Spencer / Bob Nolan)
Blue Prairie, blue echoes ring, blue as I sing
Of a longing blue as you.
Weary day and lonely night
Seem to say that nothin’s right.
Everything is feelin’ blue.
Here in my very soul I feel it, too.
Far in the distant hills I hear a cry
Then a silent hush but no reply.
Prairie, won’t you tell me true
Why have they spread this gloomy blanket of blue over you?
Blue prairie, blue are the skies,
Blue are the sighs of the night wind, fallin’.
Blue prairie, blue are the hills,
Blue are the trills of a night bird, callin’.
Every beating heart beats a rhythm that is blue
And the moon has cast a blue reflection in the dew
So the wind, while on its way
Seems to cry and sigh and say, “Blue!”
Blue prairie, blue echoes ring,
Blue, as I sing of a longing blue as you.
Bob Nolan told Ken Griffis in a taped interview for his book
(Hear My Song), "Unless I
did the major portion of the song, such as Blue Prairie, I wouldn't put my name
on it. Over the years I did help Timmy on several tunes."
Blue Prairie was initially Tim's song but, unsatisfied with
it as it was, he approached Bob Nolan for help. With it's
heartbeat rhythm and its progression up the chromatic scale, the song
definitely has the Nolan stamp on it. Because Tim thought of it, Bob always insisted it was
"Timmy's song" but he couldn't erase that Nolan sound.
The Sons of the San
that they "never ceased to marvel at how the repetition of the word ‘blue’
twenty times throughout the song fails to monotonize it, but rather becomes the
catalyst upon which this song’s unspeakably beautiful musical imagery is built."
The song was so unusual
and so lyrically beautiful that it has been recorded many times by the Sons of the
Pioneers and other groups. It is still a favorite. The recording you are
listening to as you read this was made by Rex Allen Jr. and the Reinsmen.
"Blue Prairie" sheet music was first published in "Sons of the Pioneers Original
Songs of the Prairie" No. 3 by CROSSE & WINGE INC, 1937.
Listen to the complete song
Clips from a variety
of recordings are here for your listening pleasure:
1935 09 Standard Radio Transcription
1936 07 03 Decca
1937 from the soundtrack of "Outlaws of the Prairie"
1938 Sons of the Pioneers & the Stafford Sisters
1940 Orthacoustic Radio Transcription
1942 from the soundtrack of "Ridin' Down the Canyon"
1946 RCA Victor
1950s Lucky U Radio Show
1950s Smokey the Bear Radio Show
1954 US Treasury Dept. "Guest Star"
1959 RCA Victor
1970s Rex Allen Jr & The Reinsmen
1948-9 Tommy Doss with The Frontiersmen
Prairie by Hi Busse and The Frontiersmen with Tommy Doss, vocalist, courtesy of Rick Huff and Larry Hopper.
Tommy Doss and Blue Prairie
by Larry Hopper
The final recording of
Blue Prairie was a demo
made to introduce Tommy Doss to Roy Rogers and the active members of the Sons of
the Pioneers. Various contributing factors; the coming end of both the
RCA-Victor recording contract and that with Republic films, plus Bob Nolan’s
increasing dislike of road tours, all played a part in Bob’s coming split with
the Pioneers. He was not alone in his desire to step out. Tim Spencer had also
voiced a desire for personal change but was not as vocal or erratically behaved.
this growing disharmony Hi Busse, of the Frontiersmen, listened with intense
interest to the band singer at Henry’s 97th Street Corral Club and the
“Nolanesque” qualities about his voice. The band singer was Tommy Doss, known as
“Spike.” The band he was probably with was Ole Rasmussen’s Nebraska Cornhuskers
and was no stranger to Western Swing.
earliest recordings were on the Tiffany Transcriptions in May of 1947 with Bob
Wills’ Texas Playboys while Tommy Duncan was still with the group. Two months
later he recorded with Bob’s brother Luke and his Rhythm Busters for Victor but
the four sides produced did not find favor with the execs “because he sounded
too much like someone else we had.” August 18, 1947 found Tommy on one more
Tiffany with Bob but nothing was to come of it immediately.
A year later,
August 1948, a growing situation within the Playboys came to a head, driven by
Bob’s drinking. Tommy Duncan made a remark. Bob fired him and hired Tommy Doss.
Tommy worked a few weeks with Bob until he turned Tommy over to Luke’s band
where he worked with them until November of 1948 when Luke’s band went on tour
and Tommy didn’t. He remained at the 97th St. Corral and worked with Ole
Rasmussen and his Cornhuskers (a Wills’ clone group if ever there was one).
Tommy recorded, this time with Ole Rasmussen on the obscure local Crystal label.
They boasted artists like Tex Terry’s Sons of the Purple Sage, Brad King and his
Dude Ranch Gang, Casey Simmons and his Night Riders, and Carolina Cotton.
Success as a recording artist eluded Tommy.
Then Hi Busse
walked in one evening.
spending some time listening he approached Tommy, telling him the Frontiersmen
were scheduled for a record session the next day and asked if he would be
interested in cutting a demo to “pitch to the Pioneers.” The next morning,
fighting a cold, Tommy joined the Frontiersmen; Hi Busse, Don Poole, Eddie
Martin, Shorty Scott and George Morris who provided the Pioneers style harmony
backing, and recorded “Blue Prairie”.
played the disc for Roy Rogers, co-founder and voting member of the Pioneers, he
played it eight times with Roy exclaiming, “I can’t believe it… I just can’t
meantime Bob Nolan had given his notice and Tim Spencer called Tommy asking if
he would be interested in joining the Sons of the Pioneers. Following this call
Hugh Farr dropped by the club to listen and then get Tommy’s answer directly.
This would have been in June of 1949. With that response Lloyd Perryman stepped
in with the solid offer and the contract. Tommy replaced Bob Nolan in Helena,
Montana July 15, 1949.
newfound position with the Sons of the Pioneers his recording career with them
was truncated by the Victor execs that wanted Nolan on their recordings. A
contract was made for Bob to make the studio recordings and Tommy made the
are many commercial recordings and transcriptions of both Bob Nolan and Tommy
Doss, including one where they perform together on “A Hillbilly Wedding in June”
this is the rarity not made for distribution; the Tommy Doss’ demo of “Blue
Prairie” that put his feet in the Pioneer’s boots. Enjoy
Huff, Rick – Liner notes to Hi Busse CD “Hi Pardner”
Griffis, Ken – “Hear My Song, the Story of the Sons of the Pioneers”
Townsend, Charles – “San Antonio Rose: Bob Wills & the Texas Playboys”
Discographies: Luke Wills & His Rhythm Busters – Bear Family
Bob Wills & Texas Playboys – Tiffany Transcriptions
Above: Blue Prairie had its film debut
in the Columbia / Charles Starrett film, Outlaws of the Prairie in late
"Blue Prairie" was also featured five years
later in a 1942 Republic / Roy Rogers film,
Ridin' Down the Canyon.
Left to right: Hugh Farr, Tim Spencer, Bob Nolan, Roy Rogers,
Lloyd Perryman, Karl Farr and Pat Brady.
(Photo courtesy of Fred Sopher)