Home Page

Awards

Biographies

Discography

Feedback

Filmography

Lyrics

Recollections

Reference

Reflections

Search

Slide Shows

Special Features

 

UNC

Videos

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BOB NOLAN: EARLY LIFE AND CAREER (1942-1943)

 

1943 Tour Season

Madison Square Garden

 

Meanwhile, Bob's daughter, Roberta, was growing up into a beautiful young woman. Even though her mother had remarried, she would not allow Bobbie to contact her father whom she had not seen since she was a baby.  Bobbie could not remember him at all but she clipped pictures of him from movie magazines and newspapers which she kept in her scrapbook. She also joined the Sons of the Pioneers fan club early in 1944. She had taken her stepfather's name of McEniry and her address was 420-28th St., Oakland, CA.

 

Roberta "Bobbie" Nolan, 13

 

A page from Roberta's scrapbook. Her mother, Pearl, on the left, Bob on the right.

 

Bob married again on June 11, 1942 (or August 14, 1941 - Sons of the Pioneers newsletter), this time to Clara Brown, a lady so small she was nicknamed "P-Nuts". P-Nuts had come to Hollywood to find stardom but found work instead at the soda fountain in the Columbia Drugstore on Sunset and Gower near the Columbia Studio lot where Bob Nolan and the Sons of the Pioneers dropped in frequently for lunch or coffee. Bob reportedly worked on his song lyrics there, too, using any piece of paper handy.

 

Columbia Drugstore, 1939

 

They bought a house on a double lot and settled down at 4213 Gentry Avenue, Studio City, California, close to the Republic lot. When Bob was involved in a film, he would walk to the studio and, when he returned home for lunch, he would often have a bunch of small children walking with him. Bob would have a nap and P-Nuts would feed and entertain the children until he was ready to return to work.

 

Bob and P-Nuts

(The Calin Coburn Collections 2004)

 

The Sons of the Pioneers with their fan club, 1942, at Madison Square Garden, New York, in Roy Rogers' dressing room.

Martha Retsch (fan club president) is 2nd from front left. Patsy Linton has her arm around Bob.

The other ladies were members of Roy Rogers' fan club.
(John Fullerton Collection)

 

 

MADISON SQUARE GARDEN

The Pioneers were now appearing everywhere with Roy Rogers, including Washington, DC, Brooklyn, and at Roy's debut at the 17th annual Madison Square Garden Rodeo in New York City. The Sons of the Pioneers signed for 26 performances from October 7 24. After 19 days a new attendance record was set.  While they were at the Garden, the Pioneers made three weekly broadcasts over station WJZ. Roy presented Mayor La Guardia of New York City with a pair of his silver spurs while the Pioneers and all the female rodeo stuntwomen and competitors in their beautifully tailored garb were in attendance. They were all feted at the Second Annual Convention for Rodeo Fans of America at the Hotel Belvedere on October 17, 1942, and Bob found himself later at a party with the rodeo greats plus Sally Rand who was married to Turk Greenough at the time. New York's famous Stage Door Canteen hosted a performance by the Sons of the Pioneers.

 

The "airport limo" in New York City.

(The Calin Coburn Collections 2004)

 

(The Calin Coburn Collections 2004)

 

Yessir, finished a picture out at Republic about 5PM and at 6:15 we were 10,000 feet in the air and sailin' over the high Sierras. Along about midnite we were matching speed with the famous geese that fly so high over Kansas. Passin' up the details of this slow and tedious journey, I can report that 16 hours later (from the time of take-off) we were safe in the wagon yard just a half block off Broadway. (Hugh Farr,  p 3 Tumbleweed Topics, Vol 2 No 16, November, 1942)

 

Performing at Madison Square Garden

(The Calin Coburn Collections 2004)

 

Private Collection

 

Private Collection

 

