About Virginia Patterson Cline (Hensley)
Patsy Cline (September 8, 1932 – March 5, 1963), born Virginia Patterson Hensley in Gore, Virginia, was an American country music singer who enjoyed pop music crossover success during the era of the Nashville sound in the early 1960s. Since her death in 1963 at age 30 in a private airplane crash at the height of her career, she has been considered one of the most influential, successful, and acclaimed female vocalists of the 20th century.
Cline was best known for her rich tone and emotionally expressive bold contralto voice, which, along with her role as a mover and shaker in the country music industry, has been cited as an inspiration by many vocalists of various music genres. Her life and career have been the subject of numerous books, movies, documentaries, articles and stage plays.
Her hits included "Walkin' After Midnight", "I Fall to Pieces", "She's Got You", "Crazy", and "Sweet Dreams". Posthumously, millions of her albums have sold over the past 50 years. She has been given numerous awards, which have given her an iconic status with some fans similar to that of legends Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley. Ten years after her death, she became the first female solo artist inducted to the Country Music Hall of Fame.
In 2002, Cline was voted by artists and members of the country music industry as number one on CMT's television special, The 40 Greatest Women of Country Music, and 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. She was also ranked 46th in Rolling Stone's "100 Greatest Singers of all Time." 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 on September 8, 1932, in Gore, Virginia. The family lived in many different places around Virginia before settling in Winchester when Patsy was 8 years old. She was the daughter of Sam and Hilda Patterson Hensley, a blacksmith and a seamstress; Hilda was only 16 when Patsy was born and Sam was 43. Patsy was the eldest of three children, the others being Samuel and Sylvia. The three children were called Ginny, John, and Sis. Patsy grew up a poor girl "on the wrong side of the tracks." Despite the fact that her father deserted the family in 1947, when she was 15, the Hensley home was quite happy.
Cline often said as a child that she would one day be famous, and admired stars such as Judy Garland and Shirley Temple. A serious illness as a child caused a throat infection which, according to Cline, resulted in her gift of "a voice that boomed like Kate Smith's." Well-rounded in her musical tastes, Cline cited everyone from Kay Starr to Hank Williams as influences. As a child, she often sang in church with her mother. Cline was also a by-ear (someone who sings without written music) who sang with perfect pitch.
Cline began performing in variety-talent showcases in and around Winchester. She asked WINC-AM disc jockey Jimmy McCoy if he would let her sing on his show, which he did. His program was a showcase for local talent.
To help support her family after her father abandoned them, she dropped out of high school and worked various jobs, soda jerking and waitressing by day at The Triangle Diner across the street from her school, John Handley High. At night, Cline could be found singing at local nightclubs, wearing fringed Western stage outfits that she designed and that her mother made.
First marriage and first recording
In her early 20s, Cline met two men who would influence her rise to stardom. The first was contractor Gerald Cline, whom she married in 1953 and divorced in 1957. The dissolution of the marriage was blamed not only on a considerable age difference, but also Cline's desire to sing professionally and Gerald Cline's lack of support of her quest for stardom. While she dreamed of a career as a superstar, he wanted her to conform to the role of a housewife first. The second was Bill Peer, her new manager, who gave her the name Patsy, from her middle name and her mother's maiden name, Patterson.
Cline's numerous appearances on local radio attracted a large following in the Virginia-Maryland area—especially when Jimmy Dean learned of her. In 1954, she became a regular on Connie B. Gay's Town and Country afternoon radio show on WARL-AM in Washington, DC, which also featured Dean, himself a young country star.
In 1955, Cline was signed to Four Star Records. However, her contract only allowed her to record compositions by Four Star writers; Cline disliked this, and later expressed regret over signing with the label. Her first record for Four Star was "A Church, A Courtroom & Then Good-Bye", which attracted little attention, although it did lead to several appearances on the Grand Ole Opry. Between 1955 and 1957, Cline also 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"; the latter two both co-written by Cline, and she experimented with rockabilly. None of these songs, however, gained any notable success.
According to Owen Bradley, her Decca Records producer, the Four Star compositions only seemed to hint at the potential that lurked inside of Cline. Bradley thought her voice was best suited for singing pop music. The Four Star producers, however, insisted that Cline would record only country songs, as her contract also stated. During her contract with Four Star, she recorded 51 songs.
