A Kern County man is a veteran not only of the armed forces, but of the bygone days of Hollywood westerns. He still wears those rhinestone-studded pearl snaps, now as he serenades crowds at nightclubs around the Kern River Valley.
It was the late 1950’s. The tail-end of the golden age in Hollywood. Bill Nolt was just out of the service. He had a singing voice and a knack for training horses but wasn’t sure those could add up to a career, until his friends introduced him to a unique set of cowboys… you might call them rhinestone cowboys. “They knew a friend that lived out there that knew Spade Cooley and Tex Williams and a bunch of other people and we used to come into LA and I got acquainted with those cowboys and it was something I always wanted to do,” says Bill.
He started taking bit parts in movies and tv shows, and someone noticed he had a likeness for Roy Rogers. Soon he was taking jobs as a look-alike for the famous, crooning cowboy. With his skills on his horse, Bill even acted as a stunt-double. “I didn’t care if I got credit or what because what I liked to do best was be with pretty girls, dancing, singing, riding my horse and shooting my ’45’s and stuff like that,” Bill remembers.
At his home now in Weldon, Bill thumbs through old albums and talks about his favorite memories, and his favorite horse, Kokomo. “I had a lot of good horses but that one there was #1. He was the best one. I could do anything with that horse, he would follow me anyplace. I taught him all the tricks, he could rear, take a bow, ‘yes,’ ‘no,’ he could dance; he could dance better than me.”
Gone is the horse, now he trains his dog Bullet instead. But if you couldn’t tell, his thirst for the spotlight remains. You can still find this cowboy crooning to crowds, smaller now, at nightclubs around the Kern River Valley. He doesn’t sing with a band anymore because his hearing isn’t as great as it used to be, but he hasn’t let that stop him. Now karaoke is more his thing. Proving you can take the crooner out of the cowboy movies but you can’t take the song out of his heart.
You can catch Bill at the saloon in Kernville, The Sportsman, Arlie’s in Lake Isabella and sometimes Fubar-B-Q in Bodfish.