"Lady Bass" Louise Rowe
by Dayna Wills, January, 2001

Louise Rowe holds the distinction of being the only female musician Bob Wills ever hired. That was quite an accomplishment for a woman in the fifties, not only to be working in the music business, but to be working in one of the hottest western swing bands of the day. Initially hired as the "girl singer" for a tour of southern California, Bob Wills found out in short order that not only could Louise sing any harmony part, she also played rhythm guitar and bass. When Jack Lloyd left the band to get married, Louise got her union card, her Texas Playgirl uniform, and was officially listed as "musician" on the payroll.

I always did look up to Louise!Although she was only 18 years old when she became a Texas Playgirl, she had gained a lot of experience working with her family, the Seven Rowe Brothers. This year in San Marcos, Texas, the Rowe Brothers received a Lifetime Achievement Award celebrating their 70th Anniversary in the business in connection with the Texas Western Swing Hall of Fame. Louise has produced a CD of her brothers’ music consisting of 22 songs dating from the ’30s to the ’90s.

Louise toured California with the Bob Wills band from 1952 to 1953. During this tour Bob recorded several radio transcriptions on which Louise appears. When the tour ended, Bob had agreed to do another tour for agent Lucky Moeller. Since the musicians had already been booked for this tour, Bob told Louise that she had a job with his band and that when the tour ended, he would call her.

In the meantime, Louise went to Longview, Texas and played bass in the houseband at the Rio Palm Isle Club. On her night off, she went to Lawton, Oklahoma to hear a friend’s band, and there she met Tommy Allsup. By the time Bob Wills called Louise to come back to work, she had fallen in love with Tommy, and was working in Odessa, Texas. They divorced in 1958, and Louise moved to Dallas, Texas.

In 1959 Louise married fiddleman Buddy Beasley, and they raised two daughters, Rhonda and Marcie. Marcie takes after her dad and is a fiddle player as well as a singer and songwriter. While Marcie isn’t pursuing a career in music, she did appear on Louise’s album "Shades of Swing" where she played fiddle and sang two of her own compositions, "Western Swing" and "What Love Can Do".

In 1982, Buddy and Louise developed a color-code teaching method for fiddle called the "Buddy System" which is still being sold in music stores. One student of this method is Jason Roberts who is currently working with Asleep At The Wheel.

In 1994, Louise produced a cassette called "Texas Playgirls and Playboys" which includes former Texas Playgirls Darla Daret, Dean and Evelyn McKinney, and Ramona Reed, along with former Texas Playboys Eldon Shamblin, Bob Boatright, Johnny Cuviello, Floyd Domino, and Billy Briggs. There is also a video filmed partially in Turkey, Texas during Bob Wills Day. There are so many Texas Playboys in this video that you have to watch it several times to see all of them.

Louise has fond memories of being a Texas Playgirl and of Bob Wills. She recalls that whenever he wanted to talk to her about boys, he called her "Child", but after she tripped over a cord and brought down a couple of amplifiers he nicknamed her "Pluto" after the Disney cartoon dog.

Today, besides playing bass for other bands, she works with her own band, the Western Swing Road Band consisting of former Texas Playboys.  Her peers, steelman Tom Morrell, saxman Larry Reed, and fiddleman Bob Boatright, among others, consider Louise one of the finest western swing bass players working today.

At the Legends of Western Swing festival in Snyder, Texas this past June, a fan remarked to me that he noticed Louise had played in several bands that day. I said, "That’s because she can cut it". And that brings us to the undisputed truth that when it came to musicians, Bob Wills knew how to pick ’em!