National fame and "Walkin' After Midnight"
Cline made her network television debut on January 7, 1956 on ABC-TV's Grand Ole Opry; followed by an appearance on the network's Ozark Jubilee later that month, returning to the show in April. Later that year, while looking for material for her first album, Patsy Cline, a song appeared titled "Walkin' After Midnight", written by Don 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 she should record it.
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 instead sing her recent release, "Walkin' After Midnight". Though heralded as a country song, recorded in Nashville, Godfrey's staff insisted Cline not wear one of her mother's hand-crafted cowgirl outfits but appear in a cocktail dress.
The audience's enthusiastic ovations stopped the meter at its apex, and she won the competition and was invited to return. The song was so well-received that she released it as a single. In short, although Cline had been performing for almost a decade and had appeared nationally three times on ABC-TV, Godfrey was largely responsible for making her a star. For a couple of months thereafter, Cline appeared regularly on Godfrey's radio program.
"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. She rode high on the hit for the next year, making personal appearances and performing regularly on both Godfrey’s show, and for several years on Ozark Jubilee (later Jubilee USA). She could not follow it up with another hit, however, in part because of the deal with Four Star that limited her to recording songs only from its writers.
Cline co-wrote two songs, both in 1957 under her birth name, Virginia Hensley:
"A Stranger in My Arms", written with Charlotte White, and Mary Lu Jeans and recorded on April 24, 1957. The song was released as a Decca 45 single (Decca 30406), on August 12, 1957 b/w "Three Cigarettes (In An Ashtray)," and also as a 45 single on the Festival label as Festival SP45-1620.
"Don't Ever Leave Me Again", written with James E. Crawford, Jr., and Lillian N. Claiborne. "Don't Ever Leave Me Again" appeared on the 1957 Decca LP Patsy Cline and was the title track of a 1991 compilation album released on Laser Light.
Also in 1957, she met Charlie Dick, a good-looking ladies' man who frequented the local club circuit Cline played on weekends. His charismatic personality and admiration of Cline's talents captured her attention. Their relationship resulted in a marriage that would last the rest of her life. Though their love affair has long been publicized as controversial, Cline regarded him as "the love of her life". After the birth of their daughter, Julie, in 1958, they moved to Nashville, Tennessee.
A return in 1961 with "I Fall to Pieces"
In 1959, Cline met Randy Hughes, who became her manager. With Hughes's promotion and a new label, Cline would begin her ascent to the top. When her Four Star contract expired in 1960, she signed with Decca Records-Nashville, under the direction of legendary producer Owen Bradley. He was not only responsible for much of the success behind Cline's recording career, but he positively influenced the careers of Brenda Lee and Loretta Lynn as well.
Thanks to her vocal versatility, and with the help of Bradley's direction and arrangements, Cline enjoyed both country and pop success. His arrangements incorporated strings and other instruments not typical of country recordings of the day. He considered Cline's voice best-suited for country pop-crossover songs, and helped smooth her voice into the silky, torch song style for which she is famous. Nevertheless, she did not enjoy singing pop material. This new, more sophisticated instrumental style became known as The Nashville sound, created by Bradley and RCA’s Chet Atkins, who produced Jim Reeves, Connie Smith, and Eddy Arnold.
Cline's first Decca release was the country pop ballad, "I Fall to Pieces" (1961), written by Hank Cochran and Harlan Howard. The song was promoted at both country and pop music stations across the country, leading to success on both country and pop charts. The song slowly climbed to the top of the country chart—Cline's first number one. The song also made No. 12 on the pop chart, as well as No. 6 on the adult contemporary chart, a major feat for any country singer at the time. The song made her a household name, demonstrating that a woman country singer could enjoy as much crossover success as a man.
Opry and Nashville scene
In 1960, Cline joined the cast of the Grand Ole Opry, realizing a lifelong dream. She became one of the Opry's biggest stars, and is believed to be the only person granted membership by asking.
Believing that there was "room enough for everybody", and confident of her abilities and appeal, Cline befriended and encouraged a number of women starting out in country music, including Loretta Lynn, Dottie West, Barbara Mandrell (with whom Cline once toured), Jan Howard and Brenda Lee, all of whom cite her as an influence. According to Lynn and West, Cline always gave of herself to friends, buying them groceries and furniture when they were hard up. On occasion, she would even pay their rent, enabling them to stay in Nashville and continue their careers. In Ellis Nassour's 1980 biography Patsy Cline. Cline's friend, honky tonk pianist and Opry star Del Wood, was quoted as saying, "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."
