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Cline, Patsy

Patsy Cline

Vocalist

For the Record

Selected discography

Sources

Up until Patsy Clines recordings in the late 1950s and early 1960s there were only a handful of country and western female singers; and the title of queen belonged solely to Kitty Wells. It was Cline who dethroned Wells with classic performances on cuts like Walkin After Midnight and the Willie Nelson composition Crazy, which combined the pop characteristics of Patti Page and Kay Starr with the hillbilly traits of Hank Williams. All three singers were major influences on Clines style.

Clines entertainment career began at the tender age of four, when she won a local amateur contest for tap dancing in her hometown of Winchester, Virginia. By age eight she was playing the piano and singing in her churchs choir. In 1948 the drugstore counter girl began singing in nightclubs with Bill Peer and his Melody Boys. Wally Fowler of the Grand Ole Opry convinced the 16-year-old to go to Nashville for an appearance on Roy Acuffs WSM Dinner Bell radio program. Cline hung around Nashville trying to break into the industry but ended up working as a club dancer.

Cline headed back home shortly thereafter and continued singing with Peers band until 1954, when she returned to Nashville and signed a contract with William McCalls 4 Star Sales Co. out of Pasadena, California. Clines first recording session was on June 1, 1955, and her first three songs were leased to Coral Records, a subsidiary of Decca. Part of her deal with 4 Star, which included one-time session fees with no royalties, stipulated that she could only record material that belonged to McCalls company. This may have been part of the reason that the majority of her early work did not sell very well. She was also tackling a wide variety of styles that made it hard to categorize her.

Producer Owen Bradley was trying to create a new genre with Cline by bathing her voice in full, jazzy orchestrations at his Quonset Studios in an effort to counter the rising popularity of rock and roll. According to The Listeners Guide to Country Music, Patsy Cline was his ultimate country success. For him, she played down her country characteristics. For her, he played down his popular music background. The results were records full of tension and dynamics.

It would, however, take some time before the formula caught on, as the country scene was changing from hillbilly to country and western and was still mainly dominated by male artists. Clines radical image as a two-fisted, hard-drinking woman definitely made her stand out from the rest of the Nashville crowd, but any chance of success would rely on her voice and songs. Her talents shined on both slowtorchers and up-tempo cuts but her 4 Star sessions never did fully realize her potential, with the exception of Walkin After Midnight.

For the Record

Born Virginia Patterson Hensley, September 8, 1932, in Winchester, Va.; killed in an airplane crash March 5, 1963, near Camden, Tenn.; mothers name, Hilda Hensley; married Charlie Dick; children: two.

Began recording in 1955 for 4 Star Records; had hit with Walkin After Midnight in 1957; from 1960-62 she had six Top 10 hits for Decca.

Awards: Elected to Country Music Hall of Fame in 1973.

Cline recorded the tune on November 8, 1956, but it was the rendition of the song she performed on Arthur Godfreys Talent Scouts television program on January 28, 1957, that got the industrys attention. She had debated performing the song but was finally convinced by one of the regulars on Godfreys show, Janette Davis. The television audience went wild and gave Cline a standing ovation.

4 Star rushed to release the single on February 11 and it shot all the way to number three on Billboards country chart. More importantly, however, Walkin also rose to number 17 on the pop charts. Donn Hecht had originally written the tune for Kay Starr, who turned it down, but Cline and Bradley managed to use it as a vehicle to bridge the gap between hillbilly and pop. McCall, whose company was eventually shut down as a result of questionable business dealings, was unfortunately too slow in following up on the hit. He did convince Cline to renew her contract, but it took another six months before she recorded another session, Fingerprints/A Stranger in My Arms. Her remaining work with 4 Star was unspectacular and in 1959 she jumped to Decca Records, insisting upon a $1, 000 advance.

