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Sons of the Pioneers

sons of the pioneers, sons of the pioneers tumbling tumbleweeds
The Sons of the Pioneers are one of the United States' earliest Western singing groups1 Known for their vocal performances, their musicianship, and their songwriting,2 they produced innovative recordings that have inspired many Western music performers and remained popular through the years3 Since 1933, through many changes in membership, the Sons of the Pioneers have remained one of the longest-surviving country music vocal groups4


  • 1 Origins
  • 2 Early success
  • 3 Film and television career
  • 4 Passing of an era
  • 5 Sons of the Pioneers today
  • 6 Legacy
  • 7 Timeline
  • 8 Honors and awards
  • 9 Selected discography
    • 91 Albums
    • 92 Singles
  • 10 Filmography
  • 11 References
  • 12 External links


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 Mountaineers5

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 warehouse4

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 station6

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 group4

Early successedit

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 trio4

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 session4

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 Decca7 Their output includes a 1937 recording of "The Blue Juniata," by Marion Dix Sullivan,

Film and television careeredit

Between 1935 and 1984, the Sons of the Pioneers appeared in 87 films, several movie shorts, and a television series8 In 1935 they signed with Columbia Pictures to supply the music for the studio's Charles Starrett westerns In 1937, Leonard Slye was offered a contract as an actor with rival Republic Pictures Part of that deal required him to leave the singing group Leonard Slye was rechristened Roy Rogers, and went on to achieve major success as a singing cowboy in the movies Roy Rogers and the Sons of the Pioneers remained close throughout the coming years When the Starrett unit disbanded at the end of the 1941 season, the Pioneers rejoined Rogers at Republic and were soon appearing as highly popular supporting players in the Rogers westerns9

By this time the group was billed as "Bob Nolan and the Sons of the Pioneers" Nolan was reluctant to be the "leader" of the group, which had been formed as a co-operative outfit with no formal leader, but he bowed to the demands of show business; agents, music publishers, and recording companies insisted that co-operative bands needed a name to promote them as in Glen Gray and the Casa Loma Orchestra Because Bob Nolan's featured appearances with Starrett had made him the most recognizable of the Pioneers, Nolan reluctantly became the "front" for the group

In addition to their appearances and filmed performances, their music was used in numerous other films and television shows10 and for 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 eraedit

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 1980, 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 todayedit

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 guitarand Rome Johnson vocals4

The current "Trail Boss" of the Sons of the Pioneers is Tommy Nallie guitar, yodels, harmony vocals, who joined the group in 1983 Other current band members are Ken Lattimore tenor vocals, fiddle, Randy Rudd lead vocals, guitar, MC, Mark Abbott bass vocals, bass, and Justin Branum fiddle, mandolin In 2001, a book about the group was published, titled The Sons of the Pioneers by Bill O'Neal and Fred Goodwin11 Another book about the group, first published in 1974, is called Hear My Song, The Story of the Celebrated Sons of the Pioneers by Ken Griffis, and is available on The Pioneers' website


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"12

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 Vegas13 The group has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6845 Hollywood Blvd for recording

Pioneertown, California was named for the Sons of the Pioneers who were original investors It was built in 1946 as an old west movie set14


Since 1933, 43 singers and musicians have been official members of the Sons of the Pioneers4

