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Salute to Our 75 Year Heritage

Sons of the Pioneers

Left to Right: Tim Spencer, Bob Nolan, Hugh Farr, Roy Rogers (Gus Mack, announcer).

A Unique Place in History

Who are the Sons of the Pioneers and why do they have the audacity to claim to be "Icons of Western Music"?

The short answer is they singularly built a new genre and library of music that is an American original, one that has become synonymous with the American West and Cowboy and one which keeps enthralling generations of audiences. Although others have followed, although others have openly emulated them and although others have subsequently added to the genre of Western music, the Pioneers were the first and the best. They rightfully hold a legendary place in Americana.

What would the West be without it’s own style of music? Think of the term “the West” and you think of natural beauty, a cultural mind-set and a very distinctive type of music. The term evokes the image of the singing cowboy and of songs that paint vivid mental pictures of Tumbling Tumbleweeds, Cool Water, Tall Timber and that Strawberry Roan. The West has always had its heros but until the 1930s a distinct type of music was not part of Western lore. The public did not connect any separate genre of music to the West and the cowboy. Starting in the early 1930s the film and radio industry changed all that forever.

From the earliest days of the film industry the cowboy has been a favorite movie subject. Westerns became the bread and butter of most early studios. When musical segments were added to broaden a movie’s interest the “singing cowboy” was born. It created mega stardom for people like Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, Tex Ritter and Rex Allen. Enter the Sons of the Pioneers in 1934.

The Pioneers were different right from the start. While some screen stars sang traditional sweetheart songs the Pioneers actually sang about the West. The Pioneers' songs painted unforgettable images and stories of horses, cattle, cowboys, “night herds”, tall timber, cool water, canyons and prairies. The songs were original compositions freshly penned by the original members, Bob Nolan, Tim Spencer and Roy Rogers (then known as Leonard Sly). They created a whole new library of music. The group and their music garnered millions of both national and international fans through appearances in over 90 movies, numerous radio shows, major label recording projects and later television appearances.

Songs from the Pioneer catalog have been recorded and used by a long list of who's who in the music industry ranging from Bing Crosby to Boston Pops, Frankie Laine, Johnny Cash, Riders in the Sky and Michael Martin Murphy. (There's even film footage of Elvis Presley warming up for a concert using "Tumbling Tumbleweeds"!) Their signature songs have been recorded so many times by so many different artists that some people lose track of the fact these songs "belong" to the Pioneers.

The Pioneers inspired the creation of countless Western singing groups. As Doug Green of Riders in the Sky put it, "Any of us who sing Western music, it all goes back to the Pioneers."

The Pioneers have accumulated more types of honors and awards than anyone in Western music. They've received coveted awards from the Country Music Association, Academy of Country Music, Western Music Association and National Cowboy Hall of Fame among others. For more concerning their achievements go to the Awards page.

It's amazing - even today the Sons of the Pioneers are still mesmerizing long-term fans and creating new ones. They still have sell out crowds and standing ovations. New fans are attracted by the current members' musical ability, by their songs which haunt you long after the concert and by the mystique of the great American West. "It's not something that is connected to hit records and charts and fads. It's just an eternal interest in the American West and they sing about it beautifully and it's written beautifully and that's something that just will never go out of style." as summed up by Doug Green.

Note:

If you want more information on the history of the Sons of the Pioneers, we highly recommend Ken Griffis' book "Hear My Song" which you can find in our on-line Mercantile Store. It contains exhaustive information on discographies, filmographies, lists of compositions, old photographs and biographical information on past members.