Patsy Cline Biography
Last updated: 09/16/2014 09:03:03 AM
Patsy Cline (September 8, 1932 – March 5, 1963), born Virginia Patterson Hensley, was an American country music singer as part of the early 1960s Nashville sound. Cline successfully "crossed over" to pop music. At age 30, she died at the height of her career in the crash of a private plane. She was one of the most influential, successful and acclaimed female vocalists of the 20th century.
Cline was best known for her rich tone, emotionally expressive and bold contralto voice and her role as a country music industry pioneer. She helped pave the way for women as headline performers in the genre. Cline's was cited as an inspiration by singers in several genres. Books, movies, documentaries, articles and stage plays document her life and career.
Her hits began in 1957 with Donn Hecht's "Walkin' After Midnight", Harlan Howard's "I Fall to Pieces", Hank Cochran's "She's Got You", Willie Nelson's "Crazy" and ended in 1963 with Don Gibson's "Sweet Dreams".
Millions of her records have sold since her death. She won awards and accolades, leading some fans to view her as an icon at the level of Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley. Ten years after her death, in 1973, she became the first female solo artist inducted to the Country Music Hall of Fame. In 1999, she was voted number 11 on VH1's special, The 100 Greatest Women in Rock and Roll, by members and artists of the rock industry. In 2002, country music artists and industry members voted her Number One on CMT's The 40 Greatest Women of Country Music and ranked 46th in the "100 Greatest Singers of All Time" issue of Rolling Stone magazine. According to her 1973 Country Music Hall of Fame plaque, "Her heritage of timeless recordings is testimony to her artistic capacity."
Cline was born Virginia Patterson Hensley in 1932, in Winchester, Virginia, to Hilda Patterson Hensley, a 16-year-old seamstress, and Sam Hensley, a 43-year-old blacksmith. Patsy soon had a younger brother and sister, Samuel and Sylvia; the siblings were called Ginny, John, and Sis. The family moved often before settling in Winchester when Patsy was 8. She grew up "on the wrong side of the tracks". Sam deserted his family in 1947, but the Hensley home was reportedly quite happy.
Cline's home in Winchester, Virginia. She lived here from age 16 to 21.
Cline was introduced to music at an early age, singing in church with her mother. She admired stars such as Kay Starr, Jo Stafford, Hank Williams, Judy Garland, and Shirley Temple. She had perfect pitch. She was self-taught and could not read music.
When she was thirteen, she was hospitalized with a throat infection and rheumatic fever. "The fever affected my throat and when I recovered I had this booming voice like Kate Smith".
To help support her family after her father abandoned them, she dropped out of high school and worked various jobs, often performing as a soda jerk and waitress by day at The Triangle Diner across the street from her school, John Handley High.
After several weeks of watching performers through the window at her local radio station, she asked WINC-AM disc jockey and talent co-ordinator Jimmy McCoy if she could sing on his show. Her first performance on radio in 1947 was so well received that she was asked back. This led to performances at local nightclubs, wearing fringed Western stage outfits that her mother made from Patsy's designs.
Cline performed in variety and talent showcases in and around the Winchester and Tri-State areas. Coupled with increasing appearances on local radio, she attracted a large following. In 1954 Jimmy Dean, a young country star in his own right, learned of her and she became a regular with Dean on Connie B. Gay's Town and Country Jamboree radio show, airing weekday afternoons live on WARL-AM in Arlington, Virginia
She married contractor Gerald Cline on September 19, 1953 and divorced him on July 4, 1957. The dissolution of that marriage was blamed on their considerable age difference and on the conflict between her desire to sing professionally and his desire that she adopt the conventional role of a housewife.This marriage created no children.
She married linotype operator Charlie Dick on April 16, 1957. Their marriage produced two children: Julie Dick (August 25, 1958) and Randy Dick (February 28, 1961).
Four Star Records
Bill Peer, her second manager, gave her the name Patsy, from her middle name and her mother's maiden name, Patterson. In 1955 he got her a contract at Four Star Records, the label with which he was then affiliated. Four Star was under contract to the Coral subsidiary of Decca Records. Patsy signed with Decca at her first opportunity three years later.
Her first contract allowed her to record compositions only by Four Star writers, which Cline found limiting. Later, she expressed regret over signing with the label, but thinking that nobody else would have her, she took the deal. Her first record for Four Star was "A Church, A Courtroom & Then Good-Bye", which attracted little attention, although it led to appearances on the Grand Ole Opry. As these performances were not "records" per se, they were not governed by her contract, and she could sing what she wanted, within reason. This somewhat eased her "stifled" feeling.
Between 1955 and 1957, Cline recorded honky tonk material, with songs like "Fingerprints", "Pick Me Up On Your Way Down", "Don't Ever Leave Me Again", and "A Stranger In My Arms". Cline cowrote the latter two. None of these songs gained notable success. She experimented with rockabilly.
According to Decca Records producer Owen Bradley, the Four Star compositions only hinted at Patsy's potential. Bradley thought that her voice was best-suited for pop music, but Cline sided with Peer and the other Four Star producers, insisting that she could only record country songs, as her contract also stated. Every time Bradley tried to get her to sing the torch songs that would become her signature, she would panic, missing her familiar banjo and steel guitar. She recorded 51 songs with Four Star.