  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, 1st Trail Boss
  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, 2nd Trail Boss
  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, 2007–2014 vocals, guitar, bass, 3rd Trail Boss
  21. Billy Liebert 1974–80 accordion, arranger
  22. Rome Johnson 1970's vocals, guitar
  23. Doc Denning 1980 fiddle
  24. Dale Morris 1981–83 fiddle
  25. Tommy Nallie 1983–88, 2012-present vocals, guitar, 4th Trail Boss
  26. Sunny Spencer 1984–2005 vocals, multi-instrumentalist
  27. Jack Nallie 1984 bass
  28. Jack LaRoux 1985 bass
  29. Gary Foster 1986 bass
  30. Gary LeMaster 1986–2006, 2008–12 tenor vocals, lead guitar
  31. Daryl Wainscott 1987–93 keyboards
  32. David Bradley 1989–93 vocals, guitar
  33. John Nallie 1993–2000 lead vocals, keyboards, drums
  34. Roy Warhurst 1994–97 fiddle
  35. Ken Lattimore 1998–present tenor vocals, fiddle
  36. Randy Rudd 2001–present lead vocals, guitar, MC
  37. Preston Eldridge 2001–06 bass
  38. Jarrett Dougherty 2001–02 drums, comedy
  39. Waylon Herron 2004–06 vocals, guitar
  40. Justin Sifford 2006 vocals, guitar
  41. Ricky Boen 2006–2014 fiddle
  42. Mark Abbott 2006–present bass vocals, bass
  43. Justin Branum 2016-present fiddle, mandolin


Honors and awardsedit

  • 1971 Western Heritage Wrangler Award from the National Cowboy Hall of Fame
  • 1976 Gene Autry Award
  • 1976 Hollywood Walk of Fame Award
  • 1977 Smithsonian Institution's "National Treasure" Designation
  • 1978 Pioneer Award from Academy of Country Music
  • 1980 Country Music Hall of Fame as the Original Sons of the Pioneers Roy Rogers, Bob Nolan, Tim Spencer, Hugh Farr, Karl Farr, Lloyd Perryman
  • 1984 New Brunswick Country Music Hall of Fame Award
  • 1986 Grammy Award for "Cool Water"
  • 1988 Texas Western Swing Hall of Fame
  • 1994 Western Music Association Hall of Fame Award
  • 2002 Grammy Award for "Tumbling Tumbleweeds"
  • 2003 Golden Boot Award by Motion Picture and Television Fund15

Selected discographyedit


  • 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, 1958
  • Cool Water RCA Victor, 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, WhuskyAnd 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, WhuskyAnd Cool, Cool Water USD, 2010
  • Sing the Stephen Foster Songbook Varèse Sarabande, 201016


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"
1957 "High Ridin' Woman"
1976 "Cool Water" 34
1980 "Ride Concrete Cowboy, Ride" with Roy Rogers 80


  • 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
  • My Pal Trigger 1949
  • Everybody's Dancin 1950
  • Rio Grande 1950
  • Fighting Coast Guard 19518


  1. ^ "Sons of the Pioneers" Country Music Hall of Fame Retrieved August 24, 2011 
  2. ^ Green, Douglas B 2002 Singing in the Saddle: The History of the Singing Cowboy Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press p 72 ISBN 978-0-826-51412-7 
  3. ^ "Sons of the Pioneers" AllMusic Retrieved August 26, 2011 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h "About the 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" Encyclopediacom 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. ^ Douglas B Green - Singing in the Saddle: The History of the Singing Cowboy 2005 - Page 79 "The Sons of the Pioneers' association with Charles Starrett and Columbia Pictures led to the most productive period of their long career In a typical film of this era Rio Grande, 1938, the Pioneers - left, Pat Brady, Bob Nolan, Karl Farr, Hugh Farr, and Lloyd Perryman — serenade Starrett, his costar Ann Doran, and assorted cast members"
  11. ^ "Members" Sons of the Pioneers Retrieved August 22, 2011 
  12. ^ "Sons of the Pioneers" Grand Ole Opry Retrieved August 26, 2011 
  13. ^ Forsythe, Wayne "The Sons of the Pioneers" in Country Music, April 1975
  14. ^ http://articleslatimescom/2003/apr/10/news/wk-road10
  15. ^ "Sons of the Pioneers Awards" Sons of the Pioneers Retrieved August 24, 2011 
  16. ^ "Sons of the Pioneers Albums" Country Music Television Retrieved August 24, 2011 

External linksedit

  • Official website
  • Country Music Hall of Fame
  • Western Music Association Hall of Fame
  • Sons of the Pioneers at AllMusic
  • Sons of the Pioneers on Internet Movie Database
  • Bob Nolan Web Site

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