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OK, how many rock, pop, country, rock ‘n roll groups can you name who have lasted 80 years? How about 70? How about 60, 50? OK, even 20?

I just goggled and found some rock bands still going after 30-40 years and a few for 52 years. Some of the bands listed had breaks in the chronology; that is, they stopped and reformed later. I don’t know this for a fact but I would venture the Sons of the Pioneers is the oldest band of any kind in America. The Flying W Wranglers of Colorado Springs is listed as the second oldest (60+ years) Western band. Now bear in mind, the original singers are no longer there but the Sons of the Pioneers has performed continuously for almost 80 years. There have been approximately 25 singers to perform in the band over the years.

The Sons of the Pioneers recorded continuously over the years. I counted about 47 albums produced from 1952 to 1987; most of the earlier albums were done from recording sessions by the Sons of the Pioneers but some of the later ones were compilations from earlier recordings. Many albums have been released during the past 20 years as different compilations of their older music. I know only of three albums recorded by the present Sons of the Pioneers during the past 15 years. In 1999 they put out an album entitled “Our Best to You”. Then in 2009, they produced an album for their 75th year celebration. Now I see (and hope to buy soon) on their website (sonsofthepioneers.org) they have another one out called Melody Mesa. I am amazed how close their sound is to the original Sons of the Pioneers’; the only thing missing is the baritone voices of Bob Nolan and Tommy Doss. Those voices would probably be hard to duplicate.

As a boy, I collected Sons of the Pioneers’ albums (33 1/3 LPM). This was in the 60’s when Western music had all but died out. I lived in High Point, NC and believe me, it was hard to find any Sons of the Pioneers’ albums in that town. The first one I discovered was Room Full of Roses, which was more love songs than cowboy; but it was Sons of the Pioneers. My second one I found was 25 Favorite Cowboy Songs. Most people buy albums for a particular song but I bought albums just because they were by the Sons of the Pioneers. I amassed a collection of about 20 by 1970 when I graduated from college. In the 1990’s I started collecting again (CDs) due to the internet and the many companies that started producing compilations of the Sons of the Pioneers’ music. So, I have bought a number of them on Amazon and EBay. My ITunes on my computer has some 2500 songs, mostly Western and a majority of them by Sons of the Pioneers; I go to sleep by their music every night.

As an individual, I can honestly say the Sons of the Pioneers has had a big impact on my life. But what amazes me is the impact that the old cowboy band had on music overall. Roy Rogers, Bob Nolan and Tim Spencer (the founders) would spend 8-10 hours every day practicing their music. They were the first cowboy group to bring harmony to such levels of perfection. They were the first group to do yodeling in three parts. Though cowboy music was not in vogue in the 60’s and 70’s, their harmony talent did not go unnoticed by other musicians.

Hal Spencer, son of Tim Spencer, said in an interview (circa 2002) about the Sons of the Pioneers:

“So many people have copied their harmonies. Here’s just a few, and all of these have been documented through interviews and books.

“Joan Baez used Sons of the Pioneer harmonies in her folk melodies. The Osmond Brothers and The Lennon Sisters both copied Sons of the Pioneers harmonies. The Gatlin Brothers is another that did. The Eagles formed their harmonies after those of the Sons of the Pioneers, and even had the Sons of the Pioneers open for them in the 1980s.

“That was something: these guys singing at rock shows.”

So, folks, these guys were not just some old shabby cowboy group but they were innovators and their influence was felt throughout the music industry. If you like their music, visit Amazon or EBay and goggle Sons of the Pioneers; you’ll find some real nuggets for a great price. And be sure to visit the Sons of  the Pioneers website where you can buy their two most recent CDs. Then, like me, you  can go to sleep every night to some really good music!

Happy Trails!

Jerry Sprague

The Wannabe Cowboy

August 14, 2013