Born in Winchester, Virginia in 1932, daughter of a seamstress and a blacksmith, Cline was a singer in her local church and soon discovered a love for vocalists like Kay Starr, Jo Stafford, hillbilly sensation Hank Williams and Judy Garland. Blessed with perfect pitch (though she didn’t sight read music) Cline got her first break when the artist Jimmy Dean invited her to appear on his radio show Town and Country Jamboree, broadcasting out of Arlington. Following one unsuccessful marriage to George Cline - obviously she kept her married name – Patsy wed Charlie Dick who would mentor and manage her career. Initial experiments with hillbilly, honky-tonk and rockabilly didn’t quite suit her image but once she formed a working relationship with innovative producer Owen Bradley at Decca Records it was soon apparent that country pop would be her metier. Various Grand Ole Opry and CBS talent show appearances gave the world notice of an extraordinary talent. Her first major hit, Walkin’ After Midnight (penned by Donn Hecht and Alan Block) propelled her into both the country and pop charts, making her an early crossover star. Bradley now guided her to a deal with Decca-Nashville and fixed arrangements that while not entirely to her own taste became synonymous with the rich local sound that made her name. I Fall To Pieces was an even bigger hit than Walkin’ After Midnight, a number one country single and a pop and adult contemporary fixture throughout 1961. Patsy was now on the road to major stardom.
She became one of the Opry’s biggest attractions and used her influence to help up and coming budding females like Loretta Lynn, Brenda Lee, Jan Howard and Dottie West. Meanwhile her no-nonsense charisma won her male admirers and friends and she was a drinking buddy with the likes of Roger Miller, Faron Young and Carl Perkins. She was particularly pleased to befriend Elvis Presley. She called him Big Hoss and he knew her as The Cline. She had a tough exterior alright. Her performing motto was ‘No dough, No show’ and she demanded professional and respectful treatment from promoters who were used to exploiting their artists. Following a near fatal car crash Patsy returned to the studio to cut Willie Nelson’s oddly timed Crazy, a track she didn’t warm to at first. In fact she recorded her vocal as an overdub and wrung such emotion out of her efforts that her version is often considered to be the definitive statement on this much loved song – rumoured to be the biggest juke box play of all time.
Patsy’s rise was meteoric thereafter. She headlined the Hollywood Bowl with Johnny Cash and took a selection of Opry stars to New York’s Carnegie Hall. Her single She’s Got You brought UK fame (it was immediately covered by British singer Alma Cogan) and the attendant album, Sentimentally Yours, became her biggest seller. Featuring the stellar A team of Nashville players in 1962 Patsy was surrounded by such musical greats as Charlie McCoy, The Jordanaires, guitarist Grady Martin, Hargus ‘Pig’ Robins and Floyd Cramer with Owen Bradley offering his usual immaculate production job.
Given her technique and her style it was no surprise to see Patsy raising the bar for country vocalists of any persuasion. She had copyists in her own lifetime, that’s how good she was.
Before she could complete a fourth album, provisionally titled faded Love after the Bob Wills tune, Cline began to suffer premonitions of her own doom and even started to give away personal possessions while constantly rewriting her will on Delta Air Lines stationery. As macabre as that may seem on March 5 1963 her privately chartered Piper Comanche crashed in shocking weather in woods outside Camden, Tennessee where she and all the other occupants perished.
Thereafter the legend of Patsy simply snowballed. She had numerous posthumous hits like Sweet Dreams, Faded Love and Leavin’ On Your Mind and became the subject or co-protagonist in such acclaimed films as Coal Miner’s Daughter, Sweet Dreams: The Life and Times of Patsy Cline (starring Jessica Lange) and the play A Closer Walk With Patsy Cline.
Our superb selection begins with Cline’s second studio album, Showcase (1961). Featuring The Jordanaires backing vocals, Ben Keith’s pedal steel and such luminaries as bassist Bob Moore, guitarists Hank Garland and Martin and Cramer on piano this set includes Crazy, San Antonio Rose, I Fall to Pieces and a re-recorded Walkin’ After Midnight. More surprisingly perhaps there’s a lush version of Cole Porter’s True Love and smart reinterpretation of her 1957 local hit A Poor Man’s Roses (Or a Rich Man’s Gold). Our disc mirrors the posthumous 1963 reissue known as Patsy Cline Showcase with the Jordanaires, featuring the famous red Capri pants and gold booties cover.
Remembering Patsy Cline and Jim Reeves compiles hits from both these popular artists with I Fall to Pieces featuring the then revolutionary Cline duet overdub. Other highlights are her take on Mel Tillis/Carl Perkins tune So Wrong, a gorgeous reading of Baby’s Arms and the Webb Pierce/Wayne Walker item Leavin’ On Your Mind.
