Obituary: Patsy Montana

Patsy Montana, "The Yodelling Cowgirl", was the first female singer in country-music history to cut a million-selling record.

Accompanied by the Prairie Ramblers, she entered ARC's Chicago studio on 16 August 1935 and, with the label's British-born talent scout "Uncle" Art Satherley at the helm, recorded her self-penned "I Want to be a Cowboy's Sweetheart". A superb showcase for her supple, fluid yodelling, it proved one of the biggest hillbilly hits of the Thirties.

Five years earlier, Rubye Blevins, as she was then still known, had arrived in Los Angeles with one of her 10 brothers, in the hope of pursuing a musical career. She enrolled at the University of the West (now UCLA) and began performing locally, eventually winning a talent contest with a couple of Jimmie Rodgers's songs. (Rodgers, "America's Blue Yodeller", was an important influence on virtually every country star of note in this period.) She rapidly built up a regional following, and for a while worked with a now-forgotten rodeo star and sometime silver-screen cowboy named Monte Montana.

The Prairie Ramblers, with a line-up that included Charles "Chuck" Hart on mandola, "Happy" Jack Taylor on guitar and bass, Shelby "Tex" Atchison on fiddle and Floyd "Salty" Holmes on harmonica, jug and guitar, were, until 1933, a successful string band known as the Kentucky Ramblers. In that year they became cast members of Chicago's National Barn Dance on the Sears-owned radio station WLS and, taking their lead from a popular journal, the Prairie Farmer, changed their name.

Patsy Montana joined the group in that same year following a successful audition while visiting the World's Fair in Chicago. Together, she and the Ramblers became mainstays of the Barn Dance and recorded prolifically for a variety of labels including ARC, Melotone, Decca and Victor. Among their hits were "I'm an Old Cowhand", "Goodnight Soldier", "The Moon Hangs Low" and "Little Old Rag Doll".

The band's sound, which had until then been firmly rooted in the stringband traditions of the South Eastern States, began to reflect the music that was emerging from Texas, Oklahoma and California. Hollywood-based singing cowboys such as Gene Autry had proved popular both on record and on film and "I Want to be a Cowboy's Sweetheart" sat comfortably within the genre. Based on Patsy Montana's own earlier recording "Montana Plains", it owed more than a little to Stuart Hamblen's "Texas Plains", an early success in the style. Other material, especially the risque numbers the group recorded under the name the Sweet Violet Boys, owed more to the western swing of bandleaders like Milton Brown and Bob Wills.

By the mid-Forties Patsy Montana hosted her own nationally syndicated radio show and was appearing on television. In 1952 she headed for the West Coast, settling in California where, seven years later, she "retired" from music to sell real estate. The lure of performing proved too much however, and over the next decade she cut a series of albums for independents, among them the much sought-after Sweetheart (1965) for Starday.

She continued to tour into the Seventies, often performing with her two daughters as the Patsy Montana Trio. In 1993 Patsy Montana became one of only two women - the other being Roy Rogers's wife Dale Evans - to receive the Western Music Association's "Living Legends of Western Music" award, a fitting honour for one of country music's true pioneers.

Rubye Blevins (Patsy Montana), musician: born Hot Springs, Arkansas 30 October 1914; married 1934 Paul Rose (two daughters); died 3 May 1996.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: HR Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are in need of a HR Manage...

h2 Recruit Ltd: Business Development Manager - HR Consultancy - £65,000 OTE

£35000 - £40000 per annum + £65,000 OTE: h2 Recruit Ltd: London, Birmingham, M...

Day In a Page

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
Sports Quiz of the Year

Sports Quiz of the Year

So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect