If you grew up sitting in Saturday matinees watching the cowboys riding across the screen to save the day, then you probably remember one of the most prolific of the female leads of western film.
The late Arkansas native Carolina Cotton (1925-1997) was also known for her beautiful singing voice and her yodeling, and in film, TV, radio, records and on stages around the country she was a favorite. Of course, this was the days when there were only two types of music – Western and Hillbilly. She was certainly one of the queens of Western Swing and that is evidenced in the new CD “Carolina Cotton: Yodeling Blonde Bombshell Volume 2” released by Kit Fox Records at carolinacotton.org.
Her talented daughter Sharon Marie is doing tremendous work in keeping her late mother’s contributions to all the fields where she shined in front of those who loved her.
Her energy on screen was contagious especially when she was singing one of her yodeling songs in Gene Autry movies such as “Apache Country.” She also did several films with my friends the late Ken Curtis (“Song of the Prairie,” “Stallion Canyon”), the late Roy Acuff (“Sing Neighbor Sing”). Other films co-starred actors such as Eddy Arnold, Charles Starrett, Smiley Burnette and others.
In the span of a just a few years she did 22 films and performed with some of the most influential bands in the Hillbilly and Western Swing genre including Spade Cooley’s Western Dance Gang, Merle Travis, Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys, Sons of the Pioneers, Ernest Tubb and the Texas Troubadours, Ramblin’ Tommy Scott and his Hollywood Hillbilly Jamboree and others.
This unique collection of 21 recordings spans performances from 1945 to 1958 and includes Carolina starring with these back up performers: Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys, the Deuce Spriggens Orchestra, Hank Penny Orchestra, Foy Willing and the Riders of the Purple Sage, Merle Travis, Andy Parker and the Plainsmen, The Rhythm Riders, The Saddle Kings, Tex Williams, The Broome Brothers, Scotty Harrell, Paul Sells and others.
If you have any appreciation for the sound of swing, especially Western swing, this will be a CD that will add beautifully to your listening pleasure. These performers are all at the top of their game, entertaining, and sharing their heart with their listeners.
She relocated with her family from Arkansas to California. She began her career on stage and then radio in San Francisco at an early age but soon found her way to Hollywood where film producers immediately recognized her talent and she soon rose to level of leading lady.
Some of the material on this CD comes from original acetates such as “Ragtime Cowboy Joe” featuring Carolina with the Deuce Spriggens Orchestra. Many of the songs are taken from radio transcriptions especially the wonderful collection from her Armed Forces Radio Show “Carolina Cotton Calls.” It offers a unique look into Carolina’s stage personality as she jokes with her cast and wide range of material performed the troops in Korea and the Far East.
She shares one of her signatures “Three Miles South of Cash (in Arkansas)” with the Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys and to the swing sounds “Lovin’ Ducky Daddy” for MGM Records.
Of course, while her yodeling skills add to several songs, “Yodel Mountain” with Foy Willing and the Riders of the Purple Sage from the AFRS Ranch House Party and “Oh Where Has My Little Dog Gone” performed in the 1950 movie “Hoedown” highlights how she received her nickname. She also really shines in the live recording Autry-Rose composition “Be Honest with Me.”
Sadly, like many of their male counterparts by the end of 1950s the days of the old west for female leading ladies also rode off into the sunset in film and for most practical purposes mainstream western music stars were in the wagon train behind them.
Carolina left the spotlight of stardom, raised her family and become a teacher sharing her love of learning with thousands of young people.
If you are a fan of the great sounds of Western music that made the matinees and radio shows of the 1940s and 50s full of fun and enthusiasm, I encourage you to add this CD to your collection, it will certainly give you a look at one of the greatest yodelers who ever performed and from someone I understand to be one of the nicest individuals to ever grace a stage. You can get the CD or learn much more about her career from http://www.carolinacotton.org.