Obituary for Elizabeth Grace Masterson (Snider)
The Western Music Community is sadly mourning the loss of another one of its legends. Cowgirl singer, yodeler and iconic personality, Liz Masterson, passed away on December 30, 2017, after a brave, five-year battle with ovarian cancer. Her crystal clear singing voice, soaring yodeling and engaging stage presence made her truly one of a kind.
She was born Elizabeth Grace Snider in Denver on December 8, 1946, to Maurice Locke Snider and Eleanor Borden Burwell Snider. At age three the family moved to Texas where the family lived until she was eight. Back in Denver again, she attended Smiley Jr. High and graduated from East High in 1965. She attended CSU and graduated in 1970 with a degree in Physical Education and Dance, fully intending to become a teacher. But, due to declining enrollment and a surplus of teacher candidates at the time, she never landed a full time teaching gig. However, teaching’s loss was Western Music’s gain. Her career shift led Liz down a winding path through a variety of life challenges and experience, working as a waitress, bartender, bank teller and other odd jobs. In 1973 she married her college sweetheart, Ken Masterson. With Ken, Liz showed yellow Labrador Retrievers for five years and had two champions. Ken and Liz were amicably divorced in 1981.
Around 1981, to quote Liz, she “embarked blindly on a music career, knowing nothing about the business and little about music. How hard could it be, right?” On an extended visit with friends in California, she became very passionately involved with the new style of folk music, especially that of the late Kate Wolf with whom she formed a music relationship which was the beginning of her musical career. Later, together with her dear friend, the late Nancy Thorwardson, they formed a band called the Cactus Crooners. Liz also developed a strong solo stage show presence. Around this time she also decided that she needed to learn how to yodel, a talent for which she is now famous. In her quest to become a top yodeler, she became close friends with Western Music pioneer and Country Music Hall of Fame inductee, Patsy Montana. Together they performed at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., as well as other festivals and shows nationwide.
In 1988, she got what she described as “the opportunity of a lifetime” to perform, record, travel and share her life with guitarist, singer and trick roper Sean Blackburn. Together they recorded six CDs and toured nationwide to great critical acclaim. They performed at the Kennedy Center in DC and the Lincoln Center in New York City. With business man Bill Wiley, Liz and Sean were founding members of the Western Music Association. Their wonderful musical partnership lasted until Sean’s death in 2005. Although she was devastated by Sean’s death, Liz began to rebuild her music career. She went on to record four more solo CDs as well as appearing on numerous recordings with other artists. She has shared the stage with the greatest western entertainers in the genre, including Dale Evans, Patsy Montana, Rex Allen, Don Edwards, Johnny Gimble and Riders in the Sky, just to mention a few. In 2006 she appeared on the Avalanche Episode of the TV show, Myth Busters, where she attempted to trigger an avalanche by yodeling.
Liz continued to perform solo as well as forming new ensembles, performing countless shows across the nation to wide critical acclaim, even as she battled cancer. Her stage presence and energy were legendary. Her newest CD, Hills of Early Morn, is due to be released in 2018.
Liz received the Patsy Montana Cowgirl Spirit Award in 2000, the Western Music Association’s Female Performer of the Year in 1998, and Academy of Western Artists’ Western Music Album of the Year in 2009 for Roads to Colorado. She received the Will Rogers Award for Best Western Album of 2009. As a lasting tribute to Liz, in November of 2017 the Western Music Association honored Liz by renaming one of their top awards given to outstanding new performers to the Liz Masterson Crescendo Award. Her dear musician friends Ginger Evans and Mag Hayden assisted Liz in making the difficult trip to Albuquerque to receive this honor … her last road trip and performance.
Before her passing, Liz extended sincere thanks to all of the friends and family that have rallied around her and provided much needed support over the last five years, especially the last two months. She is survived by her twin brothers, Ed and Fred Snider and their wives, Jeannie and Betty; nephews Andrew Snider and his family; nephew Eric Snider; niece Katherine Hale and her family; nephew Kevin Snider; many cousins; and her loving dog, Reba.
A Celebration of Life for Liz will be held at 2:00 pm on Sunday, February 4th, at The American Mountaineering Museum, 710 – 10th Street, Golden, CO 80401.