In 1933, the prolific Master Joe Petersen (1913-1964) was signed to Crystalate Records of London, billed as "Master Joe Petersen, the Phenomenal Boy Singer". He became a big name in Britain and in Europe. The interesting thing is that Master Joe Petersen wasn't a boy. He was a 20-year-old Scottish woman named Mary O'Rourke! Under the name of Joe Petersen she recorded 59 78rpm discs for the Rex label between 1934 and 1942.
Born in Helensburgh, Mary O'Rourke was brought up in Glasgow's Gallowgate in an Irish show business family. She was born with a unique and beautiful voice and won many talent contests. She was recruited by her uncle to to take the place of his other boy singers whose voices kept breaking, and was later banned from broadcasting on the BBC because they considered her 'improper' for dressing as a boy.
Mary married George Lethbridge, an orchestral violinist, after becoming pregnant, but he left for the Army when war broke out. She died in Glasgow in 1964. A 30 minute documentary about her was broadcast on BBC Radio Scotland on 26 June 2006. A book is also available which chronicles her unique story.
She was also known as Master Wilfred Eaton and Michael Dawney.