This versatile Kentucky musician was a founding member of the Prairie Ramblers, a band that came out of old-time Appalachian mountain music but came to be known for an incredibly versatile repertoire. The group also became quite well-known for its lead singer, Patsy Montana, whose real name was Ruby Blevens. With the fine backup of Hurt and his fellow players, she scored the first million-selling record ever for a female country & western singer with "I Want to Be a Cowboy's Sweetheart" in 1935. The group had first come to national attention only a few years before with broadcasts over Chicago's WLS. This station's innovative country & western programming, such as the National Barn Dance, led to the creation of the Grand Old Opry as well as helping to build a huge audience for country music. The Prairie Ramblers was certainly a favorite of this audience, as the group was chosen as one of the three most popular acts on the station in the mid-'30s. The band's repertoire included cowboy songs, mountain music, spirituals, and even comedy. They regularly recorded accompaniment for records by cowboy singers, such as Gene Autry and Rex Allen. Hurt first formed the group in 1930 with his pleasant musical associate and childhood friend "Happy" Jack Taylor, who played tenor banjo and later added bass. Both men were from the Summershade area of Kentucky. Although Hurt moved to Illinois as a young man and organized his first bands there, he reunited with Taylor a few years later. They teamed up with fiddler Tex Atchison and Floyd "Salty" Holmes, a virtuoso harmonica player famous for making his instrument sound like it was talking. Holmes also played both the jug and the guitar in the group as well, the former providing air-blown jug band bass lines and not just the liquid refreshment some hillbillies are famous for. Following a career in which the band cut more than 100 sides and appeared in several Hollywood westerns, including Arizona Days, original members began rambling off by the early '40s. Atchison and Holmes were gone by 1938, replaced by fiddler Alan Crockett and guitar and vocal stylings of Kenneth Houchens. A few years later, the instrumental lineup expanded with the addition of Augie Kline on accordion and George Barnes on electric guitar. Montana cut out in 1941 to pursue her solo career, a move that surprised no one. Hurt and Taylor made their final recordings as the Prairie Ramblers for Mercury in late 1947, but this is not considered the group's prime material by any means. They left WLS and finally stopped the group's rambling entirely in 1948. The old friends continued to work in the Chicago area as a duo until retiring.
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