It wasnt until 1961, one year after she became a regular cast member of the Grand Ole Opry, that Cline had her second hit, I Fall to Pieces. The song went to number one on the country charts and was joined by Crazy, another Top 10 hit of 1961. Clines vocals began to soar to new heights on material that was less restrictive than 4 Stars catalog. For the next two years she recorded major hits with Shes Got You (a number-one hit), When I Get Through With You, Youll Love Me, Faded Love, and Leavin On Your Mind (all Top 10s).

Cline was just coming into her own when tragedy struck on March 5, 1963. On the way home from a Kansas City benefit for disc jockey Cactus Jack Callat, Cline, Randy Hughes, Cowboy Copas, and Hawkshaw Hawkins were killed when the airplane they were flying in crashed near Camden, Tennessee. At the age of 31 she had been performing for over twenty years, yet recording for less than eight.

Ironically, perhaps her most identifiable tune, Sweet Dreams, was released posthumously and also broke the Top 10. Even with her relatively small collection of songs, Cline managed to break new ground and influence hundreds of female, and some male, country singers since. Loretta Lynn, undoubtedly Clines most successful pupil, recorded a tribute LP, I Remember Patsy, featuring nine of Clines songs.

Patsy Cline knew how to cry on both sides of the microphone, wrote Donn Hecht in The Country Music Encyclopedia. And the why of it all, explained by many, understood by few, is slowly becoming a legend unparalleled by any other country entertainer since Hank Williams.

Selected discography

Patsy Cline Portrait, Decca, 1965.

How a Heartache Begins, Decca, 1965.

Greatest Hits, Decca, 1967.

Golden Hits, Evergreen, 1963.

In Memoriam, Evergreen, 1963.

Patsy Cline Legend, Evergreen, 1964.

Reflections, Evergreen, 1965.

Heres Patsy Cline, Vocalion, 1965.

Great Patsy Cline, Vocalion, 1969.

Gotta Lot of Rhythm, Metronome, 1965.

The Patsy Cline Story, MCA, 1988.

12 Greatest Hits, MCA, 1988.

Walkin DreamsHer First Recordings, Vol. 1, Rhino, 1989.

Hungry For LoveHer First Recordings, Vol. 2, Rhino, 1989.

Rockin SideHer First Recordings, Vol. 3, Rhino, 1989.

Heres Patsy Cline, MCA.

Sources

Lazarus, Lois, Country Is My Music!, Messner, 1980.

Malone, Bill C., Country Music U.S.A.A Fifty-Year History, American Folklore Society, 1968.

Oermann, Robert K., with Douglas B. Green, The Listeners Guide to Country Music, Facts on File, 1983.

Stambier, Irwin, and Grellun Landon, The Encyclopedia of Folk, Country & Western Music, St. Martins Press, 1983.

Stars of Country MusicUncle Dave Macon to Johnny Rodriguez, edited by Bill C. Malone and Judith McCulloh, University of Illinois Press, 1983.

Shestack, Melvin, The Country Music Encyclopedia, KBO, 1974.

Calen D. Stone

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Patsy Cline

Patsy Cline

Vocalist Patsy Cline (1932-1963) was one of the first women to break into the country and western music scene, which was, until then, dominated by men.

Up until Patsy Cline's recordings in the late 1950s and early 1960s there were only a handful of country and western female singers; and the title of queen belonged solely to Kitty Wells. It was Cline who dethroned Wells with classic performances on cuts like "Walkin' After Midnight" and the Willie Nelson composition "Crazy," which combined the pop characteristics of Patti Page and Kay Starr with the hillbilly traits of Hank Williams. All three singers were major influences on Cline's style.

Career Began at Age Four

Cline's entertainment career began at the tender age of four, when she won a local amateur contest for tap dancing in her hometown of Winchester, Virginia. By age eight she was playing the piano and singing in her church's choir. In 1948 the drugstore counter girl began singing in nightclubs with Bill Peer and his Melody Boys. Wally Fowler of the Grand Ole Opry convinced the 16-year-old to go to Nashville for an appearance on Roy Acuff's "WSM Dinner Bell" radio program. Cline hung around Nashville trying to break into the industry but ended up working as a club dancer.