Patsy Cline: 12 Greatest Hits is certainly an essential primer for any would be listener. Despite never charting significantly this set holds the record for selling the most copies without featuring on the Billboard 200! Ten million copies have sold in the States alone and it was the highest selling album by any female country artist until Shania Twain’s The Woman in Me.
The Best of Patsy Cline revisits an album that did extremely well in the UK on release in 1994 and such was its appeal that The Very Best of … followed soon after.
The Universal Masters Collection is highly co9mmended. Concentrating on 18 of her best loved Decca period releases this gives you the chance to hear her album versions of Your Cheatin' Heart and Half As Much and the rare 1962 ballad, You’re Stronger Than Me, arranged for strings. With liner notes and some choice photographic memorabilia this set provides guaranteed pleasure and great listening at leisure.
Even more lavish is Sweet Dreams: The Complete Decca Studio Masters 1960-1963. This double-disc set gathers all 51 of the sides Patsy recorded with Bradley after she left 4 Star Records for Decca in 1960. A remarkable in-one-place document this – it’s hard to fathom now that in a period of just 28 months Cline invented the role of the modern female country singer. Remember her this way.
As well as our playlist of essential Patsy Cline we have created another where you can dig a little deeper into her wonderful back catalogue and discover some of her wonderful less well known songs. Just click here.
Words: Max Bell
An 18 track compilation released in 2001 featuring Patsy's best loved hits such as Crazy and Blue Moon of Kentucky.
An 18 track collection featuring classic Patsy Cline recordings.
Patsy Cline Showcase is a studio album by American country music singer, Patsy Cline, released November 27, 1961. The album was Cline's second studio album, as well as her first studio album on the Decca Records label. The album consisted of Cline's hits from that year on the country and pop charts.
The Very Best Of is a compilation consisting of American country pop music singer, Patsy Cline's greatest hits. It includes 25 tracks and was released in 1998.
Remembering Patsy Cline & Jim Reeves is a tribute album released in 1982 remembering the music of country stars Patsy Cline and Jim Reeves who were both killed in plane crashes in the early 1960s. It was released by MCA Records.
Hip-O Select’s 2010 double-disc set Sweet Dreams: The Complete Decca Masters (1960-1963) gathers all of the 51 master takes Patsy Cline recorded with Owen Bradley after she left 4 Star Records for Decca in 1960, running right until her tragic death in 1963. This is the first time all these master takes have been issued in a complete set, which is hard to believe because they form the core of Cline’s legacy. Patsy had been recording frequently since 1954 when she first signed a deal with 4 Star, but the label’s president, Bill McCall, insisted that she only recorded songs for which he owned the publishing rights, a restrictive deal that resulted in only one hit, the classic career-making “Walkin’ After Midnight.” This was a fluke not due to Cline’s talent, but to the dross she had at 4-Star, material that couldn’t be saved even with her increasing partnership with producer Owen Bradley.
Once at Decca, Cline continued to work with Bradley and the pair soon hit upon what became Cline’s signature sound: a lush, gorgeous, string-laden setting, equally indebted to Nashville and classic big-band pop, one that pushed her supple vocals to the forefront. It was a sound that wasn’t classically country, at least in the honky tonk sense, but it pushed country closer to pop, providing the blueprint for generations of crossover country singers. This lasting legacy gives the impression that Cline was more popular -- and recorded more music -- during her prime than she actually was, when she really had about two years of popularity, highlighted by the singles “Crazy,” “I Fall to Pieces,” “She’s Got You,” and “Sweet Dreams (Of You).” All these are here, along with a 1961 remake of “Walkin’ After Midnight,” sitting alongside a bunch of big band (“The Wayward Wind,” “You Belong to Me,” “South of the Border (Down Mexico Way,” “Bill Bailey, Won’t You Please Come Home”) and country standards (“San Antonio Rose,” “Blue Moon of Kentucky,” “Faded Love,” “Crazy Arms”), with the former slightly outweighing the latter, sometimes overshadowing the newer country originals by Harlan Howard, Mel Tillis, and Don Gibson, among others.
As a whole, these master takes surprisingly favor the big band over country, paying enough of a debt to her influences (particularly Jo Stafford) to suggest a talent in ascendance, not full-fight, but in away that only makes Cline’s legacy resonate more deeply. Given time, she would surely have achieved more, but what she did in the 28 months documented here is create the sound and style of the modern country-pop singer, an achievement that resonates strongly throughout the big-band echoes here.