Patsy Montana’s 1935 Hit “I Wanna Be a Cowboy’s Sweetheart” Made Her the First Woman in Country Music to Sell More Than a Million Copies of a Single

Shortly after Rubye Rose Blevins, later known as Patsy Montana, connected with the Prairie Ramblers in the early 1930s—the band that would back her on most of her hit recordings, and became regulars with her on the National Barn Dance show on WLS-AM in Chicago—she needed a stage name. Half of her new moniker would come from the silent film actor, stuntman, and master roper Montie Montana, whom she had worked with earlier in her career.

While performing as “The Yodeling Cowgirl From San Antone,” singer and songwriter Stuart Hamblen suggested Blevins call herself Patsy Montana after she performed on KMIC radio show with the Montana Cowgirls, which he hosted with Montie Montana.

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“Texas Plains”

While working for the radio station, Montana was writing songs. In 1934, she penned “Montana Plains,” a reworking of an earlier song written by Hamblen called “Texas Plains.” Montana continued fiddling with the song until it became her signature hit “I Wanna Be a Cowboy’s Sweetheart.”

Montana wrote “I Wanna Be a Cowboy’s Sweetheart” while missing her boyfriend before recording it a year later. Throughout the song, she sings of all the things she’ll do for love from roping and riding out over the great plains and desert with him.

I want to be a cowboy’s sweetheart
I want to learn to rope and to ride
I want to ride o’er the plains and the desert
Out west of the great divide
I want to hear the coyotes howlin’
While the sun sets in the West
I want to be a cowboy’s sweetheart
That’s the life that I love best

Released in November of 1935, “I Wanna Be a Cowboy’s Sweetheart” became the first country song by a female artist to sell more than a million copies. Though it became her signature song, Montana also wrote and released other hits, including “Rodeo Sweetheart,” “Back On Montana Plains,” “Lone Star,” and “Goodnight, Soldier” during World War II, among many more.

Singer Patsy Montana and her group The Prairie Ramblers pose for a portrait circa 1935. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

In the song, Montana also shows off her expert yodeling skills—odo-lay-eee-hee.

I want to ride Old Paint, goin’ at a run
I wanna feel the wind in my face
A thousand miles from all the city lights
Goin’ cowhand’s pace
I want to pillow my head near the sleeping herd
While the moon shines down from above
I want to strum my guitar and odo-lay-eee-hee
Oh, that’s the life that I love

In 2012, “I Wanna Be a Cowboy’s Sweetheart” was added to the Library of Congress National Recording Registry. 

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Ruby Leigh

During the season 24 Blind Auditions on The Voice, “I Wanna Be a Cowboy’s Sweetheart” reemerged when 16-year-old runner-up Ruby Leigh performed the Montana classic and even showed off her yodeling skills. The performance earned the Missouri native a four-chair turn from judges Reba McEntire, Niall Horan, John Legend, and Gwen Stefani.

Since its release, “I Wanna Be a Cowboy’s Sweetheart” has been covered dozens of times by everyone from The Chicks, LeAnn Rimes, Phish, Cyndi Lauper with Jewel, and Patti Page, among others.

Montana died on May 3, 1996, at age 87. Later that year, she was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame

Photo: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

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