Arthur Godfrey and "Walkin' After Midnight"
On January 7, 1956 Cline made her network television debut on the short-lived television version of the Grand Ole Opry on ABC-TV. This was followed by an appearance on the network's Ozark Jubilee later that month,:p.80 before returning to the show in April.[clarification needed]
Later that year, while looking for material for her first album, Patsy Cline,, "Walkin' After Midnight" appeared, written by Donn Hecht and Alan Block. Cline initially did not like the song because it was, according to her, "just a little old pop song." However, the song's writers and record label insisted that she record it.
In the late fall of 1956, she auditioned for Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts in New York City, and was accepted to sing on the CBS-TV show on January 21, 1957. Godfrey's "discovery" of Cline was typical. Her scout, actually her mother, presented Patsy who initially was supposed to sing "A Poor Man's Roses (Or a Rich Man's Gold)", but the show's producers insisted she sing "Walkin' After Midnight" instead. Though heralded as a country song, recorded in Nashville, Godfrey's staff insisted that Cline appear in a cocktail dress rather than in one of her mother's hand-crafted cowgirl outfits.
The audience's enthusiastic ovations pushed the applause meter to its apex, winning the competition for her. After the Godfrey show, listeners began calling their local radio stations to request the song, so she released it as a single. Although Cline had been performing for almost a decade and had appeared on national TV three times, it took Godfrey to make her a star. For a couple of months thereafter, Cline appeared regularly on Godfrey's radio program. Disagreements over creative control caused her to move on.
"Walkin' After Midnight" reached No. 2 on the country chart and No. 12 on the pop chart, making Cline one of the first country singers to have a crossover pop hit. The single drove her success for the next year or so. She stayed visible by making personal appearances and performing regularly on Godfrey’s show, as well as performing for several years on Ozark Jubilee (later Jubilee USA). She had no other hits with Four Star.
Cline composed and recorded "A Stranger in My Arms" and "Don't Ever Leave Me Again" in 1957 under her birth name, Virginia Hensley.
A month after her recording session, she met Charlie Dick, a good-looking ladies man who frequented the local club circuit Cline played on weekends. His charisma and admiration of Cline's talents captured her attention, and their relationship resulted in a marriage that lasted until her death. Though their love affair was publicized as controversial, Cline regarded Dick as "the love of her life". After the birth of their daughter, Julie, in 1958, they moved to Nashville, Tennessee.
1961 comeback – "I Fall to Pieces"
In 1959 Cline met Randy Hughes, a session guitarist and promotion man. Hughes became her manager and helped her change labels. When her Four Star contract expired in 1960, she signed with Decca Records-Nashville, directly under the direction of legendary female-singer country music producer Owen Bradley. He was responsible for much of Cline's success and positively influenced the careers of both Brenda Lee and Loretta Lynn.
Even though she was still scared of the lush Nashville Sound arrangements, Bradley considered Cline's voice best-suited for country pop-crossover songs. Bradley's direction and arrangements helped smooth her voice into the silky, torch song style for which she won fame.
Cline promotional photograph shortly before her 1961 life-threatening car accident
Cline's first release for Decca was the country pop ballad "I Fall to Pieces" (1961), written by Hank Cochran and Harlan Howard. The song was promoted and won success on both country and pop music stations. On the country charts, the song slowly climbed to the top, garnering her first Number One ranking. In a major feat for country singers at the time, the song hit No. 12 on the pop and No. 6 on the adult contemporary charts, making her a household name and demonstrating that women could achieve as much crossover success as men.
Grand Ole Opry and Nashville scene
In 1960, Cline realized a lifelong dream when the Grand Ole Opry accepted her request to join the cast, making her the only person to achieve membership in such a fashion. She became one of the Opry's biggest stars.
Even before that time, believing that there was "room enough for everybody", and confident of her abilities and appeal, Cline befriended and encouraged women starting out in the country music field at that time, including Loretta Lynn, Dottie West, Jan Howard, sixteen-year-old Brenda Lee and a thirteen year old steel-guitar player named Barbara Mandrell with whom Cline once toured, all of whom cited her as a major influence.
According to both Lynn and West, Cline always gave herself to friends, buying them groceries and furniture and even hiring them as wardrobe assistants. On occasion, she paid their rent, enabling them to stay in Nashville and continue pursuing their dreams. Honky-tonk pianist and Opry star Del Wood said, "Even when she didn't have it, she'd spend it—and not always on herself. She'd give anyone the skirt off her backside if they needed it."
She cultivated a brash and gruff exterior that allowed her to be considered "one of the boys". This allowed her to befriend male artists as well, including Roger Miller, Hank Cochran, Faron Young, Ferlin Husky, Harlan Howard and Carl Perkins all of whom she socialized with at famed Nashville establishment Tootsie's Orchid Lounge, next door to the Opry. In the 1986 documentary The Real Patsy Cline, singer George Riddle said of her, "It wasn't unusual for her to sit down and have a beer and tell a joke, and she'd never be offended at the guys' jokes either, because most of the time she'd tell a joke dirtier than you! Patsy was full of life, as I remember."
