Saturday, February 8, 2014

Sons of the Pioneers - Tumbling Tumbleweeds

Image via El Wik
You've heard the term "Country & Western", right?  You likely know what "Country" is (although the debate that lies there can be delightful and infuriating).  So what's the "Western" bit?  Please put on your hard hat, because we're going to have to excavate some musical history.

Country and Western used to be understood as two distinct things.  Country grew up in the Appalachia mountains, springing from tent revivals and landing not far away in Nashville at the Grand Old Opry.  The instrumentals included fiddles and banjos as well as guitars, as those instruments were staples of the Scotch-Irish hill music that formed the Ur-root of Country music.  Subject matter (at least initially) was very heavily oriented towards religious themes, perhaps best showcased by Roy Acuff's Great Speckled Bird.

Western was Cowboy music.  The themes were much less religious, and were explicitly about the great plains and the cowboy existence.  "Don't Fence Me In", "Big Iron", "Don't Take Your Gun To Town", that sort of thing.  Since the country was Cowboy Mad in the middle part of the last century, Western may have gotten more air time than did Country; it certainly got more time on the Silver Screen with Gene Autry and Roy Rodgers.  It was the music of the Honky Tonk, which was anathema to many parts of the old Appalachia.

Eventually, the audiences for each merged, as did the song selection of radio shows.  The music types blurred into "Country & Western".  By the 1940s this was pretty much complete.

The Sons Of The Pioneers was Roy Rodgers' band.  Roy formed it in 1933, and it's still playing today which undoubtedly makes this the oldest continuously performing band in Country & Western history (or indeed, perhaps in American history).  Performers have come and gone, but the band remains - sort of like George Washington's axe: it's had a couple of new handles, and the blade was replaced once or twice, but it's still the same axe.

Just as a point of reference on that longevity: The Sons Of The Pioneers were formed 81 years ago.  81 years before that, President Fillmore sent Commodore Perry to open Japan to western trade.

Tumbling Tumbleweeds (Songwriter: Bob Nolan)
I'm a roaming cowboy riding all day long,
Tumbleweeds around me sing their lonely song.
Nights underneath the prairie moon,
I ride along and sing this tune.

See them tumbling down
Pledging their love to the ground
Lonely but free I'll be found
Drifting along with the tumbling tumbleweeds.

Cares of the past are behind
Nowhere to go but I'll find
Just where the trail will wind
Drifting along with the tumbling tumbleweeds.

I know when night has gone
That a new world's born at dawn.

I'll keep rolling along
Deep in my heart is a song
Here on the range I belong
Drifting along with the tumbling tumbleweeds.


Rev. Paul said...

I grew up listening to an old LP of theirs, on which this song was prominently featured. Still sing it in my head, every now & again.

Good stuff - thanks!

deadmandance said...

[Insert obligatory Blues Brother's quote here]

Chickenmom said...

Haven't heard that one in ages - and I still knew the words. Thanks Borepatch!

mycrofth4 said...

Festus (Ken Curtis) from Gunsmoke was a member of the Sons Of The Pioneers. Who would have thought he was a successful singer.
He also sang with Tommy Dorsey.

Weetabix said...

I loves me some cowboy music. Sons Of The Pioneers; Riders In The Sky; Gene Autry; Riders Of The Purple Sage...

You've selected my Pandora station for the day.