In 1939, a petite singer from Hot Springs, Arkansas, named Patsy Montana, made her screen debut in the Gene Autry Western Colorado Sunset. Her role in the film was that of a waitress working at a diner near a popular ranch. When the ranch hands came into the eatery one evening for supper, they asked Patsy why she had come West. She enthusiastically grabbed her guitar and answered the men in song.
“I want to be a cowboy’s sweetheart,” she sang. “I want to learn to rope and to ride. I want to ride o’er the plains and the desert, out west of the great divide. I want to hear the coyotes howlin’ while the sun sets in the West.
I want to be a cowboy’s sweetheart that’s the life that I love best.”
Patsy Montana, known as the Yodeling Cowgirl, was the first female singer in country-music history to cut a million-selling record. She did so with the song she sung in Colorado Sunset entitled “I Want to be a Cowboy’s Sweetheart.”
Accompanied by the band the Prairie Ramblers, Patsy entered ARC’s Chicago studio on August 16, 1935, and, with the label’s British-born talent scout, Art Satherley at the helm, recorded the catchy tune that she had penned herself. A superb showcase for her supple, fluid yodeling, 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 ten 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 songs written by Jimmie Rodgers, who was an important country star at the time. 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.
Patsy Montana joined the Prairie Ramblers in 1934 and they made a number of records for a variety of labels including ARC, Melotone, Decca and Victor. Among their hits were “I’m an Old Cowhand” and “Goodnight Soldier.”
By the mid-Forties Patsy Montana was hosting her own nationally syndicated radio show and appearing regularly on television. In 1993, she became one of only two women – the other being Dale Evans – to receive the Western Music Association’s Living Legends of Western Music award.
Patsy passed away on May 10, 1996, at the age of eighty-one.