She is to Country Music what Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday are to Jazz and Aretha Franklin is to Soul
-Callie Khouri (Academy-Award winning screenwriter)
Even though her style is considered country, her delivery is more like a classic pop singer,” that’s what set her apart from Loretta Lynn or Tammy Wynette. You’d almost think she was classically trained.
In the early days that I came along, women weren’t headliners. It was really a man’s field, and if they did have women at all it was just one. Never more than one on a bill.
-Wanda Jackson (Queen of Rockabilly)
A Mover and a Shaker
The woman who would change music forever by crossing over from Country to Pop music, Patsy Cline was born Virginia Patterson Hensle in Winchester, Virginia. The family moved often, 19 times or more, before finally settling in Winchester when Patsy was 16. Sam Hensley, her father, deserted his family in 1947, but the family persisted nonetheless.
So going on the road was no biggie for Patsy. She took those roads all the way to the Country Music Hall of Fame.
In childhood I developed a serious throat infection, and my heart stopped beating. I recovered from that illness with a voice that boomed forth like Kate Smith’s!
Headliner and Pioneer
As Matt Hendrickosn of Garden & Gun magazine points out; “Cline’s greatest influence was in touring and performing shows. She was the first female to receive top billing, her name above the male artists she was playing with on the marquee. During that time, many club owners were taking advantage of female artists, promising to pay them after the show but then disappearing when the gig was over. But Cline with her “no dough, no show” mantra demanded—and got—her money before she took the stage.”
Ironically, she didn’t make much money for her last performance on March 3, 1963, which was a benefit for a Kansas City radio DJ who had died in a car wreck. Sharing the bill with George Jones, Dottie West, and the Clinch Mountain Boys, among others, Cline performed three sets that day ending with an 8 p.m. concert to raucous fans. Two days later, on March 5, 1963, Cline was killed when the plane went down in rough weather outside of Camden, Tennessee, just 90 miles from its final destination. She was only 30 years old. But her enduring legend lives on.
I Heard it On the Juke Box
Patsy’s rendition of Willie Nelson’s Crazy, is the number #1 played song in history on juke boxes around the world. Figures, she was a dual threat, Country Songbird and Pop Princess. My introdcution to her matchless classic was in 1977, in Montgomery, Alabama, on a Saturday morning in a dougnut shop near the main highway. I was sitting in the place when this shirtless little barrell-chested youngster came waltzing through the door in flip flops and torn jean shorts.
His mother went over to get their sweets and the boy, he looked around ten years old, shuffled over to the Wurlitzer machine. He plopped in his coin and out came JImmy Buffett’s classic; Margaritaville. This kid could flat out move. He danced around with the confidence of a cat burgular, every once in a while twirling for good effect. I sat there mesmerized, and watched in amazement as he also mouthed every lyric like he had written the song himself. When the echoes of Buffett’s song faded away, that’s when I heard Crazy blast through the dougnut shop. The boy acted out the entire song, and, once again, mouthed every lyric like he, Patsy Cline, and Willie Nelson were the best of friends.
To this day, all those years later, whenever I hear either song, both of which are ubiquitous in airports, bars, restaurants, and arenas all over the globe, I think of that skillful, entertaining, music-struck youngster.
Lady With a Legacy
First female country artist to play Carnegie Hall, why Patsy of course.
Cline also inspired the likes of Loretta Lynn, Dottie West, Kacey Musgraves, Dolly, Reba, Tammy, and countless others too numerous to list here.
As Lynn said of Cline, whom she thought of as both a mentor and a close friend, in a 2016 Bravo TV interview, “When I’d go over, she’d be cookin’ for me, and when everything was over and she would start diggin’ in her clothes, finding little old stuff for me to wear, sweaters and stuff. And she’d load me down before the night was over.”
For a sampling of her timeless music, featuring her inimitable trade mark husky contralto, check out Patsy Cline‘s numerous collections.
She was just kind of a tough girl, singing these really sensitive songs, so there was kind of a cool juxtaposition there. I feel like you could go out and have a drink with her, but she could also beat your ass.
Boys, they can’t take my refrigerator now. They’ll never get my car now. I paid cash for ’em and they’re mine, and I’m keepin’ ’em!
-For Mom. Nobody worked harder or loved her children with more gusto.