Laura Lee McBride

b. Laura Frances Owens, 16 May 1920, Bridport, Oklahoma, USA, d. 25 January 1989, Bryan, Texas, USA. McBride first sang with her sister Dolpha Jane as Joy And Jane on their father Tex Owens’ radio programme on KMBC Kansas City, Missouri, in the mid-30s. She then formed her own group Laura Lee And Her Ranger Buddies. When, in 1943, she was hired by Bob Wills, she became not only the first female vocalist with Wills but, in fact, the first featured woman singer of western swing music. She devoted her life to the genre and became affectionately known as the Queen of Western Swing. She recorded with Wills on Armed Forces Radio Transcriptions in 1943/4 and some MGM Records recordings in 1950. In 1945, she left Wills and moved to Houston, Texas and joined Dickie McBride’s band. A year later she married McBride (who, when a member of Cliff Bruner’s Texas Wanderers, provided the vocal for the first recording of the country standard ‘It Makes No Difference Now’ in September 1938). In 1950 she returned briefly to Wills and recorded what was to become her signature tune, ‘I Betcha My Heart I Love You’. During the 50s McBride continued to perform with her husband’s band as well as work in real estate and manage a restaurant. After her husband died she worked with Ernest Tubb for eight years. In the late 70s, McBride made some appearances with surviving members of Bob Wills’ Texas Playboys at various functions. She died of cancer in 1989.

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