(Tumbling Tumbleweeds - Cool
Water medley with Dave Bourne at piano)
Dave "Fess" Bourne is a
full-time pianist living in Southern California with his wife, Patty. A
trained teacher and the son of a band instructor, Dave's affinity for the music
of Bob Nolan began when he joined the Wagonmasters, the singing cowboy group
that entertained at Knott's Berry Farm from 1955 – 1968. In 1988 he formed The
Lobo Rangers with three of the original Wagonmasters and he continues to perform
western music with an emphasis on Nolan compositions.
Bob Nolan single-handedly
started an entire genre of music. Not many composers can claim that, except for
J. S. Bach. Even with Be-bop in the early ‘40s, it took Miles Davis, Dizzy
Gillespie, and Charlie Parker to establish the medium. With Nolan, I would argue
that no one is even in second place. While Tim Spencer had a few truly great
tunes, the sheer volume of Nolan’s (high-quality) outpouring of material makes a
large shadow over all the “also rans.”
Nolan called his
material “song poems,” and it is truly an apt appellation. His lyrics stand
alone as great poetry. His melodies are distinctive. For example, the structure
of “Vagabond Whirlwinds” is a revolving progression which never seems to end…it
continues to flow, like the wind. His harmonic sense was like no other. In
“Vagabond Whirlwinds” the second chord of the bridge (a III chord) leaps out and
yells “It’s a Nolan chord!”
As a full time
musician, he sought to grow and not just perform “Cool Water” endlessly, so the
wealth of Nolan material offers excellent opportunities in that regard. I
consider the quality and variety in his work to be right up there with Irving
Berlin and George Gershwin.
will always have a limited market, much like any style of music which is
historical. The Internet, the poetry gatherings, and superb groups like Riders
in the Sky have all helped to further the music, but in no way will it ever
become mainstream. Even in the heyday of the Sons of the Pioneers, the music was
not a big seller.
Nolan stands alone as a
great songwriter and poet. His images of both the desert where he moved as a
teen and the North Country where he was born shine through as brilliantly today
as when he penned them so many years ago.
Bob Nolan Demos
I Wonder if She Waits for Me Tonight - A Choir Boy Sings All Alone Tonight
Book on Knott's Berry Farm
Dave in Deadwood
of the Wagonmasters
2011 WMA Pioneer Trails Award
Tribute to Drew Daniels
Photo: Dave Bourne on Boston
Dave Bourne's Tribute to Bob Nolan
McDonald and Calin Coburn prepared to archive all of Bob's songs in the
Southern Folklife Collection
at the University of North Carolina, they decided to add an
audio example of each song. Dave Bourne generously volunteered to make clean,
new demos for each of the unrecorded songs directly from extant lead sheets,
exactly as written. These demos were archived with the
printed material. A number of these demos are found on the
page but you will be able to hear them, too, by clicking on each title in the
Beauty of Your Smile
Broken Heart Waltz
Don't Expect Me Home in the Morning
Heaven is My Island
In This Room
The Other Side of Somewhere
Someone I Used to Know
Whirlwinds (with the Lobo Rangers)
Watching the Moon Roll By
Why, Tell Me, Why?
Dave's part in the
TV series, Deadwood, has made his Saloon piano playing CDs even more popular. Check out
Dave with Ian McShane in scenes from Deadwood
(Courtesy of Dave Bourne)
Dave has produced at least 5 CDs of his saloon piano music which he made popular
during his Deadwood series. Write Dave to find out more about these CDs which
are are $17 each postpaid in the US. If you live out of the country, email Dave
also written a beautiful book recording the history of Knott's Berry Farm in
Note Dave's resemblance to Gabby
Hayes, his favorite movie cowboy?
In Dave's words:
After graduation from AUHS, I attended USC for five years. I’ve spent most of my
life playing piano in clubs in the Hollywood/L.A. area. We have lived in Agoura
Hills, California since 1977. My wife Patty is a singer, potter, and painter
We have one married daughter who lives and teaches piano in Agoura Hills. You
can see her amazing paintings on the web at
We have one son in Playa Del Rey who
plays reggae music with his band of 20 years. You can check him out at
My specialty in the past several years has been saloon
piano of the 19th Century. It has led me to many amazing old west venues all
over California, Nevada, New Mexico, and Arizona. I’ve even played a couple of
folk festivals in Lowell, Massachusetts and Bangor, Maine. I worked on the first
season of HBO’s “Deadwood” as a featured background player, and was pleased to
have them use my saloon piano recordings on the soundtrack for all three seasons
that the show ran.
I’ve done several episodes of “Wild West Tech” on the History
Channel, where I can be seen as a fiddler, and a doctor. The most recent thing
I’ve done is “The Hunt For John Wilkes Booth” that just aired In December on the
History Channel, featuring myself as a banjo picker in the barn dance scene.
still working the clubs regularly four nights a week. About once a month we go
to a fun western festival and set up the old piano.
It’s a wonderful thing to get paid for what you enjoy
doing. It’s been a great run.
On Tumbling Tumbleweeds
(by Dave Bourne)
When I hear
this great old song I always tense up when the bridge arrives. There’s
apparently a lot of individual interpretations of what the chords are supposed
to be in the first two bars. It seems that most folks play it this way.
I know when night has
that a new world’s born at
I thought I took my version from the early
Pioneer’s recording of it. My version…
I know when night has
that a new world’s born at
I came across
an original copy of the sheet music from 1934. Nolan (or his publisher) has it
I know when night
B7 Em B7 G7
that a new world’s
born at dawn
(Note The # on the Am6 chord would appear to
be a misprint.)
I kind of dig
the sheet music chords but I’m still satisfied with a straight B7 to Eminor,
probably because I first heard it that way and have been doing it for over 50
The Legacy Of The Wagonmasters
December 28, 2010
I have just tried unsuccessfully to put another western vocal trio together.
It has caused me to reflect on the legacy of The Wagonmasters. It’s interesting
to note how several of us Wagonmasters have sought to keep the music going.
During the Wagonmasters heyday at Knott's Berry Farm, from 1955 until 1968, the
basic musicians were (at different times) Dick Goodman, Billy, Bobby, and Rachel
Beeman, Harvey Walker, Eldon Eklund, Vern Jackson, Don Richardson, and myself.
After Dick left in 1959 and Don in 1962, they formed The Reinsmen, who performed
for well over 30 years. In the late 1980s I put together The Lobo Rangers which
featured 4 original Wagonmasters, myself, Don Richardson, and Billy and Bobby
Beeman. Our last concert was in May of 2005.
Michael Fleming left the Lobo Rangers around 1995 and formed his own western
trio “New West.” Although they are mostly inactive now, they still get together
for an occasional concert.
At some point in the 1990s the trio “Chaparral” was formed with Harvey Walker
and Don Richardson. They are still performing a few dates a year.
I think it’s a tribute to the western musical genre that the spirit of the music
seems never to wane. Bob Nolan’s amazing music continues to inspire.
On a final note, I found the musicians in the Wagonmasters to be particularly
adept at not only playing several instruments each, but also knowing pretty much
everyone else’s vocal parts, so we could mix and match at liberty when regular
members were absent.
I have often said that Knott’s was the best job I ever had. That still rings
pretty true with me, even today.
The Legacy of the
Wagonmasters of Knott's Berry Farm 1955-1968
Beginning about 1940, Knott's Berry Farm and Ghost Town, which is located in
Southern California, was a true mecca for anyone fascinated by the old west. The
idea for Ghost Town was born out of a need to entertain the long lines of folks
waiting to get into the Chicken Dinner restaurant.