New York was swell. We did 26 shows from October 7th to the 21st. Not only did we see the world's greatest cowboys in action but we heard Roy Rogers lead 390,000 people in Home on the Range. 15,000 at each performance...and did them Brooklyn buckaroos bust a lung on that famous western ballad. (Hugh Farr, p. 3 Tumbleweed Topics Vol 2 No 16, November, 1942)

 

 

IT SEEMS TO ME
(Tim Spencer, 1942)

I stood there on Broadway and gazed
At towers and temples, jumbled maze
Of steel and stone and masonry
I could but think, it seems to me,
With all the boundless lands we own
We're fools to live in cliffs of stone
When there are breezes wild and free
I could but think it, seems to me,
That folks in subways, jammed to death
Just breathin' of each other's breath
Should chuck it all and go and see
The open range it seems to me.
When there's so much of space and room
Where kids could play, where flowers bloom
On shady carpets 'neath a tree
We've missed the boat, it seems to me.
I stood down where the "forties" roar
And wondered what they're roarin' for
The magic city's symphony
Of clan and bang it seems to me.
Oh, you New Yorkers with your speed
Your Forty-Second Street stampede
Too much for me I'd never be
A city guy it seems to me.

 

 

The Sons of the Pioneers' secretary, Nancy Kendall, was good with verse, too. Her descriptions of each member of the group are priceless:


THUS SPEAKS THE SECRETARY

by Nancy Kendall

And now the sissy pioneer
Proceeds to get all set
For typin' up the magazine
Each month (sometimes) you get.

She knows that lots of charmin' girls
Are envious of her
That they would like to have as pals
The gang she's workin' fer.

But life is not all sunshine
I have troubles, too, my dears
It's not a bed of roses
Workin' for the Pioneers.

For Tim will say, "It seems to me
"You're changing what I said.
"I didn't say that there, at all
"I said this here instead."

Then basso-voice Hugh Farr stalks in
Says, "Come on! Show some speed
We've got to get things rollin' here
I mean the Tumbleweed.

Then Karl tunes up and starts to play
Some rattling cowboy conga
And when I ask him what the heck?
He just says, "tonga-tonga".

Then typing Lloyd's letters home
Can be an awful pain
Each time he writes to Blossom
His tears fall just like rain.

And Pat won't get his column in
His disposition's sweet
But when I say, "Let's go to work,"
Old Pat just says: "Let's eat."

And Bob takes all the letters home
He reads them, I suppose,
But when I say, "Let's answer them",
He just looks up his nose.

But still with all my woes and fears
I wouldn't want to change
I wouldn't leave my Pioneers
Or home here on the range.
(Tumbleweed Topics No. 16 November 1942 Vol 2 No. 16)

 

After New York City, they signed for three weeks in Boston, then a 9-day stand in Buffalo, New York.  P-Nuts told Bill and Barbara Bowen that Bob Nolan was a regular "Pied Piper" on the road, too. Young fans would wait for their hero to leave New York's Madison Square Garden, follow him back to the Nolan's hotel room, and while Bob rested between performances at the Rodeo, the youngsters would pass the time till his return by quietly trying on his boots, hat and gun holster while P-Nuts patiently supervised. If playing "Bob Nolan" caused too much noise in the room while Bob napped, P-Nuts would take them to the hotel soda fountain for refreshments until Bob was ready to rejoin the Sons of the Pioneers and the children could follow him back to Madison Square Garden.

 

Roy Rogers presented New York City mayor, Fiorello LaGuardia, with a pair of silver spurs.

They are watched by stuntwomen Polly Burson, Tad Lucas, Berenice Dossey, Mary Parks, Mildred Horner, Bill Clements, Everett Colburn, etc. Thomas Dewey is centre back at the top of the steps.

(The Calin Coburn Collections 2004)

 

 

Close-up of the same occasion. (The Calin Coburn Collections 2004)

 

New York City mayor, Fiorello LaGuardia, with Roy Rogers, the Sons of the Pioneers and the rodeo winners.

 

 Post Banquet party. Left to right: Berenice Dossey, Tad Lucas, Polly Burson, Sally Rand.