Cline headed back home shortly thereafter and continued singing with Peer's band until 1954, when she returned to Nashville and signed a contract with William McCall's 4 Star Sales Co. out of Pasadena, California. Cline's first recording session was on June 1, 1955, and her first three songs were leased to Coral Records, a subsidiary of Decca. Part of her deal with 4 Star, which included one-time session fees with no royalties, stipulated that she could only record material that belonged to McCall's company. This may have been part of the reason that the majority of her early work did not sell very well. She was also tackling a wide variety of styles that made it hard to categorize her.

Radical Image

Producer Owen Bradley was trying to create a new genre with Cline by bathing her voice in full, jazzy orchestrations at his Quonset Studios in an effort to counter the rising popularity of rock and roll. According to The Listener's Guide to Country Music, "Patsy Cline was his ultimate country success. For him, she played down her country characteristics. For her, he played down his popular music background. The results were records full of tension and dynamics."

It would, however, take some time before the formula caught on, as the country scene was changing from hillbilly to country and western and was still mainly dominated by male artists. Cline's radical image as a two-fisted, hard-drinking woman definitely made her stand out from the rest of the Nashville crowd, but any chance of success would rely on her voice and songs. Her talents shined on both slow torchers and up-tempo cuts but her 4 Star sessions never did fully realize her potential, with the exception of "Walkin' After Midnight."

"Walkin' After Midnight" a Hit

Cline recorded the tune on November 8, 1956, but it was the rendition of the song she performed on Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts television program on January 28, 1957, that got the industry's attention. She had debated performing the song but was finally convinced by one of the regulars on Godfrey's show, Janette Davis. The television audience went wild and gave Cline a standing ovation.

4 Star rushed to release the single on February 11 and it shot all the way to number three on Billboard's country chart. More importantly, however, "Walkin"' also rose to number 17 on the pop charts. Donn Hecht had originally written the tune for Kay Starr, who turned it down, but Cline and Bradley managed to use it as a vehicle to bridge the gap between hillbilly and pop. McCall, whose company was eventually shut down as a result of questionable business dealings, was unfortunately too slow in following up on the hit. He did convince Cline to renew her contract, but it took another six months before she recorded another session, "Fingerprints"/"A Stranger in My Arms." Her remaining work with 4 Star was unspectacular and in 1959 she jumped to Decca Records, insisting upon a $1,000 advance.

Vocals Soared to New Heights

It wasn't until 1961, one year after she became a regular cast member of the Grand Ole Opry, that Cline had her second hit, "I Fall to Pieces." The song went to number one on the country charts and was joined by "Crazy," another Top 10 hit of 1961. Cline's vocals began to soar to new heights on material that was less restrictive than 4 Star's catalog. For the next two years she recorded major hits with "She's Got You" (a number-one hit), "When I Get Through With You, You'll Love Me," "Faded Love," and "Leavin' On Your Mind" (all Top 10's).

Cline was just coming into her own when tragedy struck on March 5, 1963. On the way home from a Kansas City benefit for disc jockey Cactus Jack Callat, Cline, Randy Hughes, Cowboy Copas, and Hawkshaw Hawkins were killed when the airplane they were flying in crashed near Camden, Tennessee. At the age of 31 she had been performing for over twenty years, yet recording for less than eight.

A Legend

Ironically, perhaps her most identifiable tune, "Sweet Dreams," was released posthumously and also broke the Top 10. Even with her relatively small collection of songs, Cline managed to break new ground and influence hundreds of female, and some male, country singers since. Loretta Lynn, undoubtedly Cline's most successful pupil, recorded a tribute LP, I Remember Patsy, featuring nine of Cline's songs.