By 1940 Knott's reputation was spreading and they were seating capacity crowds
in the dining rooms of their Chicken Dinner restaurant. Mr. Knott built his
Ghost Town not only to entertain the guests but also to educate them in the ways
of the pioneers. The principle of self reliance, with no government help, was
the foundation of this spirit so prevalent in the pioneer settlers of the old
west. Walter Knott ( 1889 - 1981 ) wanted the young people of America to have
some idea of what the early pioneers endured in building these United States of
America, where a poor farm boy like himself could rise to great wealth and
national prominence with hard work and perseverance.
The Wagon Camp was constructed in 1949. Here is what Walter Knott wrote about
it. "This seats about 800 people and is encircled by 18 covered wagons. It was
this fashion to try and give the feeling or to depict how the wagon trains
circled their camp for protection from the Indians and then made camp inside the
circle of wagons. Each evening in the summertime we build a campfire in the
center and have some kind of entertainment."
The first western music in the Wagon Camp was provided by Dick Goodman's group,
The Singing Sons. They were all still in high school in 1949 and as each one
graduated, new musicians were brought in. In 1955, the group decided to call
themselves The Wagonmasters, a name which would last until the group disbanded
in 1968. The 1st incarnation of Wagonmasters was Dick Goodman, Harvey Walker,
Don Richardson, Eldon Eklund, Jim Eisenberg, and Dee Woolem. In 1956, at Mr.
Knott's suggestion, Rachel Cadwallader, a singer from the Calico Saloon, was
added to the group. Dick Goodman said,
"We billed her as The Sweetheart of the Wagon Camp. She was a hit from the start
and a real asset to the show from that point on."
In 1958, Dee Woolem left to become The Daisy Kid for the Crossman Arms Co. and
worked as a fast draw artist and trick shooter. Don Richardson left for military
service, and Jim Eisenberg left to pursue other endeavors.
Replacements included Billy Beeman who had recently returned from Texas.
Billy's family band Shirley and the Beeman Brothers had entertained at the Farm
from 1940 until 1952. Dick Goodman continues, "We were very fortunate to recruit
a young fellow just out of high school by the name of Vern Jackson, to take over
for Jim Eisenberg as baritone lead singer in the vocal trio. Vern had an
excellent singing voice and although he had not done much, if any, harmony
singing, he turned out to be a very quick study. He was eighteen at the time. By
the end of the summer of 1958, Vern's voice was an integral part of our vocal
trio sound, so much so that we would end our Sunday night performance with a
very impressive rendition of 'The Lord's Prayer' in three-part vocal harmony
with just a single guitar accompaniment. It was probably one of the best trio
sounds I have ever been associated with."
More changes came in 1959 as Dick Goodman left the group and Don Richardson
rejoined the group having just returned from military service. Billy Beeman
assumed the leadership duties, a position he would hold through 1968.
I had started working at the Farm in 1958, playing piano in the Calico Saloon in
the mornings and hosting in the dining room of the Steak House in the
afternoons. I went to both high school and college with Rachel Cadwallader and
upon her suggestion, I was asked to join the group on stand-up bass in the fall
of 1959. I thought I had died and gone to heaven for sure.
The line-up of Vern Jackson, Billy Beeman, Rachel Cadwallader, Don Richardson,
Eldon Eklund, and myself remained from the fall of 1959 until January of 1962.
The final changes in the group occurred in January of 1962. When Don Richardson
left the group, both Vern and I left and joined the Marines. Harvey Walker
rejoined the group and Billy brought in his brother Bobby on rhythm guitar and
gave him the master of ceremonies duties.
This final line-up of Billy and Bobby Beeman, Rachel (now Mrs. Billy Beeman),
Harvey Walker, and Eldon Eklund was to last until 1968 when the Farm went
through some major changes. A fence was put up, they began to charge admission,
and the band that had entertained so magnificently for thirteen years was let
go. Marion Knott, Walter's daughter, who was in charge at the time, was later
heard to state that letting the Wagonmasters go was one of the biggest mistakes
of her life.
