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Louise Massey

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In the spring of 1928, Louise Massey met the owner of a local touring circuit in Roswell, NM, and persuaded him to audition her family act. As related in Mary A. Bufwack and Robert K. Oermann's Finding Her Voice: The Saga of Women in Country Music, Massey's approach was a novel one: "I went down to the tent where the show was playing...I walked up to him, and of course he didn't know me. And I said, 'Would you like to come up to my house for a while?'...He looked at me like, 'Does she mean it?'" Massey's introduction was followed by a fuller explanation, and would eventually lead to a contact, placing the family act on firm footing. Victoria Louise Massey was born in Texas in 1908, one of eight children, and grew up in New Mexico. As an authentic cowgirl, she won numerous awards for her horsepersonship. The family was also musical, and she, along with her brothers Curt and Allen, would join fiddler Dad Massey in a singing troupe. In 1919 Louise Massey married bassist Milt Mabie, who also joined the group, and in 1922 the couple had a child, Joy. After the birth of Joy, Dad Massey pushed the group toward professional status. In 1928, after Louise Massey had enticed the promoter to audition the group, the family spent the next two summers on the road, the first in the United States, the second in Canada. Despite the Masseys' cowboy background, they cultivated an eclectic urban sound and a sophisticated image. The stylish troupe relied on planned musical arrangements, wore costumes to accent the styles of different songs, and even included Mexican material sung in Spanish. "I had a French designer design the boys' outfits out of white gaberdine," Massey later recalled. "The lapels were white satin trim. And mine were beaded with wide belts and pretty things with lots of sequins. And I wore my satin boots; I never wore any other kind." After Dad Massey left the group, the remainder of the family began a five-year run in Kansas City at KMBC, which was also broadcast by NBC. In 1933, the troupe was chosen by a talent scout to perform on WSL's National Barn Dance. After three years in Chicago, Louise Massey & the Westerners brought their brand of Western music to New York City. In N.Y.C., the group's polished "hillbilly" music helped win over fans unaccustomed to rural music. "We played 'Home on the Range,' and we played it beautifully," Massey recalled. "We had just enough finesse that they had to look back a second time. If it had been just 'country' music, I doubt seriously if they would have listened at all." Massey and the Westerners continued to be successful throughout the Depression, appearing in Where the Buffalo Roam with singer/cowboy Tex Ritter and eventually returning to Chicago. Following their biggest hit, "My Adobe Hacienda," and a national radio spot, Massey and her husband left the music business for good. "We had done all the things we had set out to do," she later remembered. "I wanted to come home...It was time for us to enjoy our own life." ~ Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr.

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