My Kind of Country

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

Spotlight Artist: Patsy Cline (September 8, 1932 – March 5, 1963) – Part 2

Patsy Cline finally found her breakthrough hit, “I Fall to Pieces” in the summer of 1961. She had given birth to a son that January and for once things were looking up. Unfortunately, her happiness was quickly overshadowed when she was seriously injured in a near-fatal head-on automobile accident in June of that year. While she was recuperating in the hospital, “I Fall To Pieces” continued to climb the charts. One Saturday evening on the Opry, an up-and-coming singer named Loretta Lynn sang the song and dedicated to Patsy. Patsy, who was listening to the broadcast, was so touched that she asked her husband Charlie to bring Loretta to the hospital so she could meet her and thank her. The two women became close and remained good friends for the remainder of Patsy’s life.

Patsy returned to the recording studio in August 1961 and quickly got into another battle with Owen Bradley over her next single. Faron Young had recently had a smash hit with “Hello, Walls”, a tune written by a 27-year-old songwriter named Willie Nelson. Patsy was interested in recording another Nelson song, “Funny How Time Slips Away”, but it had been put on hold for Billy Walker. Patsy tried to sweet-talk Walker into giving up the song, but he proved resistant to her charms. Instead, he gave her another Nelson composition called “Crazy” as a consolation prize. Patsy hated it, but Bradley was convinced that it would be a big hit. Willie Nelson’s demo recording had been in a honky-tonk style. Bradley re-worked it as a torch song, with a more sophisticated arrangement, and finally persuaded Patsy to record it. She was still not fully recovered from her injuries and had difficulty hitting all of the notes. After four hours of trying, Bradley persuaded her to give up. He recorded the basic tracks and had her come back a week later to overdub her vocal track, and she nailed the song in one take. Despite her initial apprehension about recording the song, Owen Bradley was once again proven right. “Crazy” reached #2 on the Billboard country chart in October of 1961, and by December it had reached #9 on the pop chart. Today, it is the song for which Patsy is best remembered. In 1997 it was named the #1 jukebox song of all time.

Patsy ended 1961 on a high note. In November, she traveled to New York with some of her fellow Opry stars to play to a sold-out house at Carnegie Hall, and then went back into the recording studio in December. Among the songs she cut at those sessions was Hank Cochran’s “She’s Got You”. Unlike her other big hits — “Walkin’ After Midnight”, “I Fall to Pieces” and “Crazy” — Patsy immediately loved “She’s Got You”. It became her second and final #1 country hit in May 1962. It also reached #14 on the Billboard Hot 100. Later in 1962 she became the first female country star to headline a show in Las Vegas, when the Mint Casino engaged her for a 35-day run. She had been nervous about playing Vegas, but her fears proved to be unfounded; she was a hit with both critics and audiences alike. Not sure that Patsy would want to return to Las Vegas, her manager Randy Hughes decided to let her return to Nashville to rest for a few months before telling her that he’d booked her for a return engagement. Unfortunately, fate would intervene and deny Patsy the opportunity to accept.

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One response to “Spotlight Artist: Patsy Cline (September 8, 1932 – March 5, 1963) – Part 2

  1. Steve from Boston January 4, 2010 at 9:45 am

    Another nice write-up Razor, what I first learned of Patsy Cline I learned through the Coal Miner’s Daughter movie, and I love how Patsy and Loretta’s stories overlap. Two very inspirational and influential artists for some of the best Country vocalists of our time, still active today.

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