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Unless you’re a collector, fan or aficionado of Western Folk Lore, the name Louise Massey and her group The Westerners may not mean anything to you. Louise Massey, along with her brother Curt, were very popular in the years during the Depression. The group got started in the 1920s and rode a popularity streak that became a national phenomenon in 1934 when their song “When the White Azaleas Start Blooming” sold over 3 million copies. In 1938 they were cast in the Tex Ritter movie Where The Buffalo Roam. Their popularity continued through the 1940s, which included this twice-a-week radio show for the NBC Red Network from 1941 among other network programs they appeared on.
Factoid: Louise Massey’s brother Curt, who was the violin player and co-song writer of the group, went on to blaze his own trail, as a solo artist and later as a radio personality, but also writer of the theme music for The Beverly Hillbillies and Petticoat Junction TV series, which were extremely popular shows in the 1960s.
This style of Country music is all but vanished now, along with the almost obsessive romance with the fictionalized West. Western lore wasn’t just the exclusive property of Painters and writers (although Western-themed books were a staple of the American diet throughout the 20th century and western-theme films became the staple of early television), the romance extended to music, and was distinctive because it didn’t incorporate the more rural Hillbilly style of Country, but was more refined and romantic, lending its appeal to a much wider audience and gaining a larger fan base in the process. As a side note; it’s interesting to realize this program made its debut in October of 1941 – less than two months later, we’d be right in the middle of World War 2, and another phase of popularity for this form of American music and the mix and interplay between it and and Jazz and Rural Blues via the huge influx of Defense plant workers from all over the country, descending on Long Beach and Burbank and all the Defense plant sites around the country. If you do a little digging, you will find elements of what became the next big musical movement in the 1950s – but nobody knew that at the time.
As a sort of adjunct to the Cliffie Stone Wakeup Ranch show I ran a few weeks ago. A morning program which was popular in Los Angeles in the late 1940s, this series, Reveille Roundup was the product of the NBC Red Network and gives an idea how widespread the popularity of Country-Western music was at the time.
Forgive the occasional corn on the show, but . . .it’s Americana, ain’t it?