Cline also befriended Roger Miller, Hank Cochran, Faron Young, Ferlin Husky, Harlan Howard and Carl Perkins, male artists and songwriters with whom she socialized at Tootsies Orchid Lounge next door to the Grand Ole 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. She'd never be offended at the guys' jokes, because most of the time she'd tell a joke better than you! Patsy was full of life, as I remember."
Cline used the term of endearment "Hoss" to refer to her friends, and referred to herself as The Cline. According to the book "Honky Tonk Angel: The Intimate Story of Patsy Cline" by Ellis Nassour, Patsy Cline met Elvis Presley in 1962 at a fundraiser at St. Judes and they even exchanged phone numbers. Having seen him perform during one of his rare Grand Ole Opry appearances, she admired his music, called him The Big Hoss, and recorded with his backup group, The Jordanaires.
Cline was in control of her own career, making it clear that she could stand up to any man—verbally and professionally—and challenge their rules if they got in the way of where she felt her career should be headed. In a time when concert promoters often cheated stars out of their money by promising to pay them after the show but running with the money during the concert, Cline stood up to many of the male promoters before she took the stage and demanded their money by proclaiming: "No dough, no show." According to friend Roy Drusky in the 1986 documentary 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, "It was common knowledge around town that you didn't mess with 'The Cline!'"
Cline continued to thrive in 1961, and gave birth to a son, Randy. On June 14, 1961, she and her brother, Sam, were involved in a head-on car collision on Old Hickory Boulevard in Nashville, the second and more serious of two during her lifetime. The impact threw Cline into the windshield, nearly killing her. Upon arriving, Dottie West picked glass from Patsy's hair, and went with her in the ambulance. While that happened, Patsy insisted that the other car's driver be treated first. This had a long-term detrimental effect on Ms. West; when West was fatally injured in a car accident in 1991, she insisted that the driver of her car 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 at the hospital.
Suffering from a jagged cut across her forehead that required stitches, a broken wrist and a dislocated hip, she spent a month hospitalized. While in the hospital, Cline, according to the Nassour biography Patsy Cline and to friend Billy Walker (who died in a vehicle accident in 2006), rededicated her life to Christianity. She received thousands of cards and flowers sent by fans. When she left the hospital, her forehead was still visibly scarred. For the remainder of her career, she wore wigs and makeup to hide the scars, and headbands to relieve pressure on her forehead. She returned to the road on crutches, determined to be a survivor with a new appreciation for life.
In the 1990s, a series of recordings from her first concert after the accident were released. These archives, recorded in Tulsa, Oklahoma, were found in the attic of one of Cline's former residences by the current owners and given to the family. The album, released in 1997, is titled Patsy Cline: Live At the Cimarron Ballroom. and features dialogue of Cline interacting with the audience, providing an historical archive of what her live performances were like.
After the success of "I Fall to Pieces," Cline needed a follow-up after a month lost from touring and promotions. Written by Willie Nelson, "Crazy", was a song Cline originally disliked. Her first session recording was a disaster, and Cline claimed that the song was too difficult to sing. She tried to record "Crazy" like its demo recording, which featured Nelson's idiosyncratic style, but had a tough time recording it not only because of the demo, but also because she found the high notes hard to sing due to injured ribs from her car accident. The day in the studio at Decca resulted in a head-on fight between Cline and Bradley.
After nearly four hours, which in the days of four songs in three hours was a very long time, spent trying, fighting and crying, they called it a night and saved the best performance of the instrumental track for Cline to overdub her vocal on the song later. In those days, overdubbing was considered a sign of weakness. Singers as well as producers wanted to capture the whole performance live in one take. But the next week, Patsy laid down the vocal you hear on the record in one take with no splices or re-do's. This is why when you hear the song today, you can hear a faint echo of the final
Youuuuuuuuuuu' before she actually sings it on the vocal track. This is not a defect, but caused by echoes of her original vocal performance bleeding through the vocal isolation booth onto the musicians' microphones out in the studio.
In a version completely different from the demo, the song became an instant classic and, ultimately, Cline's signature song—and the one for which she remains best known. In late 1961, the song was an immediate country pop crossover hit, and also constituted her biggest pop hit, making the Top 10. Loretta Lynn later reported that the night Cline premiered "Crazy" at the Grand Ole Opry, she received three standing ovations.
