Vol 1 Info

Vol 2 Info

Vol 3 Info


Volume 1 Info

The first Carolina Cotton CD originally came with a full fold-out booklet of liner notes. It's no longer available on CD, but you can still enjoy the album as a download! For those of you who would like to look at the liner notes online (and in larger print), we provide the following info below from the booklet:

In her 15+ years as an entertainer, Carolina Cotton added many a feather to her cowgirl hat: singer, actress, musician, radio and TV personality, USO performer. She was known as Westerns First Lady , The All-American Girl, Outstanding Horsewoman and even Miss Good Samaritan. Al Jolson once called her "the most natural show woman I ever met". But her most famous title was that of the Yodeling Blonde Bombshell. For years she was considered a World-Class Champion. And her style was as lively and unique as her own personality.

Carolina Cotton was born Helen Hagstrom on October 20, 1925 in Cash, Arkansas, where she was raised on her family's farm. When the Depression and drought of the 1930s brought hard times, Helen's father (a Swedish chef) found work out West. The immediate family moved and soon planted roots in San Francisco.

Helen began taking dance lessons from the O'Neille Sisters and joined their popular Kiddie Revue. They performed on occasion at the Golden Gate Theatre, where Helen was
bitten by the Show Biz Bug. She began singing and playing ukulele, performing wherever she could, including the 1939 San Francisco Worlds Fair. After winning an amateur radio contest, she attracted the attention of Western bandleader Dude Martin. In August 1942 she joined Martin's Roundup Gang, replacing yodeling vocalist Arvada Miller (one of her early influences). The band was well known on Bay Area station KYA and at Richmond's shipyard shows. World War II was well underway, and she learned to double on several instruments as band members were drafted. It was Martin who changed Helen's stage name to "Carolina".

By the Summer of '44, a trip to Hollywood led to an chance meeting with entertainer Johnny Marvin. Soon afterward Carolina was offered a small part in a B Western movie.
She ended up in 2 pictures: Sing Neighbor Sing (Roy Acuff), and The Singing Sheriff (Bob Crosby)--the latter with Spade Cooley. At that time Cooley needed a female singer/yodeler and asked Carolina to join. It was a painful decision, but she decided to leave Martin's
Roundup Gang, and moved to Los Angeles.

Carolina was a member of Cooley's Western Dance Gang by late Summer 1944 and soon entertaining crowds at the infamous Riverside Rancho. She appeared in several Soundies with the group, and simultaneously with Merle Travis' band; plus appearances on the Hollywood Barn Dance radio shows on KNX.

Cooley's manager was pioneering female agent Bobbie Bennett (who later managed Carolina). She realized Carolina needed a new last name, and held a contest at the
Rancho to find her one. "Cotton" was the chosen winner.

Meanwhile, Carolina became romantically involved with Cooley bassist Deuce Spriggens.
The two secretly married in June 1945. They left the group--taking along a few band members--and formed the Deuce Spriggens Orchestra. Along with the Plainsmen Trio
and left-handed fiddle player Tex Atchison, the band landed a house gig at the old Santa Monica Ballroom, renamed Western Palisades (then considered "the largest ballroom on the West Coast"). They also made soundies and appeared on radio shows like the Cavalcade of Western Music and Melody Roundup. The once-popular Latin tune MAMA YO QUIERO was performed on such shows. Spriggens' band also appeared in 4 films. One of these was Singing on the Trail, which features a song Carolina and Deuce cut on Mercury Records a year earlier, WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH YOU. (Note: This version features the missing intro from the master, hidden under nearly 60 year old grease-pencil markings). Unfortunately, this tune became prophetic of the couple's real-life marital woes...the two divorced by July 1946, and shortly afterward the Spriggens band dissolved.

Carolina picked up the pieces and set out on her own. By the Fall of 1946 she was singing with Hank Penny's band, back at the Riverside Rancho. She signed with King Records and released 4 of her classic tunes. (Most of the musicians in Penny's group were former members of the Deuce Spriggens Orchestra, including Carolina's old bandmates Ralph Miele and Eddie Bennett).
THREE MILES SOUTH OF CASH (IN ARKANSAS) was the song she foldly wrote about her hometown. It became one of her most memorable songs and she often sang it onstage as a duet with well-known entertainers, coaxing them all to join in with a yodel or two.

