Under Western Skies

Under Western Skies

by The Sons of the Pioneers
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Under Western Skies

These radio transcriptions made for Jerry King and KFWB in 1934 and 1935 are among the earliest recordings by Roy Rogers and the Sons of the Pioneers, done at about the same time as their first 78s for Decca Records. Rogers was still known as Leonard Slye at the time, a 22 year old from Ohio who had moved to Southern California and formed the Pioneers with Bob Nolan and Tim Spencer only a couple years prior to the Decca deal. The group added fiddler Hugh Farr shortly before these recordings were made, and he figures prominently in the instrumental arrangements here, as does his brother, guitarist and vocalist Karl Farr, who appears on the later batch of transcriptions. It was a time in American radio when stations were reluctant to play commercial 78s for fear that free transmissions would impact street sales of the record, a concept that seems a bit foolish today, but was a very real perception in the late '30s. Artists got around the problem by doing special recordings that were used only for radio use, and these "transcriptions" were never mass pressed for commercial sale. Rogers and the Pioneers recorded their entire repertoire for King under such an arrangement, which came out to an astounding 300 some selections, 18 of which are collected on Under Western Skies. The sound is wonderfully clear, full, and intimate, and with the simple instrumentation of just guitar and fiddle, the vocals seem particularly crisp. Highlights include the fine version of Jimmie Rodgers' "My Little Lady" (here called "Hadie Brown") that opens the set, a convincing rendition of the pseudo-spiritual "One More River to Cross," the lovely "I Still Do," and an energetic Rogers calling out dance moves on "Square Dance" (later in his career Rogers would record a couple of albums of Kentucky-styled square dance calls). Rogers moved on to Hollywood and acting in 1937 (when he officially became known as Roy Rogers), while the Pioneers continued in ever-shifting lineups. Nolan, in particular, left his mark with a pair of compositions, "Tumbling Tumbleweeds" and "Cool Water," that are arguably the high-water mark of California's unique brand of faux-cowboy Americana. Given the fresh sounding intimacy of these transcriptions, this collection makes an ideal introduction to the earliest recording configuration of the Sons of the Pioneers.

Product Details

Release Date: 05/10/2005
Label: Varese Sarabande
UPC: 0030206665321
catalogNumber: 066653

Album Credits

Performance Credits

Sons of the Pioneers   Primary Artist
Roy Rogers   Guitar,Vocals
Bob Nolan   Vocals,Double Bass,String Bass
Tim Spencer   Guitar,Vocals
Hugh Farr   Fiddle,Vocals
Karl Farr   Guitar,Vocals

Technical Credits

Gene Autry   Composer
Jimmie Rodgers   Composer
Fred Howard   Composer
Bob Nolan   Composer
Bill Pitzonka   Art Direction
Elsie McWilliams   Composer
Jimmy Long   Composer
Jon Guyot Smith   Liner Notes
Joe Arzonia   Composer
Nat Vincent   Composer
Traditional   Composer
Jimmy Rodgers   Composer
Jon Guyot Smith   Liner Notes

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Under Western Skies 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Varese's latest collection of Sons' tunes mines some of their earliest recordings, waxed as radio transcriptions for KFWB, Los Angeles. These discs were syndicated to other radio stations, providing additional national exposure for the group's 78s on Decca. Their record label apparently endorsed this strategy, as the transcriptions were leased for radio play only, and thus didn't bite directly into record sales. These eighteen selections represent a good introduction to the nearly 300 song transcription archive (for fanatical depth, see Bear Family's "Songs of the Prairie" and "Memories of the Range" box sets). ¶ What's particularly intriguing about these tracks is that they represent the Pioneers before their fame exploded. "Roy Rogers" was still in vocalist Leonard Slye's future, and the group's song selections ranged from Jimmie Rodgers' yodels to traditional spirituals. There's a pair of excellent Bob Nolan compositions here ("A Sandman Lullaby" and "I Still Do"), but not the ones later to become the group's icons. What's most startling is how polished and mature the group sounds, no doubt due to their tireless regimens of practice and two-a-day radio broadcasts. ¶ This collection presents both the original quartet of Slye, Nolan, Spencer and Hugh Farr, and the subsequent quintet that added Farr's brother Karl to the group. Sound quality is excellent, and Jon Guyot Smith's liner notes are detailed and informative; a fine single-disc introduction to the Pioneers' early radio work!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago