Patsy Cline’s talent took her to the top of the country charts in the early Sixties, and her style and popularity have never waned despite her short singing career and its curtailment at the age of just 31.
She was born on 8 September 1932 in the Shenandoah Valley in Winchester, Virginia. Legend has it that Virginia Patterson Hensley was tunefully entertaining her neighbours at age three! She began singing in the Baptist church choir, then on local radio shows and at dances; by having the luck to meet the right people, she managed to get a recording contract with Four Star Records in 1954. Her father left home when she was 15, and Patsy had several different jobs to help her mother provide for the family: these included kitchen hand at the Capital Restaurant, waitress, serving food at the Greyhound Bus Terminal and fountain attendant at a drug store.
In 1953 Hensley married Gerald Cline, and so became Patsy Cline. They had no children and in 1956, when singing at a local dance, she met the love of her life, Charlie Dick. She divorced Gerald and married Charlie, with whom she had two children, Julie and Randy.
Patsy’s recording career is split exactly into two: 51 tracks were cut for Four Star Records between 1955 and 1960 and 51 for Decca between 1960 and 1963. Both labels are represented on this anthology.
Patsy got her first major break on winning an Arthur Godfrey-hosted TV talent programme in 1957, singing ‘Walkin’ After Midnight’. This was rushed out as a single, and starts CD3 here. ‘Walkin’ After Midnight’ hit Number 2 on the country chart and 12 on the pop chart, making Cline one of the first country singers to have a crossover hit. But, despite regular record releases during the late Fifties, many of which feature here, this was to be her only hit with Four Star. When her contract expired in 1960, she signed with Decca Records-Nashville, coming under the direction of legendary country producer Owen Bradley.
In 1960, Cline realised 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. Although she had previously appeared as a guest, she went on to become one of the Opry’s favourite performers. Cline was the first female country-music star to headline her own show and receive billing above the males with whom she toured, and was the first woman in country music to perform at New York’s Carnegie Hall, sharing the bill with fellow Opry members.
Country music lost a stunning entertainer when Cline’s life and career was ended in an aeroplane crash in Tennessee in 1963. Ten years later Patsy was elected posthumously to the Country Music Hall of Fame, confirming her position as one of the genre’s major female vocalists.
Some of the earliest songs in this selection date from 1956 recording sessions for Four Star Records. Patsy’s contract limited her to recording songs written by their in-house team, a restriction she regretted. ‘I’ve Loved And Lost Again’, ‘He Will Do For You’, ‘The Heart You Break May Be Your Own’ and her first recording, ‘A Church, A Courtroom And Then Goodbye’, are some of the songs here dating from this period.
Two of her best-known songs kick off CD1. ‘I Fall To Pieces’ took her to Number 1 in the country charts and, more importantly, Number 12 in the pop charts, making her a household name. However Patsy was involved in a car crash in 1961, shortly after son Randy was born, which meant a long stay in hospital preventing her from promoting her hit. She completed another pop/country crossover with Willie Nelson’s ‘Crazy’, which reached the Top 10 in both charts. Although Cline reportedly did not like the song originally, it is probably her best-known today.
Quite a few of the songs Patsy recorded she considered ‘too poppy’, but she was convinced to record them by her producer, who knew a hit when he saw one. One of Patsy’s personal favourites which appears here is ‘A Poor Man’s Roses’. She liked it so much that she recorded it twice, once in 1956 and again in 1961; the latter version is featured here.
In late 1961 Patsy Cline recorded ‘She’s Got You’. As well as hitting both US charts in early 1962, it became her first entry in the UK singles listing. She then registered a string of smaller country hits, including the Top 10 ‘When I Get Thru With You’, ‘Imagine That’, ‘So Wrong’, and ‘Heartaches’; all can be heard here.
Patsy Cline was continuing to tour and record when her life was cut short, but most of her work is represented on this collection. Her legacy and voice live on as one of the most inspirational and influential female vocalists of the 20th century. Cline helped to blaze a trail for women such as Brenda Lee and Loretta Lynn to follow. The songs she made famous have been covered by many famous artists over the last 50 years, but you can enjoy the versions by the voice which first made them famous.