“In My Colorado Home” is a song first recorded by the Sons of the San Joaquin. Those readers who are paying close attention to this point may object that the San Joaquin Valley is in California, and not Colorado – and that’s true.
The Sons of the San Joaquin are a trio consisting of brothers Jack and Joe Hannah and Joe’s son, Lon Hannah. The Hannah family moved from Missouri to California’s Central Valley during the Great Depression. Jack and Joe’s father became a fan of the Sons of the Pioneers in the 1930s, when that group was a trio made up of Roy Rogers, Tim Spencer and Bob Nolan, and he would often sing their songs at home.
Half a century later, in 1987, Lon Hannah thought it would be fitting to perform some of those old songs at a birthday celebration for his grandfather, and he enlisted the aid of his father and uncle for the performance.
Jack and Joe Hannah are interesting and talented men. Both had played professional baseball for many years in the 1950s and early 1960s – Joe as a catcher in the Chicago Cubs organization and Jack as a pitcher for Milwaukee Braves’ farm teams. When they retired from baseball, both became high school teachers and coaches, and Joe was also the high school music director. They had performed together at local events for several years and were certainly prepared when Lon suggested the performance for their father.
The family trio was a great success and they soon began playing professionally. Their success continued, and in 1992 Jack and Joe both took early retirement from teaching to become full-time musicians. The following year, Lon, who was an elementary school teacher, took an extended leave of absence from his position and resigned soon thereafter.
The songs on their first four albums, which were released between 1990 and 1993, were almost all cover versions of songs that had been written and performed by the Sons of the Pioneers. In 1995 they released an album called From Whence Came the Cowboy that contained mostly original songs written by Jack Hannah, either alone or with a co-writer. Jack’s songs were featured on most of their later albums, and were good enough that he was named the Western Music Association’s Songwriter of the Year in 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2006 and 2011.
One of the songs on From Whence Came the Cowboy was “In My Colorado Home,” which Jack co-wrote with cowboy poet Darrell Arnold1. It seems that the song may have been influenced by “Rock Me To Sleep in My Rocky Mountain Home,” which had been recorded in 1935 by the Sons of the Pioneers, but Arnold brings a legitimate tie-in to the State of Colorado.
Darrell Arnold was born and raised in the small town of La Veta in southern Colorado. He studied Wildlife Biology in college, served four years in the Air Force and held a number of different jobs before he became a journalist in 1983. In 1990, he started a publication called Cowboy Magazine, which was known as the “voice of the working ranch cowboy” until it ceased publication in 2008. I believe that Mr. Arnold still lives in La Veta – which has a population of less than 800 – where he collects Social Security and still writes the occasional poem.
The Hannahs are also pretty much retired, but they still perform in California from time to time. Here is the original version of “In My Colorado Home,” showing their wonderful harmonies: