My Kind of Country

Country music from a fan's point of view since 2008

Country Heritage: Patti Page

People such as Gram Parsons, Linda Ronstadt, The Eagles and the Byrds all are occasionally credited as being the catalyst for breaking country music to the larger pop markets. No doubt, all were of some significance in introducing country music to a portion of the pop market, but long before any of them came along, there was “the singing rage”, Miss Patti Page.

Most of today’s listeners look no further back than 1955 when rock ‘n roll began to emerge. Consequently, aside from a specific few, such as Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Tony Bennett, Rosemary Clooney and Perry Como, most of the great pop singers of the immediate post-WW2 period largely have been forgotten.

Born in 1927 as Clara Ann Fowler, a product of Oklahoma, Patti Page would serve an apprenticeship as a country singer with Al Clauser’s Oklahoma Outlaws during the early 1940s. Clauser’s band appeared on KTUL in Tulsa; as a result of this exposure, Patti Became the featured vocal on a program sponsored by the Page Milk Company. It was as a result of this program that she became known as Patti Page. From here she moved to the Jimmy Joy Band, a pop swing band which toured the Midwest. While in Chicago she became friends with members of Benny Goodman’s orchestra, which in turn led to a recording contract with Mercury.

Patti’s first single, “Confess” came out during one of the Petrillo strikes in 1947, meaning that background singers were not available for recording purposes. Mercury thought that Patti’s voice was sufficiently versatile that she could do her own harmony backgrounds, and so developed the practice of Patti overdubbing her own harmony vocals on record, the first artist with which this was done. “Confess” was one of three top twenty records she would chart from 1947-1949.

1950 was Patti’s breakthrough year as “With My Eyes Wide Open, I’m Dreaming” became her first million selling single, quickly followed by another million seller “All My Love (Bolero)” and then a song that would represent a career for anyone, her cover of the Pee Wee King-Redd Stewart classic “Tennessee Waltz”. Not only did this record reach #1 on Billboard’s Pop charts, staying there for 13 weeks, but it would reach #2 on Billboard’s country chart selling over six million copies in the United States alone.

While Patti Page is primarily thought of as a pop singer, and a very successful one with over 100 million singles sold world-wide, she continued to record country songs for the pop market having hits with such titles “Detour”, “Down The Trail of Aching Heart”, “Mister and Mississippi”, “I Went To Your Wedding”, “You Belong To Me” (another Pee Wee King-Redd Stewart collaboration). So popular was she with country audiences that country comics Homer & Jethro even lampooned her pop hit “How Much Is That Doggie In The Window”. All told, Patti Page would have 16 gold singles.

Even after the onset of the rock and roll blight, Patti continued to chart on the pop charts, although after 1958 the really big hits were a thing of the past, with the exception of her 1964 hit “Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte”, from the movie of the same name. Since she always had sung and recorded country songs as part of her repertoire, Patti made the natural turn to recording straight country songs during the late 1960s, with sixteen songs charting on Billboard’s country charts between 1970-1982 including the #14 duet with Tom T. Hall “Hello We’re Lonely” in late 1972.

After the 1980’s Patti focused more on jazz in her recorded music. Since Patti is now over 83 years old, I am not sure how active she is as a live performer, but she was quite active until very recently.

I wouldn’t try to convince anyone that Patti Page was a great country artist, but she was a great recording artist and did as much as (and probably more than) any other non-country performer to help spread the popularity of country music around the world

DISCOGRAPHY


VINYL

A search of used record shops will turn up a huge number of Patti Page vinyl albums – there were at least thirty albums released on Mercury, at least another ten or so on Columbia and then for miscellaneous other labels over the years. Her best pop recordings were on Mercury – any of her Mercury albums will reveal a consummate professional at work – if you like the songs, you’ll like the albums.

CD

Patti Page is not as well represented on CD as should be the case – she does have a website which offers some titles for sale

http://www.misspattipage.com/

Collectors Choice Music currently has 19 CDs and a DVD available

SINGLES 1946-1952 gives you 84 of her Mercury hits
LIVE AT CARNEGIE HALL: THE 50th ANNIVERSARY CONCERT demonstrates that Patti still could bring it
HUSH HUSH SWEET CHARLOTTE / GENTLE ON MY MIND is a two-fer of Columbia albums, a 1965 pop album and a country flavored album from 1968. It’s an odd pairing but a good value

Other titles have been in and out of print over the years.

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12 responses to “Country Heritage: Patti Page

  1. Razor X July 19, 2011 at 3:11 pm

    I heard a lot of Patti’s music when I was growing up because my mother was a big fan. She searched high and low for quite a few years for a recording of “Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte” but was never able to find it for some reason. I finally found a cassette that had it when I was about 11 or 12 and I bought it for my mom for her birthday. I think she still has it.

  2. J.R. Journey July 19, 2011 at 5:22 pm

    I’m not at all familiar with Patti Page aside from “Tennessee Waltz”. I didn’t even know she was the singer of the title song to Hush … Hush, Sweet Charlotte, one of my favorite movies. I’ll have to look into her music. Another great write-up too!

    • Razor X July 19, 2011 at 7:59 pm

      “Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte” is a great film and well worth checking out for those who haven’t seen it. A bit campy but good.

