Texas Ruby has been gone for fifty years now, and she didn’t headline in Vegas or score any huge hit records during her too-short career, but she remains one of the most memorable country music stars of all time. Ably accompanied by husband Curly Fox’s fiddle, her deep singing voice and distinctive performing style helped make her special, but her personality was the crowning touch. She was sassy and tempestuous, a hard living and highly spirited force of nature.
Born on a Texas ranch, Ruby Agnes Owens often sang with her brothers while growing up (one would later become a songwriter) and it’s been said that she was discovered when a radio station owner in Ft. Worth heard her singing on the back of the wagon during a trip to the city. She soon began appearing on the air and building a career from there, spending the early part of the 1930s working all over the country and appearing with outfits like Zeke Clements’ country band. She also built a reputation as tough-talking and fiesty, as evidenced by the time she spent at WHO radio in Des Moines, where — so the story goes — a young announcer named Ronald ‘Dutch’ Reagan felt the force of her temper and subsequently left for Hollywood fame.
In any case, Ruby ended up at the Grand Ole Opry, where she eventually met up with a tall and talented Tennessee fiddler named Curly Fox. He’d already spent a number of years leading his own group, and was a much in demand sideman too. The twosome formed a duo in 1937 and married a couple of years later, and their act became one of the most popular around. The decade of the 1940s was especially good to them as they headlined on the Opry and starred on tour while also making lots of good records.
In the 1950s they moved to Ruby’s home state of Texas and continued to enjoy some success, even appearing on regional TV for a while, but things began to slow for them so they eventually moved back to Nashville and the Opry. By the close of the decade Ruby was cutting back on performing, often staying home while Curly played his fiddle for many of the acts on the show. That’s what he was doing in 1963 when word was received that Ruby — a heavy smoker — had apparently fallen asleep and died in a fire. She was just 54.