Ardis Wells and the Rhythm Ranch Gals occupied Minneapolis nightclub The Flame on a nightly basis in the 1950’s and ‘60s. Within the shifting lineup, longtime band members included Fern Dale, who previously performed with famed Minnesotan trio The Andrews Sisters, as well as Jan North and Patti Williams, who later performed as the North Sisters for decades. All together, they were a force to be reckoned with as the Midwest’s first all-female country band.
The Rhythm Ranch Gals began their nightly residence at The Flame (which now stands as Great Tapes) around 1956. “The floor would rise up with the push of a button and become a stage … high above the bottles,” North told John Kass in an interview for his blog, Go Johnny Go. The band greeted patrons every night from their stage in the lobby until they wrapped things up at The Flame in 1965. Their show featured Ardis Wells’ trapeze act until the City of Minneapolis said it was too dangerous, North told Kass.
The stunt must have come natural to Wells, who had previously performed in a circus. During that time, she met her first husband, Jimmy Wells, and the two formed a country western band called The Dakota Round Up. The band toured and played venues like Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry, and Ardis Wells became known as the “Yodeling Sweetheart.”
Wells also spent some time professionally wrestling, and reportedly won 21 straight matches in Minneapolis in 1951. And after moving to Alexandria in 1961, she discovered a love for raising snow dogs. Wells’ numerous recordings, including highlights like “Selling Chances With My Heart” and “Baby Doll,” earned her a spot in the Minnesota Rock and Country Hall of Fame in 2005.
Below, “Don’t You Tell A Soul” captures her famous yodeling, and “Baby Doll” presents a fun, classic snapshot of ‘50s pop.