  3. Rick July 19, 2011 at 8:50 pm

    I’m not really familiar with Patti’s music apart from her version of Tennessee Waltz. On the other hand she did have good taste in music! “Detour” is one of my all time favorite Tex Williams’ songs and I’m sure Patti inspired Amie Comeaux’s superb cover of “You Belong To Me”. Good stuff.

  4. luckyoldsun July 19, 2011 at 8:50 pm

    The statement that Patti Page is not well-represented on CD seems to be out of date. I looked on All Music Guide and on Amazon and there are a large number of different Patti Page CD’s. It might take some investigating to know for sure which consist of oriiginals, and which are re-recordings, etc.. I also note that there are two 20-song volumes of her Merury recordings that are available for not much more than the cost of shipping and handling–probably because they’ve been supplanted by even better collections.

    • Paul W Dennis July 19, 2011 at 9:11 pm

      The comment was “not as well represented on CD as should be the case”

      Very few of her post-Columbia sides (when she was back on Mercury recording country) are available and the representation of the Columbia years is very spotty. After her second tour with Mercury she recorded for Plantation and those recordings have been re-issued ceaselessly on various import and cheapie labels. Patti’s Mercury albums sometimes revolve around themes or concepts making them more cohensive than many pop or country albums of their time and worthy of re-release as originally issued

      • Razor X July 20, 2011 at 10:31 am

        I remember reading an interview years ago when she said that the reason she left Mercury in the first place is because they only wanted her to release singles and she wanted to release albums. The market wasn’t very album-oriented in those days. She felt that the albums she did release during that time were all very solid work, and what you’ve just said seems to confrim that.

  5. bob July 20, 2011 at 8:12 am

    Interesting article. Didn’t know about Page Milk. I recall as a little kid my mother singing Patti Page songs like Tennessee Waltz, Mockin’ Bird Hill, You Belong to Me and, of course, the “Doggie” song. We always had a dog. I wonder if Page was starting out today if she would choose to be a country singer.

  6. Ken Johnson July 21, 2011 at 9:59 am

    Great article about one of America’s most talented singers. I’ve always loved Patti’s voice and thought that she could’ve been a very successful country singer in the 1950’s had to chosen to take her career in that direction. Her smooth style is akin to Patsy Cline.

    Perhaps your info says otherwise, but Patti Page’s overdubbed vocals can be attributed to the old adage “necessity is the mother of invention.” At the time of Patti’s December 1947 Chicago recording session for “Confess” neither she nor her manager Jack Rael had the funds to pay for background vocalists. Thanks to newly developed audio technology Patti was able to sing the harmony part with herself. The Mercury record label for “Confess” listed the artist as “Patti Page and Patti Page.” Though Les Paul and Mary Ford often receive credit for pioneering this technique Patti’s multi-track experiment predates their first overdubbed recordings.

    The musician’s strike that you referred to was called by the American Federation Of Musicians Union President James Petrillo and lasted from January 1, 1948 until December 13, 1948. The strike applied only to recorded musical accompaniment not to singers or vocal groups. There were also some exceptions to the ban such as allowing vocalists to accompany themselves with their own instrument (i.e. guitar). Some vocal groups like the Mills Brothers, the Ink Spots and the Ames Brothers creatively used a cappella vocal arrangements that mimicked backup instrumentation. Anticipating the impending strike record labels had stockpiled recordings made during late 1947 that were released throughout 1948. For the most part the general public never felt a shortage of new music but for brand new artists like Patti it did not allow them the advantage to record newly found material. Newcomer Hank Williams was also adversely affected by the ban.

    • Paul W Dennis July 21, 2011 at 9:04 pm

      Most often Petrillo is mentioned in connection with the demise of the big bands because his ban on union musicians recording during 1942-1944 wrecked havoc on the ability of the big bands to record new material. The purpose of the ban was an attempt to force radio stations to play live, rather than recorded music, although royalties on recorded music were also an issue. Most big band musicians were members of the AFM, but it is doubtful that the ban was the chief cause of the decline of the big bands, although it may have nudged it along.

      Personally, I think that the American pop music was at its peak from 1939-1954 or thereabouts. While I enjoyed rock and roll, musically (particularly the musicianship, especially when compared to the big band era musicians) it was inferior to the music from the period immediately before. A lot of the country fans of my generation, would likely have remained pop fans had not most of the great pop music disappeared. I liked Elvis, Rick Nelson, Chuck Berry etc but as vocalists they couldn’t hold a candle to Bing Crosby, Dean Martin, Perry Como, Nat King Cole or Dick Haymes

      Patti Page was one of the two or three elite female pop vocalists, along with Peggy Lee and Rosemary Clooney. She survived well into the rock and roll era, but not at the same level of success as before.

      I seriously considered doing an article on the Mills Brothers, who during the 1930s used only a guitar for instrumental accompaniment, with the singers mimicing the sounds of various other musical instruments – and doing it very well. The Mills Brothers had pop hits well into the late 1960s, but their peak was 1932-1950 and that’s just too far back for a group whose impact on country music was minimal. The Mills Brothers did record a real country album or two but by then they were all in their sixties

  7. Paul W Dennis January 4, 2013 at 12:54 am

    Ms Patti Page passed away on January 1, 2013

    Since this article was first printed, Jasmine (a UK/Czech Republic label) has issued a terrific four CD set (118 songs) covering her years on the Mercury label. The set is in terrific monaural sound (no fake reprocessed stereo) and sells for around $30 (or less).

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