Back: Carl Dossey, George Mills, Bob Nolan, Turk Greenough, Bill Liebesing, Harry Knight and Peggy Holmes.

(The Calin Coburn Collections 2004)

 

Second Annual Convention for Rodeo Fans of America at the Hotel Belvedere on October 17, 1942

(The Calin Coburn Collections 2004)

 

Bob with Foghorn Clancy, longtime rodeo announcer and promoter.

(The Calin Coburn Collections 2004)

 

As we go to press (November 10th) the Sons of the Pioneers are in Boston makin' with the music for the Beantown Buckaroos at their big Rodeo. From there they shuffle off to Buffalo for 11 days, closing there November 21st. Then, back to Hollywood for two big budget Westerns with Roy Rogers to be called Idaho and King of the Cowboys. They're planning to use Bob's immortal Tumbling Tumbleweeds in one of 'em. (Sam Allen, p 2 Tumbleweed Topics, Vol 2 No 16, November, 1942)

 

Entertaining at New York City's Stage Door Canteen.

(The Calin Coburn Collections 2004)

 

eBay image

 

Undated clipping from Private Collection

 

eBay image

 

The Sons of the Pioneers being interviewed by glamorous 1930s movie star Adrienne Ames who in 1942 was a radio commentator for New York City radio station WHN.

 

Beginning with the Republic picture, Sunset Serenade, the film credits read "Bob Nolan and the Sons of the Pioneers". Tim Spencer told Ken Griffis that the group felt that Nolan should be pushed to the front because he was a handsome, broad-shouldered cowboy type,  his signature songs were an integral part of the group's fame and, finally, his unusual voice was probably the best-known of all.

 

 

(Courtesy of Fred Sopher)

 

 

 

(Courtesy of Fred Sopher)

 

The Sons of the Pioneers with fan club president, Martha Retsch.

Sunday, October 10, 1943 at the Astor Hotel, New York City

(John Fullerton Collection)

 

(John Fullerton Collection)

 

The 3 following photos were taken in 1943 at Madison Square Garden. Read articles from The Prairie Prattler by people who were there and described the Sons of the Pioneers' shows.

 

(The Calin Coburn Collections 2004)

 

(The Calin Coburn Collections 2004)

 

Bob and Tex Wilson.

(The Calin Coburn Collections 2004)

 

Roy Rogers and the Sons of the Pioneers with Paul Whiteman

 

During the War, the Armed Forces Radio Services (AFRS) featured a number of Pioneer recordings including cuts from previous radio shows. These programs (Melody Roundup) were hosted by guest stars and dedicated to servicemen. Bob, when asked later what fan mail made the deepest impression on him, answered, "From the Submarine boys during the war, who played our transcriptions while lying on the bottom, waiting for the enemy."

 

 

As early as 1940 the War Department was using short-wave radio broadcasts to inform and educate Americans overseas. In 1941 entertainment was added the mix. Departing troops were issued "B" kits ("B" for "Buddy") that consisted of radios, phonographs, 10-inch shellac 78-rpm phonograph records and 12-inch 33-rpm transcription discs of popular radio shows. Within 3 months after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the War Department began producing original variety shows to beef-up troop morale beginning with Command Performance. Command Performance had an interesting purpose. The enlisted men would request entertainers they wanted to hear and the artists were commanded to record a show for them. The Sons of the Pioneers gave of their talent freely and gladly to do what they could to encourage and support the men who were fighting for them.
 

The Armed Forces Radio Services was formally established 26 May 1942 to generate additional programming for the troops. Initially AFRS programming included mostly transcribed commercial network radio shows such as the Kraft Music Hall with the commercials removed. Soon numerous original AFRS programs such as Mail Call were added to the mix. At its peak in 1945 the AFRS was generating about 20 hours of original programming each week. The AFRS could command the services of the best writers and performers without regard to their network or studio contractual obligations. It was on Command Performance, for example, that the Sons of the Pioneers were paired in song with Frank Sinatra. And the AFRS got these services for free. These programs were broadcast to the troops overseas, and usually were not heard by Americans at home. (From Command Performance USA! A Discography compiled by Harry MacKenzie, Greenwood Press, 1996 and Brass Button Broadcasters by Trent Christman, Turner Publishing, 1992.)
 

