Bob Nolan

Induction Year: 1971

Birth Name: Robert Clarence Nobles

Birth Date: 04-01-1908

Place of Birth: Winnipeg, Canada

Death Date: 06-16-1980

Place of Death: Studio City, California

Bob Nolan wasn't a cowboy in real life, but he played one in the movies. As a founding member of the seminal Western group the Sons of the Pioneers, Nolan wrote classics like "Tumbling Tumbleweeds" and "Cool Water," and helped crystallize the enduring image of the singing cowboy.

Born Robert Nobles in Canada, Bob was shuttled around a lot after their parents divorced. By the time he was 13, Bob was living in Arizona with his dad, a charming ne'er-do-well who fancied himself a vagabond and adventurer. Bob inherited the same spirit. After marrying his high school sweetheart and having a child, he ran off, drifting around the country, hopping trains, writing songs and singing on a tent-show circuit. It was during this time that he fell in love with the wide-open spaces and the haunting sound of the late-night train whistle — cowboy images that would populate many of his greatest songs.

By the early 1930s, Nolan had settled in Los Angeles, where he befriended a young truck driver and aspiring singer named Leonard Slye, who would later be better known as Roy Rogers. Nolan, Slye and another singer-songwriter, Tim Spencer, formed the Sons of the Pioneers. Tapping into a burgeoning nostalgia at the time for the Old West, the trio dressed in cowboy garb and sang saddle serenades in intricate three-part harmony. Joined by brothers Hugh and Karl Farr, they began recording for Decca Records in 1934.

Nolan's influential songs mixed Western lyrical themes with pop melodies, an idea that remains a vital element in country music to this day. In addition to the Western standards "Tumbling Tumbleweeds" and "Cool Water," some of Nolan's other notable compositions include "Way Out There," "One More Ride," "Down the Trail," "Moonlight on the Prairie" and "Round-Up in the Sky."

Between 1935 and 1949, Nolan appeared in 88 films and movie shorts, co-starring alongside Bing Crosby and Gene Autry. After leaving the group in 1949, he spent the next few decades living in California, concentrating on his songwriting. Nolan's songs enjoyed a revival in 1959, when Marty Robbins covered "Cool Water" on his classic Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs album.

In 1980, a few months before he died, Nolan recorded his last album, called The Sound of the Pioneer. Appropriately, for a man who wrote and sang about the cowboy life, his ashes were scattered over Red Rock Canyon in Nevada.
 

"At the Rainbow's End"

Sons of the Pioneers1937 
Hank Thompson1955 
Hank Snow1965 
 

"Blue Prairie"

(written with Tim Spencer, Jim Taft)

Sons of the Pioneers1936 
Rex Allen Jr.1982 
 

"Cody of the Pony Express"

Willis Brothers1963 

"Cool Water"

Bob Atcher1940 
Sons of the Pioneers1941 #25 pop
Sons of the Pioneers1947 #4 country
Vaughn Monroe & the Sons of the Pioneers1948 #9 pop
Tex Ritter & Dinning Sisters1949 
Frankie Laine1955 
Marty Robbins1959 
Jack Scott1960 #85 pop
Odetta1963 
Eddy Arnold1963 
Hank Snow1965 
Tom Jones1967 
Fleetwood Mac1982 
Riders in the Sky1983 
Johnny Cash2010 
 

"Echoes From the Hills"

Sons of the Pioneers1935 
 

"Hangin' Blues"

Lorne Greene1962 
 

"Hold That Critter Down"

Sons of the Pioneers1937 
 

"I Still Do"

The Browns1959 
Willis Brothers1963 
 

"Let's Pretend"

Sons of the Pioneers1937 
 

"Moonlight on the Prairie"

(written with Tim Spencer)

Sons of the Pioneers1934 

"One More Ride"

Sons of the Pioneers1936 
Hank Snow1951 
Johnny Cash1959 
 

"Open Range Ahead"

Sons of the Pioneers1937 
 

"Riding Home"

Sons of the Pioneers1934 
Red Foley1941 
Hank Snow1965 

"Round-Up in the Sky"

Sons of the Pioneers1935 
 

"Roving Cowboy"

Sons of the Pioneers1936 
 

"Song of the Bandit"

Marty Robbins1960 
 

"The Touch of God's Hand"

Roy Rogers1937 
Eddy Arnold1954 
 

"Trail Dreamin'"

Marty Robbins1976 

"Tumbling Tumbleweeds"

Sons of the Pioneers1934 
Ranch Boys1934 
Gene Autry Trio1935 
Bill Boyd1936 
Glen Gray & the Casa Loma Orchestra1939 
Bing Crosby1940 #12 pop
Sons of the Pioneers1948 #11 country
Patti Page1951 
Roger Williams1956 #60 pop
Billy Vaughn1958 #30 pop
Pat & Shirley Boone1959 
Frankie Laine1962 
Ferlin Husky1962 
Clint Eastwood1963 
Eddy Arnold1963 
The Supremes1965 
Hank Snow1965 
Marty Robbins1979 
Moe Bandy1982 
Roy Clark1982 
Riders in the Sky1983 
Leon Russell1984 
Willie Nelson1984 
Michael Martin Murphey1990 

"Way Out There"

Sons of the Pioneers1934 
Hank Snow1963 
Marty Robbins1976 

Bob Nolan

Induction Year: 1971