Cline used the term of endearment "Hoss" to refer to her friends, both male as well as female, and referred to herself as "The Cline". Patsy met Elvis Presley in 1962 at a fundraiser for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital and they exchanged phone numbers. Having seen him perform during a rare Grand Ole Opry appearance, she admired his music, called him The Big Hoss, and often recorded with his backup group, The Jordanaires.
By this time, Cline controlled her own career, making it clear to all involved that she could stand up to any man, verbally and professionally, and was ready to challenge their rules if they interfered with her. In a time when concert promoters often cheated stars by promising to pay them after the show but skipping out with the money before the concert ended, Cline demanded her money before she took the stage by proclaiming: "No dough, no show", a practice that became the rule. According to friend Roy Drusky in the The Real Patsy Cline: "Before one concert, we hadn't been paid. And we were talking about who was going to tell the audience that we couldn't perform without pay. Patsy said, 'I'll tell 'em!' And she did!" Friend Dottie West stated in amazement some 25 years later in an interview that "It was common knowledge around town that you didn't mess with 'The Cline!'"
Cline bore a son, Randy in 1961. On June 14, she and her brother Sam were involved in a head-on collision on Old Hickory Boulevard in Nashville, the second and more serious of two crashes during her lifetime. The impact threw Cline into the windshield, nearly killing her. Upon arriving at the scene, Dottie West picked glass from Cline's hair, and went with her in the ambulance.
When help arrived, Cline insisted that the other car's driver be treated first, an event which had a long-term detrimental effect on Dottie. When in 1991 West was fatally injured in a car accident, she too insisted that her driver be treated first, possibly causing her own death. Cline later stated that she saw the female driver of the other car die before her eyes.
Cline spent a month in the hospital, suffering from a jagged cut across her forehead that required stitches, a broken wrist and a dislocated hip. Both Nassour and friend Billy Walker (who died in a vehicle accident in 2006) reported that Cline rededicated her life to Christianity while in the hospital, where she received thousands of cards and flowers from fans.
When she left the hospital, her forehead was visibly scarred. For the remainder of her career, she wore wigs and makeup to hide the scars, along with headbands to relieve the forehead pressure that caused headaches if left unattended. Six weeks later, she returned to the road on crutches with a new appreciation for life.
A series of recordings titled Patsy Cline: Live at the Cimarron Ballroom from her first concert after the crash were released in 1997 and feature dialogue of Cline interacting with the audience, reviewing her live performances. Recorded in Tulsa, Oklahoma as a sound check, these archives were found in the attic by a later owner of one of Cline's residences and were given to the family.
Unable to capitalize upon the success of "I Fall to Pieces" due to her hospital stay, Cline sought another recording to re-establish herself. When introduced to "Crazy", a song written by Willie Nelson, Cline expressed a vehement dislike for the composition and the inaugural recording session was unsuccessful.
Undertaken in the Quonset Hut (where the original Bradley's Barn Studio was located before moving to Opryland[disambiguation needed]), the singer tried from the outset to record "Crazy" like Nelson's demo recording, which featured his idiosyncratic style. Cline claimed that the song was too difficult for her; not only because of the demo style, but also because her ribs, injured in the crash, made it difficult for her to reach the high notes. The problems during the session created conflict with Bradley. In an era where it had become a standard to record four songs in a three-hour period, those present at the Quonset Hut "Crazy" session had to cope with a four hour session for a single song. It was eventually decided that Cline would overdub her vocals over the best instrumental recording of the track. This came a week later when the singer's ribs had further healed. Upon returning to the studio, Cline could reach the high notes and recorded her part in a single take.
Patsy Cline at Four Star Records in March 1957
The popular appeal of the final version of the recording was attributed to Bradley's management of Cline's fear of the Nashville Sound, because he convinced her to imbue the recording with her unique persona. The song became an intimate representation of Cline and is perceived to be completely unlike Nelson's version. Now considered a classic, "Crazy" ultimately became Cline's signature song.
By late 1961, "Crazy" was a crossover success, straddling the country and pop genres, and reached the Top 10 on the charts. It became Cline's biggest pop hit. The song subsequently reached No. 9 on the US Hot 100 and No. 2 on both the Hot Country Songs and the Adult Contemporary lists. An album released in November 1961, entitled Patsy Cline Showcase, featured both of Cline's hits of that year. Loretta Lynn later reported on her album, I Remember Patsy, that on the night Cline premiered "Crazy" at the Grand Ole Opry, she received three standing ovations.
At the top
Cline was the first female country music star to headline her own show and receive billing above the male stars with whom she toured.
While bands typically backed up the female singer, Cline led the band through the concert instead.[clarification needed] She was so respected by men in the industry that rather than being introduced to audiences as "Pretty Miss Patsy Cline" as her female contemporaries often were, she was given a more stately introduction such as that given by Johnny Cash on their 1962 tour: "Ladies and Gentlemen, The One and Only – Patsy Cline." As an artist, she held her fan base in extremely high regard, many of whom became friends, staying for hours after concerts to chat and sign autographs.
Cline was the first woman in country music to perform at New York's Carnegie Hall, sharing the bill with fellow Opry members. The performance garnered sharp disapproval from gossip columnist Dorothy Kilgallen in the process—at whom Cline eloquently fired back. She headlined the famous Hollywood Bowl with Cash. Later in 1962, she became the first woman in country music to headline her own show in Las Vegas at the Mint Casino, the sign from which can still be seen at its home on Pico Boulevard near La Brea[disambiguation needed] in Los Angeles.