"Patsy Cline knew how to cry on both sides of the microphone," wrote Donn Hecht in The Country Music Encyclopedia. "And the why of it all, explained by many, understood by few, is slowly becoming a legend unparalleled by any other country entertainer since Hank Williams."

Further Reading

Lazarus, Lois, Country Is My Music!, Messner, 1980.

Malone, Bill, Country Music U.S.A.—A Fifty-Year History, American Folk Society, 1968.

Oermann, Robert K., with Douglas B. Green, The Listener's Guide to Country Music, Facts on File, 1983.

Stambler, Irwin, and Grellun Landon, The Encyclopedia of Folk, Country & Western Music, St. Martin's Press, 1983.

Stars of Country Music—Uncle Dave Macon to Johnny Rodriguez, edited by Bill C. Malone and Judith McCulloh, University of Illinois Press, 1975.

Shestack, Melvin, The Country Music Encyclopedia, KBO, 1974. □

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Cline, Patsy

Patsy Cline, 1932–63, American country singer, b. Winchester, Va., as Virginia Patterson Hensley. She began singing locally while still in her teens and signed her first recording contract in 1953, but did not become well known until after the release of her first hit, "Walkin' after Midnight" (1957). Cline became a regular performer on radio's Grand Ole Opry in 1960. While remaining a country artist, she was the first female vocalist to successfully cross over to the pop charts. Among her other hits are "I Fall to Pieces" (1961), "Crazy" (1961), and "She's Got You" (1962). Cline was killed in a plane crash at the age of 30. Her strong, golden-toned voice and expressive, sometimes sobbing style influenced a wide range of singers including Dottie West, Loretta Lynn, Tammy Wynette, Dolly Parton, and K. D. Lang. Cline was posthumously named (1992) to the Country Music Hall of Fame and given (1995) a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

See C. Hazen and M. Freeman, ed., Love Always: Patsy Cline's Letters to a Friend (1999); biographies by E. Nassour (rev. ed. 1993), M. Jones (1994, repr. 1999), M. Bego (1995), S. E. Brown and L. F. Myers (1996), and D. Hall (1998); Sweet Dreams (documentary film, 1985).

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Cline, Patsy

CLINE, Patsy

(b. 8 September 1932 in Winchester, Virginia; d. 5 March 1963 near Camden, Tennessee), first female country and western singer to earn success on the pop charts.

Born Virginia Patterson Hensley, Cline was the daughter of Samuel Hensley and Hilda Patterson. From an early age she showed talent as a performer, winning a dance contest at the age of four and learning to play piano by ear just a few years later. After the family moved to 608 South Kent Street in Winchester, Virginia, she began singing on a local radio show. In 1948 Cline auditioned (unsuccessfully) for the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee, and even sang on Roy Acuff's WSM radio program, but unable to secure a recording contract, she returned home. By 1942 she was lead singer for a Winchester act called the Melody Boys and Girls, whose bandleader Bill Peer suggested that Cline call herself "Patsy." On 7 March 1953 she married Gerald Cline, thus completing her stage name.

Cline returned to Nashville in 1954 and signed a highly disadvantageous contract with Four Star Records. Not only did the contract provide her primarily with one-time fees rather than significant royalties, but Four Star owner William McCall stipulated that Cline would record only material owned or at least approved by McCall's company. There was, however, one bright spot in the deal with McCall. He paired her with the producer Owen Bradley, who, with his pop background, influenced Cline to expand her range beyond country.

Cline recorded "Walkin' After Midnight" on 8 November 1956, and on 8 January 1957 performed the song on the television show Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts, where she received a standing ovation. The single, released 11 February 1957, shot to number three on the country charts and, even more significantly, to number seventeen on the pop charts. After divorcing her first husband on 28 March of that year, Cline married Charlie Dick, a soldier, at what became their home on 720 South Kent Street in Winchester. They had two children.

