SCV Newsmaker of the Week | Ep. 250: Jack Hannah, Sons of the San Joaquin
SCV Newsmaker of the Week, Episode 250
Sons of the San Joaquin
Taped in April 2008 at the William S. Hart Mansion in Newhall
About the Sons of the San Joaquin
The upbeat, airtight, three-part family harmonies of the Sons of the San Joaquin are being heard in a lot more places these days. This sound has carried Joe, Jack, and Lon Hannah from church and community gatherings to places like Switzerland, where traditional cowboy music is even more revered than modern country music. In the Arabian Peninsula they found enthusiastic receptions from people who regard their own traditions to be a close parallel to our cowboy heritage.
Here at home, their widespread acceptance is an indication of the rich durability of the music and the quality presentation of Jack Hannah’s highly respected original cowboy material. Cowboy poet Waddie Mitchell refers to Jack Hannah as “one of the very best cowboy songwriters” .
The Sons of the San Joaquin sound first took shape in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, where the Hannah family had moved from depression-era Missouri. “There were some prominent cattle ranches there,” says Jack, “and that’s where our romance with cowboys began. Our dad became a fan of the Sons of the Pioneers back in the 1930’s, and he’d sing a lot of those songs. We learned our first ones from him, and became great fans of theirs, too.” Joe and Jack performed with their family at local gatherings and eventually began traveling on weekends while pursuing degrees in education, playing some professional baseball, and becoming school teachers. Jack was a high school counselor and coach (he was baseball Coach of the Year for the Western Region United States in 1980). Joe was a junior high teacher and coach. Both have performed as church soloists and in opera and musical theater. All the Hannahs are horsemen. Jack also breaks horses, ropes steers and does day work on area ranches. Lon became a second grade-teacher and also had experience singing in church, in musical theater and with the Bennett Consort (a college vocal group often compared to Manhattan Transfer). In 1987, Lon approached his father (Joe) and Uncle Jack with the desire that they sing together for his grandfather’s birthday celebration. Almost by accident, the Sons of the San Joaquin were born.
They gained a needed break when Lon met cowboy singerGary McMahan at a Western Music Association convention. He invited the trio to perform at the 1989 Elko Nevada Poetry Gathering. There they ended up singing on stage with Michael Martin Murphey, who invited them to join him on his Cowboy Songs album.
In 1992, Joe and Jack were able to take early retirement from teaching to pursue the Son’s growing career full-time. Lon took leave of absence from teaching before resigning in mid 1993. There are a number of avenues of expression opening up to this dynamic trio. Their repertoire includes arrangements for an evening of Western Music and symphony orchestra and they are continuing to field international invitations. Television appearances include theGrand Ole Opry, Austin City Limits, Nashville Now, American Music Shop, Prime-Time Country and Old Time Country Music.
Since 1992, the Sons of the San Joaquin have recorded several albums. One of them being “Gospel Trails” which features some of the Hannnah’s favorite hymns. One of the selections, “In the Sweet By and By”, features a special appearance by Dale Evans Rogers as lead vocalist.
A lifetime of family singing combined with their true love of cowboy music has the Sons of the San Joaquin in constant demand. Family is the key word for the Sons of the San Joaquin. Joe and Carol, Jack and Linda, and Lon and Susan consider anyone who has ever picked up a rope, watched an old Western, or hummed a cowboy tune, to be part of their family.