This success enabled Cline to buy her dream home in the Goodlettsville suburb of Nashville, decorating it in her own style. It featured gold dust sprinkled in the bathroom tiles and a music room with the finest sound equipment. In The Real Patsy Cline, Lynn stated: "She called me into the front yard and said, 'Isn't this pretty? Now I'll never be happy until I have my Mama one just like it.'" Cline called it "the house that Vegas built" since the money from the Mint covered its cost. After her death in 1963, Cline's home was sold to singer Wilma Burgess who told Nassour that "strange occurrences" happened during her years there.
Original cover of the 1961 studio album, Patsy Cline Showcase, which featured her hits from that year, "I Fall to Pieces" and "Crazy". The cover (and name) were changed following Cline's death to the more-familiar version seen today.
With this new demand for Cline came higher earnings. Reportedly she was paid at least $1000 for appearances towards the end of her life—a then an unheard-of sum for country music women, whose average fee was less than $200. Her penultimate concert, held in Birmingham, Alabama, grossed $3000.[verification needed]
To match her new sophisticated sound, Cline also reinvented her personal style, shedding her trademark Western cowgirl outfits for more elegant gowns, cocktail dresses, spiked heels, and gold lame pants. In the days before Tanya's skintight leather pants and Reba's famous red dress shocked the country music establishment out of complacency, Patsy's new image was considered riskier and sexier than anything that anybody had ever seen. Country music industry personnel in those more conservative times were more accustomed to girls in gingham and calico dresses. Like her sound, Cline's style in fashion was mocked at first, then copied. She also loved dangly earrings, ruby-red lipstick and her favorite perfume was Wind Song.
During her five-and-a-half year career, Cline received a dozen awards for her achievements, and three more following her death from the Music Reporter, Billboard Awards and Cashbox.
Cline wrote of her success in a letter to friend Anne Armstrong: "It's wonderful—but what do I do for '63? It's getting so even Cline can't follow Cline!"
In the fall of 1961, Cline was back in the studio again to record songs for an upcoming album released in early 1962. One of the first songs was "She's Got You", written by Hank Cochran. Cochran pitched the song over the phone to Cline and she fell in love with it at first listen. It became one of the few songs that she enjoyed recording. The song was released as a single in January 1962, and soon crossed over, reaching No. 14 on the pop charts, No. 3 on the adult contemporary charts (originally called "Easy Listening"), and as her second and final chart-topper, No. 1 on the country chart. She would never again enter the pop charts during her lifetime.
"She's Got You" was also Cline's first entry in the United Kingdom singles chart, reaching No. 43. The cover by Alma Cogan, one of Britain's most popular female artists of the 1960s, performed notably as well. The biggest Hit Parade UK record sales entry before her death was her version of the standard Heartaches reaching the Top 30 in late 1962.
Following this success, Cline released a string of smaller country hits, including the Top 10 "When I Get Thru' With You", "Imagine That", "So Wrong", and "Heartaches". These were not big crossover hits, but still reached the Top 20 and Top 10.
In late 1962, Cline appeared on Dick Clark's American Bandstand and released her third album, Sentimentally Yours in August of that year. When asked in a WSM-AM interview about her vocal stylings, Cline stated, "Oh, I just sing like I hurt inside."
Life on the road was beginning to wear on Cline. She longed to spend more time raising her children, Julie and Randy, and was starting to talk about a hiatus. But Randy, her manager insisted that they had to strike while the iron was hot.
A month before her death, Cline was back in the Quonset Hut to record her fourth album, originally entitled Faded Love. Recording a mix of country standards and such vintage pop classics as Irving Berlin's "Always" and "Does Your Heart Beat for Me", these sessions proved to be the most contemporary-sounding of her career. The sessions featured a full string section without any conventional country music instruments. Before her death, as Owen Bradley told Patsy author Margaret Jones, he and Cline had talked of doing an album of show tunes and standards, including Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man, since Cline was such a fan of Helen Morgan, who had recorded the song back in 1927.
Cline got so involved with the stories in the songs' lyrics, she reportedly cried through most of her final sessions. The raw emotion can be plainly heard on such tracks as "Sweet Dreams" and at the end of "Faded Love". At the playback party, according to singer Jan Howard in the documentary Remembering Patsy, Cline held up a copy of her first record and a copy of her newest tracks and stated, "Well, here it is...the first and the last."
Patsy Cline aircraft crash site, Camden, Tennessee
Friends Dottie West, June Carter Cash, and Loretta Lynn recalled Cline telling them during 1962–1963 that she felt a sense of impending doom and did not expect to live much longer. Cline, known for her generosity, had begun giving away personal items to friends, writing her will on Delta Air Lines stationery and asking close friends to care for her children should anything happen to her. She told Jordanaires back-up singer Ray Walker as she exited the Grand Ole Opry the week before her death: "Honey, I've had two bad ones (accidents). The third one will either be a charm or it'll kill me."