Another signature song Carolina penned was I LOVE TO YODEL. She sang this upbeat number in 4 of her films: I'm From Arkansas (Slim Summerville), Texas Panhandle
(Charles Starrett), Smoky River Serenade (Hoosier Hot Shots) and Apache Country (Gene Autry). SINGING ON THE TRAIL was also in the Ken Curtis movie of the same name (although not sung by Carolina in the film). On the King recording she does a lovely version of her own. MOCKINGBIRD YODEL was written by her old bandleader Dude Martin. One can imagine that she once sang this number back in the Roundup Gang. Around the same time as these sessions, the Yodeling Blonde Bombshell became a regular on the AFRS radio program "Ranch House Party", alongside Ken Curtis, Cottonseed Clark, The Plainsmen, and Foy Willing and the Riders of the Purple Sage...all alumni of the Hollywood Barn Dance. YOU AND MY OLD GUITAR was sung on the program, just as she was celebrating her 21st birthday live on the show!

In the years to follow, Carolina Cotton continued appearing in B Western movies, radio, television, and live shows. In 1947 she toured with Bob Wills and His Texas
Playboys, and in 1949 with the Sons of the Pioneers (making her the only "Daughter" of the group). She recorded briefly with the lesser-known labels Crystal and
Mastertone, but in 1950 landed a contract with MGM Records. YOU'RE GETTIN' A GOOD GIRL (released that year) is a tongue-in-cheek novelty that shows Carolina's wonderful sense of humor. I BETCHA I GETCHA was also featured in the Eddie Arnold movie Hoedown. Recorded with bare-bones orchestration, these songs are a bit more pop-
oriented than the jazzier King sessions, but nonetheless have their own charm and reflect the changing face of music in the early '50s. Fortunately for Western Swing
affectionados, a reunion with Bob Wills and his talented group in 1951 produced 4 new songs, which included YOU ALWAYS KEEP ME IN HOT WATER and CAUSE I'M IN LOVE (later sung in the Charles Starrett/Smiley Burnette film Rough Tough West). Toward the end of her film career in 1952, Carolina recorded 2 more songs for MGM. YODEL YODEL YODEL was also a number from her movie with Gene Autry, Blue Canadian Rockies (her last film). And the all-yodeling version of NOLA was a real showcase of her talents. Both tunes were backed by the Leroy Holmes Orchestra.

Carolina's recording and film career may have come to an end, but her popularity continued in radio, TV and personal appearances. She became a regular on the Armed Forces / USO entertainment circuit as early as 1950. During the Korean War, the Yodeling Blonde Bombshell had her own show on AFRS, CAROLINA COTTON CALLS (1952-54). TENNESSEE SATURDAY NIGHT, RANCHO GRANDE and I'M GONNA ROUND UP MY BLUES were all songs featured in the broadcasts. The 15 minute shows were down-to-earth and good clean fun...reminding many a soldier of the "girl next door" back home. She received hundreds of fan letters from listeners, making her one of the most
popular entertainers with the troops. During one of her USO tours to Korea, a tank was affectionately named after her: "Miss Carolina--The Cotton Special".

In the mid 1950s, Carolina made guest appearances on the Navy Country Hoedown radio show. With Ernest Tubb's renowned group, she performed a gorgeous rendition of Tex Owens' CATTLE CALL. And on a different broadcast with
former Cooley bandmate Tex Williams, they sang TATER PIE (one of her personal favorites). Her singing career had come full-circle, as she can be heard having a good time
with her former comrade of earlier days.

By 1956, Western Swing and B movies had become a thing of the past. Carolina remarried to LA area musician Bill Ates, nephew of character actor Roscoe Ates. They settled down and started a family, but the marriage did not endure and they divorced in the early '60s.

Carolina moved on to a new career by getting her Masters degree in teaching. Eventually the family settled in Bakersfield CA. In the 1970s Carolina began attending local jam sessions with a few well-known country musicians. In the 1980s she became a regular guest star on the Western Film Festival circuit.

Sadly, in 1994, Carolina was diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer, and passed away on June 10th, 1997. She was 71 years young.

Carolina Cotton lives on in her films and recordings...enjoyed by those who fondly remember her, as well as a new generation of fans who are rediscovering the glory days of Western Swing.


It is with great privilege that I dedicate this album to my Mother's memory,
and to her many fans. Enjoy!

--Sharon Marie (Carolina's daughter)

Digital restoration and remastering:
Sharon Marie & Gary L. Batsch,
B2 Studio, Bakersfield, CA

Special Thanks...

Paul Averitt, Crystal Clear CD Manufacturing
Jeff Barber, formerly with Autry National Center
Gail Baxter, Family Historian (and Kinfolk)
Don Bradley, Bradley Brothers Entertainment
Karla Buhlman, VP, Autry Entertainment
Stephen Burnette, Smiley Burnette Interprises (& "Keeper of the Flame")
Kevin Coffey, Western Swing historian & Liner Notes info
Bobby Copeland, Western film historian and freelance writer
D. A. Eaton, Rocket Scientist and Western memorabilia collector
Marva Felchlin, Autry National Center
Cary Mansfield, Varese Sarablande
Janet McBride, Yodeling Queen and Champion for the Cause
Mike Stosich, Esoteric Sound (16" transcription turntable)
Keith Titterington, Western Swing historian & Liner Notes info

(and anyone else who pitched in, who we may have missed)

...for all your love, guidance and support. You all have helped make this album possible.


1) Three Miles South of Cash (In Arkansas)
(Cotton), King 816; Audio Lab AL 1566
recorded in Hollywood, October 1946
musicians: Hank Penny Orchestra*

2) I Love To Yodel
(Cotton), King 572-A; Audio Lab AL 1566
recorded in Hollywood, October 1946*

3) What's The Matter With You
(Spriggens), original acetate, from
Columbia film "Singing on the Trail"
recorded in Hollywood, 5/7/46
musicians: Deuce Spriggens Orchestra

4) Singing On The Trail
(Allen), King 572-B; Audio Lab AL 1566
recorded in Hollywood, October 1946
musicians: Hank Penny Orchestra*

5) You And My Old Guitar
(Rodgers, McWilliams), transcription,
AFRS Ranch House Party 10/20/46
recorded at Radio Recorders, Hollywood
musicians: Foy Willing and the Riders
of the Purple Sage

6) Mockingbird Yodel
(Martin), King 816
recorded in Hollywood, October 1946
musicians: Hank Penny Orchestra*

7) Mama Yo Quiero
(Calazans, Paiva, De Torre-Garcia),
acetate transcription,
unknown radio show, ca. 1945-46
musicians: Deuce Spriggens Orch
(with Andy Parker on duet vocal)++

8) I Betcha I Getcha
(Stryker, Clark), MGM 10692-B
recorded at Castle Studios,
Nashville, 3/6/50+

9) Tennessee Saturday Night
(Hughes), transcription,
Carolina Cotton Calls #5, ca. 1952
musicians: Charlie Aldridge, Johnny
Paul, Frank Tacach, Abner Wilder,
Art Wentzel

10) Cattle Call
(Owens), transcription,
Navy Country Hoedown #21, ca. 1956
musicians: Ernest Tubb's Texas

11) You Always Keep Me In Hot Water
(Cotton, Thorpe), MGM 11130_A (1952)
Recorded at Radio Recorders,
Hollywood, 9/17/51
musicians: Bob Wills and His
Texas Playboys

12) You're Gettin' A Good Girl
(Friend) MGM 10692-A, 1950
recorded at Castle Studio,
Nashville, 3/6/50 +

3) Rancho Grande
(Ramos) , transcription,
Carolina Cotton Calls #4, ca. 1952
musicians: yet-to-be-named group,
featuring: Charlie Aldridge, Johnny
Paul, Frank Tacach, Abner Wilder,
Art Wentzel

14) Cause I'm In Love
(Stan Jones) MGM 11130-B (1952)
Recorded at Radio Recorders,
Hollywood, 9/17/51
musicians: Bob Wills and His
Texas Playboys

15) Yodel Yodel Yodel
(Hoefle, Porter, Cotton) MGM 11329-B
recorded in New York City, 8/6/52
musicians: LeRoy Holmes Orchestra

16) I'm Gonna Round Up My Blues
(Autry, Marvin)
transcription, Carolina Cotton Calls #4
ca. 1952
musicians: Charlie Aldridge, Johnny
Paul, Frank Tacach, Abner Wilder,
Art Wentzel

17) Tater Pie
(Walker), transcription,
Navy Country Hoedown #55. ca. 1955
musicians: Tex Williams and band

18) Nola
(Arndt) MGM 11329-A
recorded in New York City, 8/6/52
musicians: LeRoy Holmes Orchestra

19) Carolina Cotton Calls #88 (AFRS)
ca. 1952-54
musicians: The Rhythm Riders
(Darol Rice, George Bamby, Slim
Duncan, Joe Maphis, Mike Barton)


Some of these recordings included session musicians who added background orshcestral parts, like sax, trumpet, trombone and extra fiddle. Unfortunately, their names are unknown.

++ According to Carolina's personal sheet music and lyrics, Mama Yo Quiero had the duet part labeled "Andy", so it is assumed this meant Andy Parker. Cottonseed Clark
chimes in on spoken lines ("I want my Mammy").

+The musicians are unknown, but presumed they may have been some of Nashville's well-known session players. They may have included Owen Bradley (piano/organ), Jerry Byrd (steel), Jack Shook on guitar and Ernie Newton on bass.


These songs were carefully restored using the latest digital technology. Occasionally the sound quality varies, so as not to compromise the integrity of the original recordings.


Visit the CD Baby store to hear samples from the Volume 1 album!