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Curley Lawrence
and His Prairie Pals
Born:  February 1, 1923
WESX Salem, MA
WHDH Boston, MA
WLAW Lawrence, MA
WLLH Lowell, MA
WMEX Lawrence, MA
WNAC Boston, MA

In Progress....

Curley Lawrence and his Prairie Pals His parents knew him as Lawrence Bisso when he came into the world in Wakefield, Massachusetts back in 1923, a year that saw the song "Mexicali Rose" becoming popular with audiences. Country music fans in the Massachusetts area knew him as Curley Lawrence. Over the years he lead a couple of bands, one the Prairie Pals and another known as the Happy Roving Cowboys. We were lucky enough to hear from Curley and learn a bit about his career.

Curley found his first love for western music watching Ken Maynard in the movie, "Old Santa Fe." Ken was the first singing cowboy in the movies and he also enjoyed listening to The Sons of the Pioneers, who's beautiful Harmony captured his attention.

Curley's family was a musical one. His older brother, Ray (known as Fiddling Ray) was born in 1919. Ray was the first to study the fiddle and guitar. He later taught Curley to play the guitar and bass fiddle.

But before Curley came to be, another brother known as Cowboy Joe came along in 1921. He later grew up and learned to play the accordion.

Curley Lawrence and the Happy Roving Cowboys Curley and his two brothers joined up with Smiley, (whose real name is Jimmy Clain and later worked as Smiley & Sue of the Wilmington Hillbillies) and Bunny (her real name was Evelyn Halgren but later had her stage name changed to Dixie by George Mahoney when she teamed up with George. They became known as George & Dixie.

The group entered a contest and won a radio program on WLAW located in Lawrence, Massachusetts. Later, the group moved on to radio station WLLH in Lowell, Massachusetts, where they found a sponsor for their show.

When Bunny (Dixie) left the group to join George Mahoney, Curley and his two brothers asked Lucky Dawson to join their group (his real name was Gerard Ruchleau and was from Lynn, Massachusetts).

Curley Lawrence and the Happy Roving Cowboys At the same time the personnel in the band was changing, the group decided to change their theme song to song the Sons of the Pioneers made famous, "Tumbling Tumbleweeds". The group was being heard by listening audiences on their daily program on radio station WHDH.

After numerous personal appearances, Curley knew they needed to add a bit of comedy to their show to entertain the audiences. The famous Emo Carter, who played the banjo and guitar as well as doing comedy joined the group.

In a 1945 article in Mountain Broadcast and Prairie Recorder, we get to read a bit about the makeup of the group at the time. Curley and the group then known as the Happy Roving Cowboys were working over WMEX in Boston. Then, Curley was playing the bass fiddle, on fiddle was Speedy Parent, billed as the "Fastest Champion Fiddler of New England", Bob, on guitar; and, Cowboy Joe on accordion. One member Ken Lane had left the group to do "Victory work" until the war was over. Richard H. Keeler noted that their former accordion player, Jimmy Calderone, had left the group to move to Cleveland, Ohio and work with Pappy Howard and his Connecticut Kernels. Pappy's group had left the Hartford area for Cleveland. Another couple that Curley had worked with, Smiley and Sue, were already in the Cleveland area, having moved there from WGAN in Maine.

Around September 1945, Curley is mentioned again with his Happy Roving Cowboys as doing well over WMEX in Boston along with Doug Garron's Rhythm Ramblers.

In early 1947, Mr. Keeler wrote in his column on "News From Old New England" that Curley and the Prairie Pals were appearing over WESX in Salem, Massachusetts.

Later on, the group joined forces with George and Dixie on the Yankee House Party on the Yankee Network that aired over WNAC out of Boston Massachusetts.

The Four B's Around this time, for many entertainers of that era, the group had to break up for a time as most of them were called to serve their country in World War II.

When Curley was discharged in 1943, he organized a new group and named it The Happy Roving Cowboys.

World War II finally came to an end and everyone was back home. Curley's Cousin Buck (Ray) Bisso (who later graduated from UCLA and is still residing in California today) came back to Boston. He joined Curley and his brothers to form a modern group that sang and playing Blues, Pop and Jazz music, entertaining audiences at various night clubs in the Boston area. The four of them all had the same last name (Bisso) and so aptly named the group "The Four B's".

Today, Buck (Ray) still lives in California and writes books on Jazz. Buck has written such titles as: "Jelly Roll Morton and King Oliver From New Orleans", "Buddy Bolden of New Orleans", and "Swing Band". Brothers Ray and Joe have both passed away. Curley has retired and enjoys spending most of the day on the computer.

Timeline & Trivia Notes

Group Members:
Curley Lawrence & His Prairie Pals
  • Curley Lawrence, bass fiddle
  • Fiddling Ray (Bisso), fiddle

Credits & Sources

  • Hillbilly-Music.com wishes to thank Curley Lawrence (Lawrence Bisso) for providing us with information about his career and the groups he worked with along with the photos used in the article.
  • Mountain Broadcast & Prairie Recorder;
  • Mountain Broadcast & Prairie Recorder;
  • Mountain Broadcast & Prairie Recorder;

Sound Sample—(RealAudio Format)
Theme Song - Tumbling Tumbleweeds

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