On March 3, 1963 Cline performed at a benefit at the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall, Kansas City, Kansas for the family of disc jockey "Cactus" Jack Call. He had died in an automobile crash a little over a month earlier. Call was a longtime DJ for KCKN, but had switched to KCMK a week before his death in January 25, 1963 at the age of 39. Also performing on the show were George Jones, George Riddle and The Jones Boys, Billy Walker, Dottie West, Wilma Lee and Stoney Cooper, George McCormick, the Clinch Mountain Boys as well as Copas and Hawkins.
Reports vary as to whether Cline, ill with the flu, gave two or three performances. Some sources say the shows were at 2 p.m. and 5:15 p.m., but other sources say an 8 p.m. show was added due to popular demand. The shows were standing-room only. For the 2 p.m. show, she wore a sky-blue tulle-laden dress, for the 5:15 show a red shocker, and for the closing show at 8 p.m., Cline wore white chiffon and closed the show to a thunderous ovation. Her final song was the last she had recorded the previous month, "I'll Sail My Ship Alone".
Cline, who had spent the night at the Town House Motor Hotel, was unable to fly out the day after the concert because Fairfax Airport was fogged in. West asked Patsy to ride in the car with her and husband, Bill, back to Nashville (approximately a 16 hour drive), but Cline refused, saying, "Don't worry about me, Hoss. When it's my time to go, it's my time." On March 5, she called her mother from the motel and checked out at 12:30 p.m. to go the short distance to the airport to board the Piper Comanche. The plane stopped once in Missouri to refuel and subsequently landed at Dyersburg Municipal Airport in Dyersburg, Tennessee at 5 p.m.
Hughes was the pilot, but was not trained in instrument flying. Hawkins had accepted Billy Walker's seat after Walker left on a commercial flight to take care of a stricken family member. The Dyersburg, Tennessee airfield manager suggested that they stay the night after advising of high winds and inclement weather, and even offered them free rooms and meals, but Hughes responded, "I've already come this far. We'll be there before you know it." The plane took off at 6:07 p.m. (Hughes' flight instructor had also trained Jim Reeves, whose plane crashed the following year. Neither pilot was instrument-rated and both attempted to fly by sight—impossible in the driving rain faced by both flights.)
Cline's flight encountered inclement weather and crashed on the evening of March 5, 1963. Her recovered wristwatch had stopped at approximately 6:20 p.m. The plane wreckage was located approximately 90 miles (140 km) from its Nashville destination in a forest outside Camden, Tennessee. Forensic examinations concluded that everyone aboard had been killed instantaneously from their injuries and did not suffer. Until the wreckage was discovered the following dawn and reported on the radio, friends and family had not given up hope. Endless repetitions of calls such as "Did you hear anything?" "No, did you?" tied up the local telephone exchanges to such a degree that other emergencies occurring over the same period had trouble getting through. The lights at the destination Cornelia Fort Airpark were kept on throughout the night as reports of the missing plane were broadcast on radio and TV.
The grave of Patsy Cline
Early the following morning, Roger Miller and his friend went searching for survivors: "As fast as I could, I ran through the woods screaming their names—through the brush and the trees, and I came up over this little rise, oh, my God, there they were. It was ghastly. The plane had crashed nose down" Shortly after the bodies were removed, looters scavenged the area. Some of the items which were recovered were eventually donated to The Country Music Hall of Fame. Included in those donations were Cline's wrist watch, Confederate flag cigarette lighter, studded belt and three pairs of gold lamé slippers. Cline's fee and attire from that last performance were never recovered.
As per her wishes, Cline was brought home for her memorial service, which thousands attended. She was buried at Shenandoah Memorial Park in her hometown of Winchester, Virginia. Her grave is marked with a bronze plaque, which reads: "Virginia H (Patsy) Cline 'Death Cannot Kill What Never Dies: Love'". With the help of Lynn and West, a bell tower was erected at the cemetery in her memory, which plays hymns daily at 6:00 p.m., the hour of her death. Another memorial marks the exact place off Fire Tower Road in Fatty Bottom, Tennessee, where the plane crashed in the still-remote forest outside of Camden.
Cline’s mother, Hilda Hensley, died in 1998 of natural causes at 82, while her father died of cirrhosis of the liver in the mid-1950s. Mrs. Hensley lived as an accomplished seamstress in Winchester, Virginia, helping to raise her grandchildren, and rarely granted interviews. Cline's daughter, Julie Dick Fudge, stated in 1985: "Grannie loved my mother so much that it's still hard for her to talk about (the accident)." In her later years, Hensley stated "I never knew so many people loved my daughter" about the outpouring of love by Cline's fans.
As Hilda was only 16 years older than Patsy, the two were very close. Cline commented that her mother was the one person she could always depend on, and Hensley commented that Patsy was a "wonderful daughter" who never let her family down in hard times. Cline's brother died in 2004. Her sister still lives in Virginia.
As of 2011, husband Charlie Dick resided in Nashville, producing documentaries on his late wife and attending fan functions. In 1965, he married singer Jamey Ryan, who signed a brief contract with Columbia Records before bearing a son. They divorced in the early 1970s. In the film Sweet Dreams, Ryan provided the vocals for three songs: "Bill Bailey, Won't You Please Come Home", "Rollin' in My Sweet Baby's Arms" and "Blue Christmas" (a tune Cline never recorded).
