At the age of 13 he won a scholarship to the University of Southern California for Musical composition, but dropped out after six months, bored with the conventional regimen. Four years later, a scholarship to Chouinard went the same way, and Nolan decided to send songs in to any artist he thought might be suitable. It brought him to the attention of both veteran songwriter Crewe and entrepreneur Wes Farrell, both of whom harnessed the then youngster’s talent.
As house producer at Farrell’s Chelsea label, Nolan wrote and/or produced a string of successful singles for the label, including Jim Gilstrap’s “Swing Your Daddy” and “Take Your Daddy for a Ride,” Dee Clark’s “Ride a Wild Horse,” and Linda Carr’s “High Wire.” With Crewe, meanwhile, he co-wrote some of the era’s biggest successes.
These included Disco Tex & The Sex-O-Lette’s “Get Dancing,” LaBelle’s “Lady Marmalade,” and Frankie Valli’s “My Eyes Adored You.” He wrote the song Flirtin’ for the 1971 (The Donny Osmond Album),” as well as the final Top 40 hit for Tavares in 1982, entitled “A Penny For Your Thoughts.”
Nolan also had ambition to perform – it was he who supplied the falsetto that dominated “Get Dancing” – and, after a short tenure with Firefly, he moved onto the studio group The Eleventh Hour. Produced by Crewe, the band scored two minor hits in the U.S. with “So Good” (1974) and “Hollywood Hot”, the following year; and the minor hit album, Hollywood Hot (1976).
In 1976, Nolan decided to record his own version of a song he had been commissioned to write by another. “I Like Dreamin'” was released by the Eleventh Hour’s label, 20th Century, and in early November it finally entered the U.S. chart, to begin a three-month crawl to its peak at number three.
Nolan followed it the following spring with the Top 20 hit “Love’s Grown Deep”, taken from his self-titled album, and was named Number One New Pop Singles Artist of 1977 by Billboard magazine. “My Eyes Get Blurry” followed, plus Nolan’s next album, 1978’s A Song Between Us.
Night Miracles followed two years later, bringing a new single, “Us and Love (We Go Together)”, to the mid-reaches of the chart in early 1980, but failing to give Nolan any further, major success. He continued to record, however, signing to MCA and releasing Head to Toe in 1982.
That album produced two singles, “Love Song” and “Soft Rock Hard Love,” but further commercial success as a recording artist eluded him. However, he continued to write songs that became hits for other artists, including “Shoot ‘Em Up Movies”, which became a top ten R&B hit for soul/boogie band The Deele in 1988.
In the 1990s he wrote “Masterpiece” which became a crossover hit for another soul band, Atlantic Starr.