"Crazy" was a hit on three different charts in late 1961 and early 1962—the Hot Country Songs list (No. 2), the US Hot 100 list (No. 9), and the Adult Contemporary list (also No. 2). An album released that November entitled Patsy Cline Showcase featured Cline's two hits of 1961.
At the top
With Cline’s success climbing the record charts, she was in high demand on the concert circuit. Although many women in country music at that time were considered “window dressing" or opening acts for the more popular and higher-paid male stars, Cline was the first female country music star to headline her own show and receive top billing above some of the male stars with whom she toured. While bands typically backed up the female singer, Cline led the band through the concert instead. 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 together: “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 not only the first woman in country music to perform at New York’s Carnegie Hall (which she did with fellow Opry members and disapproval from gossip columnist Dorothy Kilgallen—whom Cline fired back at) but also to headline the Hollywood Bowl with Johnny Cash and, later, in 1962, the first woman in country music to headline her own show in Las Vegas.
This success enabled Cline to buy her dream home in Nashville's Goodlettsville community, personally decorated in her style featuring gold dust sprinkled in the bathroom tiles and a music room. Loretta Lynn stated in a 1986 documentary interview, "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 her home "the house that Vegas built" since she was able to pay it off with the money she earned during her time there. (Later, after Cline's death in 1963, Cline's home was sold by her husband to singer Wilma Burgess who told Patsy Cline author Ellis Nassour that "strange occurrences" happened during her years there.)
With this new demand for Cline came a higher price tag, and reportedly towards the end of her life, she was being paid at least $1000 for appearances - then an unheard-of fee for women in the country music industry, since they usually paid less than $200 Her penultimate concert, held in Birmingham, Alabama, grossed $3000.
To match her new sophisticated sound, Cline also reinvented her personal style, shedding her trademark Western cowgirl outfits for elegant sequined gowns, cocktail dresses, spiked heels, and even gold lame pants. Cline’s new image was considered riskier and sexier by a then-conservative country music industry more accustomed to gingham and calico dresses for women. But like her sound, Cline’s style in fashion was mocked by many at first, then copied. She also loved dangly earrings and ruby-red lipstick; her favorite perfume was Wind Song.
During her short career of only five-and-a-half years, Cline received 12 awards for her achievements and three more following her death. Most were from Cashbox, Music Reporter, and Billboard Awards, considered high honors during her time. (Awards such as the ACM and CMAs were not established until after her death, and the Nashville chapter of the Grammys wasn't founded until 1964.)
Cline wrote of her success in a letter to friend Anne Armstrong (from the 1993 documentary Remembering Patsy): "It's wonderful—but what do I do for '63? Its getting so even I can't follow Cline!"
In late 1961, Cline was back in the studio to record songs for her upcoming album in 1962. One of the first songs recorded in late 1961 was the song "She's Got You", written by Hank Cochran, who pitched the song over the phone to Cline. It was one of the few songs Cline enjoyed recording. The song was released as a single in January 1962, and soon was another country pop crossover hit, reaching No. 1 on the country chart again (her second and last chart-topper), No. 14 on the pop charts, and No. 3 on the adult contemporary charts (originally called "Easy Listening"). It would be Cline's last Top 40 Pop hit.
"She's Got You" was also Cline's first entry in the United Kingdom singles chart, covered by one of Britain's most popular female artists, Alma Cogan; it reached No. 43. Her biggest U.K. record sales Hit Parade entry before her death was her version of the standard tune "Heartaches," reaching the Top 30 in late 1962.
Following the success of "She's Got You", Cline enjoyed a string of smaller country hits, including the Top 10 "When I Get Thru' With You", "Imagine That", "So Wrong", and "Heartaches". These hits were not big crossover pop hits as her previous three had been on the country charts; but were Top 10 and 20 hits.
In late 1962, Cline appeared on American Bandstand and released her third album in August, Sentimentally Yours. When asked in a WSM-AM interview about her vocal stylings, Cline stated, "Oh, I just sing like I hurt inside."
Though she was in high demand and her career was at its peak, the wear and tear of the road and business began to present the possibility of a hiatus for Cline, who longed to spend more time raising her children, Julie and Randy, especially after heading her own show at the Mint Casino in Las Vegas at the end of 1962.