Daughter Julie joins him in representing Cline's estate at public functions and has four children (one, Virginia, named for Cline, was killed in an automobile accident in 1994) and six grandchildren. Son Randy was a drummer for a Nashville band for a time, and Charlie's younger brother, Uncle Mel as he is known to fans, heads up the "Always... Patsy Cline" fan organization.
Impact and influence
In the 2003 book Remembering Patsy, guitarist-producer Harold Bradley said of Cline: "She's taken the standards for being a country music vocalist, and raised the bar. Even now, women, are trying to get to that bar.... If you're going to be a country singer, and if you're not going to copy her – and most people do come to town doing just that – then you have to be aware of her technique. It's always good to know what was in the past because someone might think they're pretty hot until they hear her.... It gives all the female singers coming in something to gauge their talents against. And I expect it will forever."
When Cline made her first commercial recordings in 1955, Kitty Wells was the top female vocalist in the field. By the time Cline broke through as a consistent hit-maker in 1961, Wells, known as The Queen of Country Music, was still country's biggest female star. Cline dethroned her in 1961 however by winning the Billboard Magazine Award for Favorite Female Country & Western Artist for two years in a row as well as the Music Reporter Star of The Year Award for 1962.
Given that Cline's full-throated sophisticated sound was a marked contrast to Wells' pure-country, quivering vocals, the two country queens could not have been more different. Though Cline had gained attention on country and pop charts, she did not think of herself as anything other than a country singer and was known for her humility in her motto: "I don't want to get rich – just live good."
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Three of her songs became posthumous Top 10 Country hits: "Sweet Dreams", "Leavin' on Your Mind" and "Faded Love". Starting that June, more albums of unreleased material followed, beginning with The Patsy Cline Story and A Portrait of Patsy Cline, released the following Spring. The Story album replaced Cline's planned fourth album, originally to have been titled Faded Love and released that March. The majority of the all-Bradley-produced tracks featured the legendary back-up vocal group The Jordanaires, who also appeared on many albums featuring Elvis Presley and Connie Francis during the period. The cover photo and design of the Story album, featuring Patsy in a smoky haze of gold, with simple titles across the top, is considered to be the first contemporary album cover art in country music history.
By the 1960s, MCA had acquired Decca and continued to issue Cline albums up to the early 1970s, garnering the artist several posthumous hits along the way. Some of the more notable start in early 1964 with a Top 25 country hit "He Called Me Baby", a song recorded during her "last sessions" in 1963. The track was released on her 1964 album That's How a Heartache Begins. Her Greatest Hits album, released in 1967, continues to occasionally appear on the country music charts and was the longest album to stay on the country charts in country music history until Garth Brooks surpassed it in the 1990s. The album still holds the record for an album by a female artist.
In 1973 Cline was the first female solo artist to be elected into The Country Music Hall of Fame. Johnny Cash announced the honor for the live CMA Awards show, televised from Ryman Auditorium. Along with the standard induction bronze plaque, the hall houses a few of Cline's stage outfits, personal effects recovered from the crash site, including her "Dixie" cigarette lighter, donated by singer Carl Perkins and letters to her fan club president Louise Seger, about whom the musical Always, Patsy Cline was created.
MCA continued to release Singles throughout much of the 1970s, but none charted.
In the late 1970s, Cline’s name occasionally appeared in magazine articles and television interviews with West and Lynn, who credited her with inspiration for their success. Shortly after stating in her 1976 autobiography that she would never record an album of Patsy's hits "because it would hurt too much", Lynn did just that a year later.
The tribute album entitled I Remember Patsy, was released in 1977 and contained the single "She's Got You" a hit with Cline in 1962 and renditions of other Cline favorites such as Crazy, Back in Baby's Arms and Sweet Dreams. The candid interview which closes the album, recorded with producer Owen Bradley late one night between sessions, gives an intimate look at the ordinary backstage life of a country superstar who was still a housewife and mother – "washing the clothes and waxing the floor".
These encounters Lynn led Ellis Nassour, then-manager of MCA artist relations, to create a series of magazine profiles, and ultimately to write Honky Tonk Angel, the first of his two biographies. The book featured interviews with Cline's mother, both husbands and intimate friends and peers such as West, Brenda Lee and Faron Young.
Lynn's own 1976 autobiography, Coal Miner's Daughter, featured an entire chapter dedicated to her friendship with Cline. Viewers were reintroduced to Patsy when the biopic of the same name was released four years later. After Coal Miner's Daughter opened big, MCA re-released "Always". The soundtrack released used the original 1963 vocal and overdubs by many of the Nashville Sound musicians who had been a part of the original scene. The song reached No. 18 on the Hot Country Songs list in 1980. The following year, two electronically produced duets were released between Cline and Jim Reeves, another legendary country singer who died the year after Cline in another plane crash. Their duet of "Have You Ever Been Lonely (Have You Ever Been Blue)" was a No. 5 country hit that year and their duet of "I Fall to Pieces" became an interesting footnote in music history. Like Cline, Reeves gained a massive fan following his death, as well as a string of re-issued singles.
In 1983 the movie Sweet Dreams and in 1990 the book Patsy by Margaret Jones appeared, based on research by Bernard Schwartz.
In 1992, the U.S. Postal Service created special-issue postage stamps to honor Patsy Cline, along with other country superstars such as Hank Williams, the Carter Family and Bob Wills.
