINTO KID (Columbia / Starrett - 1941 02 05)

OUTLAWS OF THE PANHANDLE (Columbia / Starrett - 1941 02 27)

RED RIVER VALLEY (Republic / Rogers - 1941 12 12)

 

In 1940, the Sons of the Pioneers began a fanzine of 8 pages named Tumbleweed Topics. Each of the men plus Roy Rogers had his own column so their fans could keep track of their favorite's activities. It was humorously and simply written, appealing to the younger fans as well as adults. Free photographs were offered and their songbooks were advertised. Their manager at that time was Sam Allen and he was also "Snowball", in charge of Tumbleweed Topics. 16,000 copies of the 10th issue alone were printed in 1941.

 

"...the Prairie Prattler was the parent of this publication. It was a one-page mimeographed masterpiece pecked out on a 1904 Oliver typewriter by our mythical man-of-all-work, Snowball. Well, good or bad, hit or miss, and lots of months we missed, you folks just kept right on writin' and askin' for more. We decided loyalty like that was deservin' of a better deal and real printin' on real paper. From the bottom of our hearts we say 'Thank you' and we hope you'll like Tumbleweed Topics." (p. 2, Tumbleweed Topics, Vol 1 No 8, June, 1940)

CHICAGO

By July, 1940, the Pioneers had procured their release from Columbia and were considering three options after their planned tour to Chicago: their own series of movies, a series of shorts or joining Roy Rogers at Republic. "Lots o' deals on right now...." (Tumbleweed Topics p. 2, Vol. 1, No. 9, July, 1940)


But first came their planned tour east. From July 21, 1940 to September, 1941 the Pioneers were away from Hollywood on their first national tour, ending up in Chicago for a scheduled one-week's appearance on the Uncle Ezra program.

 

The Uncle Ezra Show

 

The group was so much in demand that they took a vote among themselves and remained in Chicago for nearly a year, traveling up to Pennsylvania to appear at the  Sleepy Hollow Ranch, etc, for shows. They were to open in Appalachian, Virginia on July 25, 1940 with these dates afterward:
 

August 9-10 Strand, Altoon, PA
August 11-12 Rialto, Lewiston, PA
Next four days "touring".
August 17-18 Himmelreicht Grove, Womelsdorf, PA
August 21 driving
August 22 Waynsboro, Waynesboro, VA
August 23 driving
August 24-25 C-Bar-C Ranch, Elverson, PA

September 28, 1940 First Uncle Ezra program
September 29, 1940 Canton, Illinois (their wives were with them)

 

(The Calin Coburn Collections 2004)
 

The Aristocrats of the Range

(Courtesy of Kathy Kirchner)

 

Courtesy of Wayne Perryman

 

They eventually brought their families to live with them in Chicago for about nine months. Karl Farr Jr. remembers that they stayed in the North Park Hotel. "I talked to my mom and she said they were in Chicago for 9 months so the Pioneers must have made the movie parts or movies early and the movies were released later with the 1940-41 date. I stayed with my grandparents in Bakersfield, California, at that time.  Hal asked me awhile back if I knew where the Pioneers stayed in Chicago in 1940 and for some reason I knew it was the North Park Hotel. When the Pioneers were in Chicago at the North Park Hotel. Dad and Roy bowled a lot together."

 

Bob scribbled the verses to The Wind is Warm Again on hotel stationery.

 

(The Calin Coburn Collections 2004)

 

Lloyd told Ken Griffis that he recalls one performance at a theatre in Chicago that had its anxious moments. Tim was away for a few days and Pat was supposed to fill in for him but that night only Lloyd turned up for the show. As he frantically tried to prepare for a solo performance, Pat appeared and, finally, the Farr Brothers. They decided to put Hugh into the trio because Bob Nolan still wasn't there. Halfway through the evening, they saw Bob slowly walking down the center aisle eating a hamburger. He chose a seat in the front row and watched the show!

 

It was while they were in Chicago that they recorded about 200 songs for NBC's Orthacoustic Recording Division called Symphonies of the Sage.  The label read "Produced by Roy Rogers, Inc."  This set was completed in August of 1940.

 

 

Bob felt that, because the Pioneers could select and arrange the songs and provide their own instrumentation, these transcriptions were the best examples of how the Pioneers sounded at that time.

 

 

 

These recordings of Bob's songs are considered the closest to what he intended when he wrote them and had them published in American Music's song folios, Bob Nolan's Folio of Original Cowboy Classics No. 1 & 2. (More about the Sons of the Pioneers' song folios.)

 

 

After finishing 39 weeks in Chicago with...Uncle Ezra, we hit out for Pennsylvania and points in the East. Had a great time, thanks to such folks as Uncle Jack and Mary Lou at Himmelreich Grove, the Newman gang at Sleepy Hollow, Cousin Lee at Radio Park, Mr. Schwarz at Clown Park, Shorty Fencher and the gang at Valley View and ....friendly crew up on the Lone Star Ranch at Reed's Ferry, New Hampshire. (Hugh Farr, p. 2 Tumbleweed Topics, Vol. 1 No. 10, summer 1941)

 

Bob Nolan at Kennywood Park, Pittsburgh, PA

(The Martha Retsch Collection)

 

Photos by fans when the Sons of the Pioneers were on tour. Pennsylvania, 1940 08 04

Left: Bob Nolan Right: Helen Schmuck, Bob Nolan and Karl Farr

(The John Fullerton Collection)

 

Bob Nolan, Pat Brady, Lloyd Perryman and Karl Farr, Pennsylvania, 1940 08 04

(John Fullerton Collection)

 

(John Fullerton Collection)

 

Left: Bob Nolan, Pennsylvania, 1940 08 04 Right: Fan club president, Martha Retsch, with Bob.

(John Fullerton Collection)

 

Pennsylvania, 1940 08 04

(John Fullerton Collection)

 

NOTE: There is some disagreement about dates with these snapshots so we have used the dates written on each snapshot. We do not know if the dates were written on the pictures at the time or added later. The clothing is the same.

 

Back: Bob Nolan, Hugh Farr, Tim Spencer and Pat Brady

Front: Karl Farr, Lloyd Perryman and Sam Allen

July 20, 1941

 

Back: Hugh and Karl Farr, unidentified (Tony Fiore?), Tim Spencer and Sam Allen

Front: Bob Nolan and Lloyd Perryman

July 20, 1941 Valleyview Park

 

Sleepy Hollow Ranch, Quakertown, Pennsylvania,1941

(John Fullerton Collection)

 

[In 1939] a group out of Philadelphia called the Sleepy Hollow Gang were on a big 50,000-watt radio station, WCAU, and had a morning show. They had a big summer park called Sleepy Hollow Ranch out at Quakerstown, Pennsylvania. Every Sunday, this was during the War now, they booked acts like Red Foley, the Hoosier Hotshots and Roy Acuff. It was nothing to have 20,000 people show up in that park. (Rex Allen, p. 11, Arizona Cowboy by Rex Allen with Snuff Garrett, 1982)

 

Sam Allen and unidentified fan,

Sleepy Hollow Ranch, Quakertown, Pennsylvania,1941

(John Fullerton Collection)

 

Photo by Francis Bates, 1941

(John Fullerton Collection)

 

Photo by Francis Bates at Reeds Ferry NH, 1941

Courtesy of Fred Sopher

 

(John Fullerton Collection)

 

MORE SNAPSHOTS & PHOTOS

 

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