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Monday, 16 May 2016

Laura Lee McBride born 16 May 1920

Laura Lee Owens 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. After an early marriage to the Texas Ranger’s guitarist Herb Kratoska and a stint with the Oklahoma Wranglers she was hired by Bob Wills and joined the Texas Playboys at the end of 1943. 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.

Laura Lee poses with Bob Wills (center) and Tommy Duncan
She recorded with Wills on Armed Forces Radio Transcriptions in 1943/4. Also as Wills’s Playgirl she appeared in three movies, two with Russell Hayden and a third entitled “Melody Master, the story of Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys.” In January 1945 the Playboys and Laura Lee recorded in Hollywood on the Columbia labeland made radio and television appearances.
She married Wills’s guitarist Cameron Hill and when Hill entered the army in 1945, she relocated to Houston, Texas and joined Dickie McBride’s band. A year later she married McBride.

Following their marriage the McBrides worked mostly outside Houston; they made tours with Bob Wills and worked in California in 1948 – 1950. It was during 1950 she recorded with Wills what was to become her signature tune, ‘I Betcha My Heart I Love You’. Although the McBrides usually recorded as a team (for Decca, MGM and several smaller labels) they continued to record separately on independent labels such as Dafton, Ayo and Freedom.
Laura Lee continued to appear in Hollywood films, making thirteen movies with Gene Autry. As popular radio, TV and dance performers in Houston throughout the 50’s they performed and recorded sporadically. Laura Lee continued to perform with her husband’s band as well as work in real estate and manage a restaurant. She appeared in shows with Hank Williams, Willie Nelson, Hank Thompson and Tex Ritter. 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 was inducted into the Sacramento Western Swing Hall of fame in October 1987. She died in Bryan, Texas after a long battle with cancer in 1989. (Info edited from AMG and mainly bio by Kevin Coffey, The Encyclopaedia Of Country Music)

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