MCA released a 4-disc comprehensive collection of much of her Four Star and Decca discography, called The Patsy Cline Collection. This boxed set, featuring remixed and remastered sound, included a booklet featuring rare photos and chronicling her short career. According to SoundScan, the set remained one of the top 10 bestselling boxed collections in the record industry as of 2010.
A Patsy Cline exhibit was featured in 1993 when the Grand Ole Opry opened its doors in Nashville for its inaugural season. Several of her awards, stage outfits, wigs, make-up, hairbrush, and a fully furnished replica of her dream home’s music room were on display. The year marked the 30th anniversary of her death, so the Opry made its Saturday night segment as a tribute to Cline, Hawkins and Copas. With Cline's widower, Charlie, and their daughter, Julie, on hand, her longtime friend Jan Howard paid tribute to Cline, singing "I Fall to Pieces", co-written by her ex-husband, Harlan Howard, followed by Lynn, performing the classic "She's Got You".
Later that year, Lynn, Dolly Parton and Tammy Wynette included Cline's cover of "Lovesick Blues" on their Honky Tonk Angels trio album, singing along with Cline's original vocals lifted off the early multi-track tapes. A year later, Cline became a member of the Texas Cowgirl Hall of Fame.
The Delta (TV series) starring Delta Burke featured the actress as a Nashville waitress trying to make it into country music. The show referenced Patsy Cline throughout its run, and included several Burke covers of Cline's hits. In one episode she paid homage to Cline's grave, where she meets another mourner, singer Tanya Tucker.
Cline was portrayed on film again in the 1995 CBS biopic Big Dreams and Broken Hearts: The Dottie West Story,. At that year's Grammy Awards, Cline was honored with a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, by Barbra Streisand and Peggy Lee. On the Grand Ole Opry's 70th Anniversary Special on CBS, singer Martina McBride celebrated her induction as the Opry's newest member by paying tribute to Cline with her version of "Crazy."
In 1996, thirteen-year-old LeAnn Rimes was discovered by Dallas disc jockey, songwriter, and promoter Bill Mack. The center of Mack's plan to introduce Rimes was to give her his composition, "Blue," which he had released as a single in the late 1950s (covered by several artists prior to Rimes). "Blue" was slated for Cline when his version did not become popular, but she died before recording it.
In 1997, Cline's recording of "Crazy" was named the number one jukebox hit of all time; "I Fall to Pieces" came in at No. 17. In 1998, she was nominated to The Hollywood Walk of Fame by a dedicated fan, and received her star in 1999; later a street was named after her on the back lot of Universal Studios.
Also in 1999, VH1 named Cline number eleven on its 100 Greatest Women of Rock and Roll. She was also honored with the Nashville Golden Voice Award in its Legend Category that same year. Singer Trisha Yearwood celebrated her induction to the Opry by paying tribute to Cline, singing "Sweet Dreams" and receiving a necklace worn by Cline to commemorate the event from Charlie and Julie.
In 2002, CMT named her number one on its 40 Greatest Women of Country Music, voted by members of the music industry. She was followed by women who had said she inspired them, Tammy Wynette and Loretta Lynn.
Cline's hit song, "I Fall to Pieces" was listed at No. 107 on RIAA's list of Songs of the Century in 2001. Lynn released a sequel to her autobiography, Coal Miner's Daughter, called Still Woman Enough and again dedicated a chapter to her friendship with Cline (called "Still Thinking of Patsy"). One of Lynn's daughters is named after Cline, and one of Brenda Lee's daughter's is named after Cline's daughter, Julie.
Throughout her career, country legend Reba McEntire cited Cline as a childhood inspiration and, upon reaching stardom in the 1980s, featured Cline's hits on a number of her early albums. For a number of years, McEntire closed all her live shows with "Sweet Dreams", but stopped after closing a show with it hours before the airplane carrying her band crashed in the pre-dawn hours of March 15, 1991, killing everyone aboard. Six months later, Dottie West would ultimately die from injuries sustained in a car crash not unlike the 1961 crash which scarred Patsy.
Early in 2005, Patsy Cline’s Greatest Hits was certified by the RIAA as Diamond, recognizing the sale of 10 million copies. The album was listed as Longest-Charting Title by a Female Artist in the 2005 edition of the Guinness Book of World Records. For its 40th anniversary reissue in 2007, Bob Ludwig remastered the album and featured the original 1967 cover art.
Later that year, her childhood home in Winchester, Virginia was awarded a prominent on-site marker cast in bronze for an honored place on The National Register of Historic Places. The house was placed on the Virginia Landmarks Register and features a State of Virginia Historical Marker on the street in front of the house. Cline was further memorialized on a slab of concrete in Owen Bradley Park in downtown Nashville, featuring three of the hits that she and Bradley made famous. On the life-size grand piano upon which Bradley's statue sits is the sheet music for "I Fall to Pieces".
Each year, on Labor Day weekend, thousands of fans celebrate Patsy's birthday at Shenandoah Memorial Gardens. Husband Charlie, daughter Julie and all of the grandchildren and great-grandchildren as well as other family members attended the 20th annual gathering on September 8, 2007.
