Patsy Cline had a promising career as a country and pop singer cut short by a tragic accident. She is remembered today as a singer with a rich, full voice and is revered by many who appreciate the good singer that she was.
She was named Virginia Patterson Hensley when she was born in Winchester, Virginia in 1932. As a girl growing up she aspired to be a country singing star, and began singing as a teenager. She signed a recording contract with Four Star Records in 1954. Her contract limited her to recording only those songs which had been published by her record company.
Early in 1957 she appeared on the Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts television show and sang Walkin' After Midnight. The song became a top ten country hit, and crossed over to the pop chart where it nearly reached the top ten as well. She worked as a regular on Jimmy Dean's television show in the Washington, D.C. area in the 1950's. Patsy had been married to Gerald Cline but obtained a divorce. In 1957 she married Charlie Dick, retaining Patsy Cline as her professional name. She moved to Nashville and signed a recording contract with Decca, but was somewhat restricted by the terms of her previous contract until 1960.
By the summer of 1961 she had released I Fall To Pieces, another song that crossed over from country to pop. This record showcased her remarkable singing voice and she came to be known by a wider audience. Patsy was severely injured in an auto accident in Nashville, but made a full recovery.
She recorded a song that had been written by Willie Nelson, at the time a struggling young Nashville songwriter, titled Crazy. Cline's version was an interpretation of the piece which was entirely different from the way the songwriter had intended it to be, but it became her signature song and was enormously popular, again in both country and pop circles. The following year her She's Got You was number one country, and a big hit on the pop circuit in both the United States and the United Kingdom. By 1962 and 1963 Patsy had become a very popular singer and had some huge country hits with When I Get Through With You, Faded Love, and Sweet Dreams.
Patsy Cline, who had always wanted to be a country music star, had become the first female country music star to rival the popularity of the legendary Kitty Wells, and also the first to cross over to the pop charts. With her career going in full gear, she travelled to Kansas City to do a benefit concert for a popular disk jockey who had died there. Returning to Nashville in a private plane piloted by her manager, Randy Hughes, they encountered bad weather and crashed near Camden, Tennessee on March 5, 1963. Both were killed in the crash, as were country performers Cowboy Copas and Hawkshaw Hawkins.
After her death Patsy Cline's popularity continued to grow, and never really subsided. In 1973 she was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame. Loretta Lynn recorded a number of Patsy's songs and issued them as an album. Lynn also insisted during the filming of her own life's story, Coal Miner's Daughter, that the role of Patsy Cline be included prominently in the film. A number of Patsy's songs were accumulated and issued as albums in the 1980's. Some of them were duets with the late Jim Reeves that had been recorded electronically, and did not turn out real well.
A major motion picture of Patsy's life was released in 1985. Titled Sweet Dreams, it featured Jessica Lange as Patsy. All of the Patsy Cline songs in the film were from original recordings sung by Patsy herself, with Lange simply mouthing the words.
Patsy Cline is acknowledged by some as one of the greatest singers of all time, country or otherwise. She was kind and outspoken, and well liked by many who knew her. Her recordings from the 50's and 60's are today a testament to the fine singer that she was.
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