After 75 years, Pioneertown's very first public radio station has finally arrived!
The Sons of the Pioneers were some of the very first promoters of Pioneertown. The name "Pioneertown" was actually derived from a song made by The Sons of the Pioneers and written by Tim Spencer titled Out In Pioneertown.
On March 25th, the Desert Sun ran a full-page ad which advertised new land for sale and invited people to join Dale Evans, Roy Rogers and The Sons of the Pioneers as Land Owners at Pioneertown: "Where the Old West Lives Again"
Though there have been many changes in membership, The Sons of the Pioneers have remained one of the longest-surviving country music vocal groups and are still an active music group to this very day. The Sons are known for their quality vocal performances, their musicianship and their western songwriting.
In 1931, Leonard Slye, later known as Roy Rogers, arrived in California and found work as a truck driver and fruit picker for the Del Monte company. Slye entered an amateur singing contest on a Los Angeles radio show called Midnight Frolics which landed him an invitation to join a group called the Rocky Mountaineers.
Later that year a man named Bob Nolan answered a classified ad in the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner that read, "Yodeler for old-time act, to travel. Tenor preferred." The ad had been placed by Slye and The Rocky Mountaineers. By then, Leonard Slye led the band and after listened to Nolan sing and yodel, Slye hired Nolan on the spot. Unfortunately, Nolan only stayed with the group a short time; though he stayed in touch with Slye. Nolan was replaced by a man named Tim Spencer and in the spring of 1932, Slye, Spencer, and another singer, Slumber Nichols, left The Rocky Mountaineersto form a trio, which didn’t do very well at all. Slye and Spencer bounced around through a series of short-lived groups such as the International Cowboys and the O-Bar-O Cowboys.
In 1933, Leonard Slye, Bob Nolan and Tim Spencer formed a group they called the Pioneer Trio. By 1934, the group consisted of Leonard Slye playing rhythm guitar, Bob Nolan on string bass and Tim Spencer performing vocals. A fiddle player named Hugh Farr was soon added to the group, which brought a bassy voice to the group's vocal arrangements.
Shortly after that, the "Pioneers Trio" became the "Sons of the Pioneers" through a radio station announcer's chance remark. When asked why he'd changed their name, the radio announcer said the kids he saw were too young to have been pioneers. But it seemed to him that they could be the sons of some pioneers. The new name was well received and fit the group quite nicely as they were no longer a trio.
One of the first songs recorded by the Sons of the Pioneers was written by Bob Nolan. "Tumbling Tumbleweeds" would soon become a staple of western music known all around the world. The original title was actually "Tumbling Leaves" but was changed to help give the song a little more western character.
The Sons appeared in countless films, movie shorts and a television series over the years. 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 changed his name to Roy Rogers and went on to achieve major success as a singing cowboy.
Though they were signed to rivaling production companies, Roy Rogers and the Sons of the Pioneers remained very close. When the Starrett unit broke up in 1941, The Sons of the Pioneers rejoined Roy Rogers at Republic and began appearing as supporting players in the Rogers western films.