Ramsey "Randy" Hughes became Cline's manager in the summer of 1959, and in January 1960 she joined the Grand Ole Opry. She made her last recording with Four Star on 27 January 1960; then, taking advantage of the fact that McCall was embroiled in legal troubles, she signed a contract with Decca Records. The latter released the single "I Fall to Pieces" on 30 January 1961. Featuring back-up vocals by the Jordanaires (famous for their work with the singer Elvis Presley), "I Fall to Pieces" became Cline's first number-one country hit and, by mid-year, had reached number twelve on the pop charts. Next came "Crazy" (released 16 October 1961), which reached a top-ten position on the pop charts, and "She's Got You" (released 10 January 1962), a number-one pop hit. Other hits followed, including "When I Get Through with You, You'll Love Me," "Faded Love," and "Leavin' on Your Mind."

To promote these songs, Cline maintained an exhausting schedule that kept her almost constantly on the road, away from her husband and children. Among the milestones of her performing career were appearances on Dick Clark's American Bandstand (8 November 1961 and 22 February 1962); a spot on the first Grand Ole Opry show at New York City's Carnegie Hall on 29 November 1961; various tours with the country and western singer Johnny Cash, beginning in January 1962; and a number of shows in Las Vegas during November and December 1962. When she was at home, as she was for part of February 1962—a month in which she recorded fourteen songs—Cline arranged to record during the evenings so she could spend time with her children. Still, she spent so little time at her home in Nashville, where she and her family had moved on 16 November 1961, that she rarely bothered to unpack.

By early 1961 Cline had begun to experience foreboding with regard to the way that her fast-paced life might come to an end. On 22 April (ironically, while flying) she hand-wrote a will on a piece of Delta Airlines stationery. When tragedy first came on 14 June 1961, it was not in the form of a plane crash, however, but an automobile crash in Nashville. Cline's brother was driving, and Cline was in the front seat when another car, having pulled out to pass another vehicle on a blind curve, smashed into them head-on. Cline was thrown through the windshield and over the hood of the car. Badly scarred, with a dislocated hip and broken wrist, she spent a month in the hospital, but was playing shows within six weeks of the accident.

The real tragedy came almost two years later. On 2 March 1963 Cline left Birmingham, Alabama, via private plane for Kansas City, Missouri, where she had agreed to play a benefit for a local disc jockey before returning to Nashville for two weeks with her family. Returning from Kansas City on 5 March, the plane—carrying Cline, Hughes, Cowboy Copas, and Hawkshaw Hawkins—crashed outside Camden, Tennessee. Cline was buried at Shenandoah Memorial Park in Winchester on 10 March. In addition to her burial place, there is a memorial at the crash site, several miles west of Camden.

In the world of 1960s country music, dominated as it was by men, Cline was an anomaly. Her brassy ways—it was said that she could drink and curse with the best of her male counterparts—helped her fit in, yet she also had a softer side, expressed in songs such as "Sweet Dreams," a top-ten hit released in April 1963, a month after her death. By the time her short career came to an end, she had proved not only that a woman could succeed in the world of country, but that a country singer could succeed in the mainstream market. Along the way, she helped many younger female artists such as Brenda Lee, on whom she made a deep impression when the two performed together in the summer of 1957. More famously, Cline befriended Loretta Lynn, whose version of "I Fall to Pieces" she heard in the hospital in 1961. Cline sent her husband, Charlie, to tell the young singer she wanted to meet her, and the two began a friendship that lasted until Cline's death. Years later, Lynn, by then famous in her own right, recorded a tribute album, I Remember Patsy.

Cline's letters to friend Treva Miller Steinbicker appear in Patsy Cline, Cindy Hazen, and Mike Freeman, Love Always, Patsy: Patsy Cline's Letters to a Friend (1999). Biographies include Ellis Nassour, Honky Tonk Angel: The Intimate Story of Patsy Cline (1993); Margaret Jones, Patsy: The Life and Times of Patsy Cline (1994); and Mark Bego, I Fall to Pieces: The Music and the Life of Patsy Cline (1995).

Judson Knight

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