We worked 6 shows a day, 6 days a week during the summers and we worked
week-ends during the winter. Year after year the same fans would appear as they
always made it a point to include a visit to the Wagon Camp on their vacations.
The Wagon Camp was generally filled to overflowing and the crowd would start
applauding as soon as we started to appear on stage. We included not only
western music and humor but at one point we were joined by one of the Ghost Town
characters, Bill Hazel, who would wander in with his burro and pull up by the
campfire to recite traditional cowboy poetry.
Dick Goodman had patterned the Wagonmasters trio harmony to be almost exactly
like that of the Sons of The Pioneers. So close was the vocal trio sound to that
of the original Pioneers that in 1959 when Hugh Farr sought to start his own
group and leave the Pioneers, he came to the Wagon Camp to get his musicians.
During my tenure with the group between 1959 and 1962, we produced two western
LPs and the following line-up from 1962 to 1968 produced three folk oriented
When Dick Goodman left the Wagonmasters in 1959, he continued to pursue
western music through his next group The Reinsmen, utilizing at least one former
Wagonmaster, Don Richardson, and later Harvey Walker, Dick's love of the Sons
of The Pioneers kept that wonderful trio harmony alive for well over thirty
Today Harvey Walker, Don Richardson, and Johnny Blankenship make up Chapparal, a
top notch western trio still performing primarily in California..
In 1989 I formed The Lobo Rangers which initially included both Billy and Bobby
Beeman, Patty Bourne, and David Jackson. Jackson left the group early on and was
replaced by another former Wagonmaster, Don Richardson. With the addition of
Mike Fleming, our line up of myself, Patty, Billy, and Don was to last through
1995. We produced three cassettes in the early 90s featuring not only
traditional Sons of The Pioneers' material but also original compositions from
both Michael Fleming and Billy Beeman.
In 1995, Mike Fleming left to form his own group, New West, which included
guitar wizard Raul Reynoso, and former Lobo Ranger David Jackson. This group
would primarily feature Mike's original material. Even though they are no longer
on the road, this award winning trio still performs several times a year.
The Lobo Rangers regrouped in middle 90s with the late Drew Daniels on bass and
vocals and continued to perform until May of 2005.
Billy Beeman passed away in April, 2011. The recordings of the Wagonmasters are
in limbo at the moment but will probably be available in the near future.
• The Reinsmen CDs are available.
• Chapparal has many fine CDs available.
• New West CDs featuring the original compositions of Mike Fleming are
• The Lobo Rangers have a new "Best Of The Early Years" available.
Dick Goodman's vision of the west through those wonderful vocal harmonies has
kept western music alive in Southern California for over sixty years. I, for
one, will always
feel blessed that I was able to participate in this remarkable legacy.
Music Association Pioneer Trails Award
Dave "Fess" Bourne, Eldon Eklund, Vern Jackson and
Richard Goodman, original members of the Wagonmasters.
Eldon Eklund, Fess Bourne, Vern Jackson and Dick
Our old singing group, "The Wagonmasters" from
Knott's Berry Farm, was honored this November  with the Pioneer Trails
Award from the Western Music Association. Four of the six surviving members
performed at the ceremony at the Kimo Theater in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Tribute to Drew Daniels
We lost our good friend and Lobo Ranger Drew
Daniels to cancer on Dec. 1st, 2010. Here is a recording we did with Drew
singing the verse (solo) to "Blue Shadows on the Trail". When the group comes
in, Drew then switches to the high harmony. He was essentially a bass singer
with an amazing range. This is one of my all-time favorite western tunes and I'm
so glad we recorded a version of it when Drew was with us.
"We shall meet, but we shall miss him.
There will be one vacant chair.
We shall linger to caress him.
When we breathe our evening prayer." Geo. F. Root 1861
Dave ('Fess) and Patty Bourne with Drew Daniels (Conejo
Can-Can girls in Spain, September 2011 (First Almeria Western