Ola Westmoreland, a former Sacramento country singer who entertained rowdy crowds at a Del Paso Heights dance hall before opening for recording legends, died May 26 at 86.
She died of complications after recent treatment for lung cancer in Los Osos, where she lived for the past 10 years, said her son David.
A former rodeo queen raised in poverty, Mrs. Westmoreland built a music career with hard work and grit. She settled in Sacramento in 1958 and waited tables at the El Rancho Hotel in West Sacramento before marrying Paul Westmoreland, a singing cowboy who wrote a 1945 Western swing hit, "Detour."
She sang nightly and broke up bar fights at her husband's Detour In, a rip-roaring roadhouse on Bell Avenue at Raley Boulevard that boasted the biggest dance floor in the Sacramento area.
"She was feisty," her son said. "If someone started a fight, she'd jump off the stage and throw him out. Then she'd get right back up and start singing again."
Mrs. Westmoreland performed on local radio and TV shows and the Nevada casino circuit. In 1969, she signed a deal with Kapp Records, a subsidiary of MCA Inc. She recorded many songs and had hits with "Don't Promise Anything," "The Bridge on the Truckee River" and "El Gato," her son said.
Besides opening for Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash at Memorial Auditorium in Sacramento, she shared bills with Slim Whitman, Marty Robbins and Donna Fargo.
An excellent cook who made everything from scratch, she hosted many music stars at her home next door to the Detour In.
Born Dec. 20, 1926, in Benson, Ariz., Ola Louise Smith sang in high school and was named rodeo queen of Winslow, Ariz. But as one of 19 children of farmers during the Great Depression, her early years were destitute.
"She found a nickel one time on the sidewalk, and her mom bought a can of stewed tomatoes and made soup for the whole family," David Westmoreland said.
Mrs. Westmoreland belonged to the Western Swing Society. Besides performing, she worked as a real estate agent in Sacramento and invented the Rackola Cooking Rack, which she sold on TV.
She had a daughter from an early marriage that ended in divorce and two children with Paul Westmoreland before they divorced in the 1970s.
She moved to Apache Junction, Ariz., settled in Los Osos and wrote an autobiography, "Born to Fight," in 2010. A devout Christian in later years, she was active in her church and sang religious music in her 80s with a choir called Joyful Noise.
"She was a tough woman with a hard life who wouldn't take crap from anyone," her son said. "But in her last 20 years she found Jesus and turned her life over to God. She was at peace."
Mrs. Westmoreland is survived by her children, Sherren McMath of Los Osos, David of Boise, Idaho, and Chrystal of Sacramento; four grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.
A funeral is at 2 p.m. Saturday at Los Osos Memorial Park and Mortuary, 2260 Los Osos Valley Road, Los Osos.
Call The Bee's Robert D. Dávila, (916) 321-1077. Follow him on Twitter @bob_davila.