A month before her death, Cline went into the studio to record her fourth album, 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, without any country music instruments and featuring a full string section. (Owen Bradley told Patsy author Margaret Jones that he and Cline had even talked of doing an album of show tunes and standards before her death, including "Can't Help Loving That Man of Mine", since Cline was a fan of Helen Morgan.)
Cline, so involved with the story in the song's lyrics, reportedly cried through most of what would be her last sessions. This emotion can be heard on certain tracks, especially "Sweet Dreams" and "Faded Love". At the playback party that night at the studio, according to singer Jan Howard on 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 died in a plane crash on March 5, 1963, near Camden, Tennessee. The plane flew into severe weather, and according to Cline's wristwatch, crashed at 6:20 p.m. in a forest outside of Camden, Tennessee, 90 miles from the destination. Everyone died instantly from their injuries. Throughout the night, reports of the missing plane flooded the radio airwaves.
As stated in the Nassour biography, Patsy Cline, friends Dottie West and June Carter Cash both recalled Cline telling them that she felt a sense of impending doom and did not expect to live much longer in the months leading up to her death. Cline also told Loretta Lynn of this, along with Carter and West, as early as September 1962. Cline, though known for her extreme generosity, even began giving away personal items to friends, writing out her own last will on Delta Air Lines stationery and asking close friends to care for her children if anything should happen to her. She reportedly told Jordanaire back up singer Ray Walker as she exited the Grand Ole Opry a 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, though ill with the flu, gave a performance at a benefit show at the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall, Kansas City, Kansas, for the family of a disc jockey, Cactus Jack Call, who had recently died in an automobile accident. Also performing on the show were George Jones, George Riddle and The Jones Boys, Billy Walker, Dottie West, Cowboy Copas, Hawkshaw Hawkins, Wilma Lee and Stoney Cooper, George McCormick and the Clinch Mountain Boys. The three 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 recorded during her last sessions the previous month, "I'll Sail My Ship Alone".
Dottie West, wary of Cline flying, asked her to ride back in the car with her and her husband, Bill. Cline, anxious to get home to her children, refused West's offer, saying, "Don't worry about me, Hoss. When it's my time to go, it's my time." Poor weather delayed their departure by a day, and on March 5, she called her mother from the airport and then boarded a Piper Comanche bound for Nashville. The pilot was her manager Randy Hughes, with passengers Cowboy Copas and Hawkshaw Hawkins, who had taken Billy Walker's seat. After stopping to refuel in Dyersburg, Tennessee, the plane took off at 6:07 p.m. CT. According to revelations by the airfield manager in the Nassour biography, he suggested that they stay the night after advising of high winds and inclement weather on the flight path, but Hughes responded, "I've already come this far. We'll be there before you know it."
Roger Miller told Patsy Cline author Nassour that he and a friend went searching for survivors in the early hours of the morning: "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." Not long after the bodies were removed, scavengers came to take what they could of the stars' personal belongings and pieces of the plane. Many of these items were later donated to The Country Music Hall of Fame, including Patsy's beloved Confederate Flag cigarette lighter which played "Dixie," her wrist watch, belt with 'Patsy Cline' studded across it and one of three pairs of her gold lame slippers which were featured on the revised version of her Showcase With The Jordanaires album. However, the white chiffon dress that Cline had worn for her last performance and the money bag carrying the star's payment for their last concert were never found.
As per her wishes, Cline was brought home to her dream house for the last time before her memorial service, which thousands attended. She was buried in her hometown of Winchester, Virginia, at Shenandoah Memorial Park. Her grave is marked with a simple bronze plaque, which reads: Virginia H (Patsy) Cline "Death Cannot Kill What Never Dies: Love." A bell tower in her memory at the cemetery, erected with the help of Loretta Lynn and Dottie West, plays hymns daily at 6:00 p.m., the hour of her death. A memorial marks the place where the plane crashed in the still-remote forest outside of Camden, Tennessee.
In December 1998, Cline’s mother, Hilda Hensley, died of natural causes at the age of 82. (Cline's father had died in the 1950s.) Hensley rarely granted interviews, living the rest of her life practicing her craft as a master seamstress in Winchester, Virginia and helping to raise her grandchildren. Cline's daughter, Julie, stated in a 1985 People Magazine article: "Grannie loved my mother so much that it's still hard for her to talk about her." Hensley stated in her later years that the outpouring of love given to her by Cline's fans over the years had been amazing. "I never knew so many people loved my daughter," she told one newspaper.