After a multi-million dollar renovation at her former school, built in 1923, authorities dedicated "The Patsy Cline Theatre" there in the summer of 2009. The dedication was celebrated with a concert by longtime Patsy Cline friend and songwriter Willie Nelson.
The following year, the "Patsy Cline Classic" at the theater welcomed Rock and Roll Hall of Fame members The Beach Boys on October 5, 2010.
In 2011, her childhood home opened for public tours, proceeds from which benefit a number of organizations dedicated to keeping Patsy's memory alive for future generations.
Movies and documentaries
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In Coal Miner's Daughter, Beverly D'Angelo portrayed Patsy alongside Sissy Spacek as Lynn. The film gained a wide audience. Instead of lip-synching to the original as was common during the period, both actresses sang. Contrary to the movie script, Cline and Lynn never toured together. Cline never owned a bus (she had planned to buy one before her death) and stars during her time usually traveled in caravans and limousines.
In 1985, HBO/Tri Star Pictures released Sweet Dreams: The Life and Times of Patsy Cline, starring Jessica Lange in the lead role with Ed Harris and Ann Wedgeworth as her husband Charlie Dick and her mother Hilda Hensley, respectively. The film was based on research by Bernard Schwartz. Lange lip-synched to Cline's original recordings.
The film depicted Cline's marriage to Dick as abusive, portraying Cline as a victim of domestic violence; however, as Dottie West commented in a 1986 interview: "It was always very interesting to watch – because you always knew Patsy was going to win! He was her man. He was her lover." Cline's mother was quoted in a 1985 issue of People saying "The producers told me they were going to make a love story. I saw the film once. That was enough. Jessica (Lange) did well with what she had to work with". Charlie Dick stated in the same article: "It's a great film – if you like fiction." The remainder of Cline’s family and close friends claimed that numerous sequences in the film had been inaccurately fictionalized for Hollywood and were not pleased with the final product.
Several such inaccuracies in Sweet Dreams revolved around the portrayal of the plane crash. For starters, the aircraft was portrayed as a Cessna 172 Skyhawk, not a Piper Commanche (in which Cline actually crashed). The film also portrayed the cause of the crash as engine restarting difficulties after switching from an empty tank to a full tank of fuel (of course, the crash was caused by Hughes' decision to attempt to fly through a storm while not instrument-rated). Finally, the film depicted the plane crashing into a mountain cliff and bursting into flames upon impact (there are no mountains at the actual crash site and the plane did not explode upon crashing).
Nonetheless, the picture became a hit and Lange was nominated for an Academy Award for her performance, one that she credited as a favorite. The soundtrack, featuring several numbers overdubbed with a new orchestral arrangement, was a success, and Cline’s recordings began to climb the charts again.
Since the earlier overdubbed recordings had done so well, Bradley and arranger Bill McElhiney laid her original vocals onto a digitally-recorded background for a fresh new sound. These new recordings returned Cline's voice to attention once again, producing several hits with Walkin' After Midnight Lovesick Blues and Foolin' Round from the soundtrack.
Subsequently, a more accurate series of video documentaries was produced, including most recently Sweet Dreams Still: The Live Collection as well as The Real Patsy Cline and Remembering Patsy. The latter was re-edited and used on the show Biography on the A&E Cable Channel in the mid 1990s.
Ten years after Sweet Dreams, Patsy was portrayed again in Big Dreams and Broken Hearts: The Dottie West Story, a 1995 CBS made-for-television movie featuring Tere Myers as Patsy and Michelle Lee as Dottie. In 2007, a biopic entitled Crazy about the life of Hank Garland, lead guitarist on many of Patsy's records, featured Mandy Barnett of Always...Patsy Cline fame as Patsy.
Plays and musicals
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A Closer Walk with Patsy Cline, created by Dean Regan, and Always...Patsy Cline are the only plays approved by the Patsy Cline Estate and licensed by Legacy, Inc., the family company.
A Closer Walk with Patsy Cline, created by Dean Regan in 1991, is a musical tribute which showcases her life and music. It has been produced across the United States and Canada with multiple productions by the Springer Opera House and Troupe America, Inc. It ran under the name Patsy! at the Grand Palace in Branson, Missouri for a year, starring Gail Bliss as Patsy Cline. Other celebrated performers in the role are Julie Johnson, Sara-Jeanne Hosie and Bridget Beirne.
Always...Patsy Cline, produced by Ted Swindley, premiered in 1993. The story was taken and expanded from a section of the Cline biography, Honky Tonk Angel. It chronicled the real-life story of her encounter in 1961 with Louise Seger, a fan and Mississippi native who arrived early at The Esquire Ballroom in Houston for Cline's performance. In a chance encounter before the show, the two met and formed a lasting friendship.
In the musical, Cline expresses her worry to Seger over the attendance that night, and Seger tells her she'll have no problem filling the hall. She later persuades Cline to spend the night at her house rather than a hotel. They stay up all night talking, and do a radio spot in the morning.
The musical relied on letters that Seger received from Cline over the period prior to the singer's death. They gave the audience an up-close look at Patsy's daily life. The title of the musical came from the sign-off Cline used at the end of each letter. The revue has played across the U.S., running off-Broadway in New York City and for over a year at Nashville's Ryman Auditorium, where it sold out nightly, starring singer Mandy Barnett.
Thanks to Steven Johnson for submitting the biography.