Tag Archives: Sons of the Pioneers

100 Greatest Men: #40. Hank Snow

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Long before Anne Murray and Shania Twain achieved worldwide fame, Hank Snow crossed over the Canadian border and became a country music superstar.

Snow was a child runaway, escaping home at age twelve and finding solace in the music of Jimmie Rodgers.   The four years he spent traveling before returning home laid the foundation for the realism that would bleed into the traveling songs he became famous for.   Snow built up a following in Nova Scotia, and then made the move to Halifax.   Living in the city caused great financial hardship for Snow and his young wife, but his unpaid appearances gave him enough notoriety to finally earn some paying gigs.

Throughout the forties, his success grew in Canada.  He had several local country hits and became a popular radio performer throughout his native country.  But it took him much longer to get a shot in America, where his RCA label refused to release his work until he became better known in the states.  He got his stateside break when Ernest Tubb invited him to the Opry stage, and that was enough to convince RCA to release his music in America.

After many years of toiling in obscurity, he was a huge success out of the gate.  Snow’s honky-tonk sound and worldly lyrics dominated the charts throughout the fifties, with many of his singles topping the charts for weeks on end.   “I’m Moving On” is tied with two other hits as the longest-running #1 single in Billboard history, spending 21 weeks at the top, and “I Don’t Hurt Anymore” is close behind, spending twenty weeks in the penthouse.

He had many other classic hits in this decade, most notably “Yellow Roses” and “Let Me, Go Lover!”    After forming a management company with Colonel Tom Parker, Snow was influential in encouraging Elvis Presley to record country music, and dabbled in some rockabilly himself, though he rarely strayed too far from his country roots.

Even as the Nashville Sound began to dominate, Snow remained relevant, scoring big hits throughout the sixties and early seventies, most notably the #1 hits “I’ve Been Everywhere” in 1962 and “Hello Love” in 1974.    Snow released many LPs that were united in themes like traveling and tragedy, and also many that paid tribute to his musical influences like Rodgers and the Sons of the Pioneers.

As his career winded down through the latter half of the seventies, Snow was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1978 and the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1979.  In 1981, he parted ways with RCA after forty-five years, but he remained an active performer on the Opry stage well into the nineties, before his death in 1999 at age 85.

Essential Singles:

  • I’m Moving On, 1950
  • The Golden Rocket, 1950
  • The Rhumba Boogie, 1951
  • I Don’t Hurt Anymore, 1954
  • Let Me Go, Lover!, 1954
  • Yellow Roses, 1955
  • I’ve Been Everywhere, 1962
  • Hello Love, 1974

Essential Albums:

  • Country Classics, 1956
  • When Tragedy Struck, 1958
  • Souvenirs, 1961
  • More Hank Snow Souvenirs, 1964
  • Travelin’ Blues, 1966
  • Tracks & Trains, 1971
  • Hello Love, 1974

Next: #39. Faron Young

Previous: #41. Ronnie Milsap

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100 Greatest Men: #74. Sons of the Pioneers

100 Greatest Men: The Complete List

Country artists are known for their longevity, but the Sons of the Pioneers make the rest look like flash-in-the-pan newbies.

First formed in 1933, Sons of the Pioneers are the longest-running active vocal group in country music today.   The lineup, of course, has changed over the years, but the original group weren’t just sons of the pioneers.  They were the pioneers of Western music, that post-ampersand genre that was once an essential half of mainstream country music.

The classic lineup included Roy Rogers, Bob Nolan, and Tim Spencer, who dubbed themselves the Pioneer Trio when they first began performing as a group.  Hugh Farr joined in 1934.  A radio announcer changed their name when introducing them.  He felt they were too young to be pioneers, but that they could be sons of the pioneers.

The new name stuck, and the foursome began recording for Decca records in 1934.   As one of the first multimedia supergroups, Sons of the Pioneers would become known not only through recorded music and live shows, but also through radio, film, and later, television exposure.   Their first big hit was originally called “Tumbling Leaves,” but to give it a Western twist, it was recorded as “Tumbling Tumbleweeds.”

Over the course of five decades, Sons of the Pioneers appeared in 87 films, recorded countless albums, and starred in their own television series.      Roy Rogers, an icon in his own right, left the band for a time to secure a contract with Republic Pictures, but the band rejoined him when their contract with Columbia expired, and they continued to work with him in the decades that followed.

Several band members have come and gone, and the original lineup has all passed on, but despite different incarnations, the band has remained successful.  The original lineup was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, alongside later additions Lloyd Perryman and Karl Farr. In 1986, their recording of “Cool Water” was added to the Grammy Hall of Fame.  Today, their Branson show remains a top draw, and they will celebrate their eightieth anniversary as a group next year.

Essential Singles:

  • Tumbling Tumbleweeds, 1934
  • Stars and Stripes on Iwo Jima, 1945
  • Baby Doll, 1947
  • Cool Water, 1947
  • Room Full of Roses, 1949

Essential Albums:

  • Columbia Historic Edition, 1982
  • Bear Family Collection Vol. 1-4, 1987
  • Ultimate Collection, 2002

Next: #73.  Tennessee Ernie Ford

Previous: #75. Jim Ed Brown

100 Greatest Men: The Complete List


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