As Cline's mother was only 16 years older, she was more like a big sister than a mother, and the two were consequently very close. She commented that her mother was the one person she could always depend on. Hensley also commented that Cline was a "wonderful daughter" who never let her family down in the hard times they endured. Cline's brother died in 2004, though her sister still lives in Virginia.
Charlie Dick resides in Nashville, where he continues to be a member of the country music community, producing documentaries on Cline and other artists through a video production company. Dick is involved with Cline's fan base and considers them an extension of family, attending many fan functions. Daughter Julie joins him in representing Cline’s estate at public functions and has four children of her own (one, Virginia, named for Cline, was killed in an automobile accident in 1994) and six grandchildren. Son Randy was the drummer of a Nashville band, although he chooses not to live in the limelight. Dick's brother, Mel, heads up the "Always... Patsy Cline" fan organization.
After Cline’s death, Dick married singer Jamey Ryan in 1965, but they were divorced a few years later. Ryan provided the vocals for three songs in the film Sweet Dreams: "Bill Bailey (Won't You Please Come Home)", "Rollin' in My Sweet Baby's Arms" and "Blue Christmas" (a tune Cline never recorded).
Impact and influence
Guitarist-producer Harold Bradley said of Cline in the 2003 book Remembering Patsy, "She's taken the standards for being a country music vocalist, and she raised the bar. Women, even now, are trying to get to that bar.... If you're going to be a country singer, if you're not going to copy her—and most people do come to town copying her—then you have to be aware of how she did it. It's always good to know what was in the past because you think you're pretty hot until you 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 recordings in 1955, Kitty Wells, known as The Queen of Country Music, was the top female vocalist in the field. By the time Cline broke through as a consistent hit-maker in 1961, Wells was still country's biggest female star; however, Cline dethroned her by winning Billboard magazine's Favorite Female Country & Western Artist for two years in a row and the 1962 Music Reporter Star of The Year award.
The two country queens could not have been more different, given that Cline's full-throated sophisticated sound was a marked contrast to Wells' pure-country, quivering vocals. 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."
In 1963, three songs became Top 10 Country hits after Cline's death: "Sweet Dreams", "Leavin' on Your Mind" and "Faded Love". More albums of unreleased material followed, starting with The Patsy Cline Story in the summer of 1963. This album replaced Cline's planned fourth album, originally to have been released that March and titled Faded Love. Owen Bradley produced all of these tracks. The majority featured the legendary back-up vocal group The Jordanaires, who also appeared on many of Elvis Presley's and Connie Francis' albums. The album's cover photo and design, featuring Patsy in a smoky haze of gold and with simple titles across the top, is also considered the first contemporary album cover art in country music history.
In the 1960s and early 1970s, MCA (new owner of Cline’s former label, Decca) continued to issue Cline albums, so she had several posthumous hits, starting in early 1964 with a Top 25 country hit "He Called Me Baby", a song recorded during her "last sessions" in 1963, which was then released on her 1964 album That's How a Heartache Begins. Her Greatest Hits album, released in 1967, continues to appear on the country music charts. It held the record as the album to stay on the country charts the longest, until Garth Brooks surpassed it in the 1990s; however, it still holds the record for an album by a female artist.
In 1973, Cline was elected to The Country Music Hall of Fame along with guitarist and RCA producer Chet Atkins, making her the first female solo artist to receive that honor. Johnny Cash inducted Cline for the CMA Awards show, televised live from the Ryman Auditorium. Along with the standard induction bronze plaque, the hall houses a few of Cline's stage outfits, letters to her fan club president, and personal effects recovered from the crash site, including her "Dixie" cigarette lighter, donated by singer Carl Perkins.
In the late 1970s, Cline’s name occasionally appeared in magazine articles and television interviews with her friends, namely Dottie West and Loretta Lynn, who credited her with inspiration for the success they were seeing at that time. Lynn recorded a tribute album dedicated to Cline, I Remember Patsy, and scored a hit with Cline's 1962 hit "She's Got You".
It was encounters by Ellis Nassour, then-manager of MCA artist relations, with MCA-Decca recording star Lynn that led to a series of magazine profiles and ultimately to Honky Tonk Angel, the first of two Nassour biographies, featuring interviews with Cline's mother, Hilda Hensley; her husbands; intimate friends and peers such as West, Brenda Lee, and Faron Young.