 

The range of programs the AFRS covered was immense and during the war years, particularly, the emphasis was on entertainment. Popular and classical music and comedy and drama shows were rebroadcast over AFRS stations all over the world. The AFRS also produced many programs designed to inform and educate.

 

Shug Fisher, Hugh Farr, Bob Nolan, Roy Rogers, Tim Spencer, Karl Farr and Ken Carson, 1944

(The Martha Retsch Collection)

 

Karl E. Farr Collections

 

 

1943 Ken has replaced Lloyd and Pat doesn't leave until June.

Private collection

 

(Courtesy of Fred Sopher)

 

And so the war intruded and changed every life. Bob's draft status was 3-A at this point. Although he didn't go into the active military, he did do much for the war effort at home by selling war bonds with the Pioneers and Roy, entertaining the troops freely, donating his time to make radio transcriptions for them, etc. Lloyd left in April of 1943 for the Pacific and was replaced by Ken Carson. Pat Brady left in June for Europe with Patton's Third Army. Deuce Spriggins and then Shug Fisher replaced Pat both on the bull fiddle and as group comic. Lloyd and Pat were sorely missed but the Sons of the Pioneers kept up their paychecks for the duration of the war.

 

  War bonds autographed by the Sons of the Pioneers on the back.

 

(Back: Hugh and Karl Farr. Front: Ken Carson, Tim, Bob and Shug Fisher)

(The Calin Coburn Collections 2004)  

 

(John Fullerton Collection)

 

(John Fullerton Collection)

 

The following group of photos from the Calin Coburn Collections was taken between April 1943 when Lloyd was called up and June when Pat was drafted. The lady in the first two is unidentified but may be a "local personage" photographed with them on one of their appearances.

 

On tour somewhere with an unidentified lady.

(The Calin Coburn Collections 2004)

 

(The Calin Coburn Collections 2004)

 

Back: Ken Carson, Karl Farr

Front: Hugh Farr, Bob Nolan, Deuce Spriggins and Tim Spencer

(John Fullerton Collection)

 

Private Collection

 

Bob Nolan

(John Fullerton Collection)

 

 

Back: Bob Nolan, Hugh Farr, Karl Farr and Deuce Spriggins.

Front: Tim Spencer, Roy Rogers and Ken Carson

(Courtesy of Fred Sopher)

 

(The Jan Scott Collection)

 

Back: Hugh Farr, Karl Farr and Deuce Spriggins

Front: Bob Nolan, Tim Spencer and Ken Carson

(Courtesy of  Bruce Hickey)

 

(The Jan Scott Collection)

 

(The Jan Scott Collection)

 

Back: Hugh, Bob and Ken Carson. Front: Shug, Karl and Tim.

(John Fullerton Collection)

 

They toured Canada this year (1943) as well as the armed forces bases in Texas, the Eastern USA while they continued to work hard on radio, screen and stage but they seem to have made time to play or else it was suggested by the studio photographer for public relations. Their popularity grew with their radio transcriptions, radio shows, recordings, public appearances and the movies. The following is a handout from one of their shows.

 

 

Baby shower for Buddie Perryman. 

Right to left: Buddie (Mrs Lloyd) Perryman, seated, Velma (Mrs. Tim) Spencer, Mae (Mrs. Karl) Farr,

P-Nuts (Mrs. Bob) Nolan, Rosita (Mrs. Hugh) Farr, Fayetta (Mrs. Pat) Brady, Claudina (Fayetta's twin sister),

Fern (Mrs. Sam) Allen, Peggy (Mrs. Shug) Fisher, Margo (friend of Fern's).

(The Calin Coburn Collections 2004)

 

NEXT PAGE