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Published on May 20, 2009
"Cool Water" is a song written in 1936 by Bob Nolan. It is about a man and his mule, Dan, and a mirage in the desert. In 1944, the Sons of the Pioneers moved to RCA Victor, signed up by the head of company's country music division, Steve Sholes (who was also later responsible for bringing Elvis Presley to the label). They would be associated with RCA longer than to any other label, 24 years broken by a brief one-year stint elsewhere.
The change in labels resulted in the first major alteration in the Pioneers' sound since their founding. Previously, they'd been a self-contained outfit, providing virtually all of the sounds, vocal and instrumental, needed on their records. RCA, however, saw fit to provide the group's music with additional backup in the form of fuller instrumentation, including small-scale orchestration. At first, it worked reasonably well, as the Pioneers re-recorded several of their standards (including "Cool Water" and "Tumbling Tumbleweeds") with new arrangements that proved popular, and many fans regard their mid-'40s versions of their classic songs as the best of the many renditions that they recorded. They also recorded more gospel material as well as many pop-oriented and novelty songs. The Pioneers also provided backup for other performers throughout their time at RCA, including Rogers and Dale Evans, and Vaughn Monroe.