Lynn's own autobiography, Coal Miner's Daughter (1976), featured a chapter dedicated to her friendship with Cline, and Lynn’s biopic of the same name four years later, starred Sissy Spacek as Lynn in her first musical role and featured actress Beverly D'Angelo in the role of Patsy. D'Angelo sang in the pic instead of lip synching to playback. Contrary to the script of Coal Miner's Daughter however, Cline and Lynn never toured together, as Cline never owned her own bus and stars during her time usually traveled in caravans and limousines.
Singles continued to be released by MCA records through much of the 1970s, but none charted on the country list. In 1980, however, MCA released an overdubbed version of her version of the song "Always", recorded in 1963. The song reached No. 18 on the Hot Country Songs list in 1980. An album of the same name was released that year.
In 1981, an electronically produced duet between Cline and Jim Reeves, another legendary country singer who died the year after Cline from the same fate, was released. Their duet of "Have You Ever Been Lonely (Have You Ever Been Blue)" was a No. 5 country hit that year. Like Cline, Reeves gained a massive fan following after his death, as well as a string of re-issued singles.
In 1983, due in part to the success of the biopic Coal Miner's Daughter, producer Bernard Schwartz undertook massive amounts of research in order to bring the story of Patsy Cline to the big screen. Much of this research formed the basis for the book Patsy by Margaret Jones released in 1990.
For the film,Sweet Dreams Jessica Lange was cast in the title role and lip synched to Cline's original vocals laid onto a newly recorded digital background. These new digital recordings brought Cline's voice to the forefront of American consciousness once again, garnering several hits from the soundtrack album.
In 1992, the U.S. Postal Service honored her, along with Hank Williams, the Carter Family and Bob Wills on a postage stamp.
Also in 1992, MCA released a 4 CD/cassette collection of the discography, called The Patsy Cline Collection. This boxed set, which includes a booklet chronicling Cline's career (with many rare photos), remains one of the top 10 bestselling boxed collections in the record industry.
In 1993, the Grand Ole Opry opened its museum in Nashville, which includes a Cline exhibit, displaying several of her awards, stage outfits, wigs, make-up, hairbrush, and a fully furnished replica of her dream home’s music room.
1993 also marked the 30th anniversary of the 1963 plane crash. To commemorate the event, the Opry televised its Saturday night segment as a tribute to Cline, Hawkins and Copas. With Cline's widower, Charlie, and their daughter, Julie, on hand, friend Jan Howard paid tribute to Cline, singing "I Fall to Pieces" (which her ex-husband, Harlan Howard, cowrote), followed by Loretta Lynn, who performed "She's Got You".
Also in 1993, Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton and Tammy Wynette included Cline's cover of Hank Williams' "Lovesick Blues" on their Honky Tonk Angels trio album, singing along with Cline's original vocals.
Cline became a member of the Texas Cowgirl Hall of Fame in 1994. That same year, actress Delta Burke starred in her television show, Delta, as a Nashville waitress trying to make it into country music. The show referenced Patsy Cline throughout its run, and included several of Patsy Cline's hits, all sung by Burke. One episode took her to pay homage to Patsy Cline's grave where she meets another visitor, singer Tanya Tucker, who played herself.
Cline was portrayed on film again in the 1995 CBS biopic Big Dreams and Broken Hearts: The Dottie West Story, featuring Michele Lee as Dottie West and actress Tere Myers as Cline. At that year's Grammy Awards, Cline was honored with a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, with 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 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 that same year, paying tribute to Cline with her version of "Sweet Dreams" and receiving a necklace worn by Cline as a gift to commemorate the event from Cline's widower, Charlie, and their daughter, Julie.
In 2002, CMT named her number one on its 40 Greatest Women of Country Music. Balloting was by artists and members of the music industry. Her place at number one was followed by those women who've said she inspired them, Tammy Wynette (No. 2) and Loretta Lynn (No. 3).
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 has cited Cline as one of her childhood inspirations and, upon reaching stardom in the 1980s, featured Cline's hits on several of her first albums. McEntire closed her live shows for years with Cline's signature hit "Sweet Dreams", but discontinued the encore after closing a show with it on March 15, 1991 when the airplane carrying her band crashed and killed everyone aboard early the next morning.
One of the most heard country music albums of all time, Patsy Cline’s Greatest Hits has sold 10 million copies worldwide since its 1967 release. Bob Ludwig remastered the set, and it has been reissued in its original cover art. In 2005, the album Patsy Cline's Greatest Hits was certified by the RIAA as diamond (designating the sale of 10 million). That same year, the album was listed in the Guinness Book of World Records for staying on the music charts the longest of any female artist of any music genre in history.
In 2005, her childhood home in Winchester, Virginia was listed on The National Register of Historic Places with a bronze marker in front. The house was also placed that year on the Virginia Landmarks Register and has a Virginia state historical marker on the street in front of the house. Cline was also memorialized in Nashville's downtown Owen Bradley Park with her name on a slab of concrete 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, fans gather in Cline’s hometown of Winchester, where she is buried, to pay homage to her. They gather on the Labor Day weekend because it is close to her birthdate. September 8, 2007, was the 20th annual gathering. Charlie and Julie and all of the grandchildren and great-grandchildren as well as other family members attended. Efforts to open a Patsy Cline museum in Winchester are ongoing. The first phase of this effort was accomplished by the opening of her childhood home in Winchester for public tours on August 2, 2011.
In 2009, the Handley High School Auditorium in Winchester dedicated "The Patsy Cline Theatre" after a multi-million dollar renovation was completed at her former school, John Handley High School, built in 1923. The dedication was celebrated with a concert by Willie Nelson and family. Nelson was a personal friend of Cline's, and wrote the Cline classic "Crazy".
On October 5, 2010 the "Patsy Cline Classic" at the Patsy Cline Theatre in Winchester welcomed Rock and Roll Hall of Fame members The Beach Boys. Concert producers look forward to an annual concert in honor of Cline and to benefit the Winchester Education Foundation.
Movies and documentaries
With Loretta Lynn's Coal Miner's Daughter book and hit motion picture making headlines, talk of a picture devoted solely to Cline's life story began. In 1985, HBO/Tri Star Pictures produced Sweet Dreams: The Life and Times of Patsy Cline, starring actress Jessica Lange as Cline; actor Ed Harris as Cline’s husband, Charlie Dick; and actress Ann Wedgeworth as Hilda Hensley, Cline's mother.
The film depicted Cline's marriage to Dick as abusive, portraying Cline as a victim of domestic violence. Dottie West said of the couple's disagreements 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 family and friends claimed that this and other sequences were inaccurately fictionalized for Hollywood and were not pleased with the final product. Cline's mother was quoted in a 1985 issue of People: "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." Cline's widower, Charlie Dick, stated in the same article: "It's a great film -- if you like fiction."
The picture became a hit, and Lange was nominated for an Academy Award for her performance, one that she credits today as one of her favorites. The soundtrack to the film was a success, and Cline’s recordings began to climb the charts again.
Cline’s family and friends produced a series of video documentaries since Sweet Dreams including The Real Patsy Cline, Remembering Patsy, and most recently Sweet Dreams Still: The Live Collection. One of these, Remembering Patsy, was used on the A&E Channel's show Biography in the 1990s.
Cline was portrayed again in the 1995 CBS made-for-television movie Big Dreams and Broken Hearts: The Dottie West Story featuring Tere Myers as Cline and Michelle Lee as West. In 2003, a biopic about the life of Hank Garland, lead guitarist on many of Cline's records, featured Mandy Barnett (of Always...Patsy Cline fame) as Cline.
Plays and musicals
A Closer Walk with Patsy Cline, created by Dean Regan, and Always...Patsy Cline, created by Ted Swindley, are the only plays approved by the Patsy Cline Estate and licensed by Legacy, Inc., the company operated by the family. All Cline-related plays and merchandising are handled through the Legacy office in the Nashville area.
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 in theaters from Texas to Toronto with multiple productions by the Springer Opera House and Troupe America, Inc. It also 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, which chronicled the real-life story of her encounter in 1961 with a fan and Mississippi native, Louise Seger, who arrived early at The Esquire Ballroom in Houston for Cline's performance. In a chance encounter before the show, the two met, starting 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 for both shows. She later persuades Cline to spend the night at her house rather than a hotel, they stay up all night girl-talking; and do a radio spot in the morning, surprising a local DJ in his sneakers, sweat-stained shorts and unshaven beard when they tap on his window.
Several weeks later, Seger would receive the first of many letters over the ensuing two year period prior to the singer's death, which when collected formed the basis for the musical, allowing the audience a rare and up-close look at the singer'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.