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Patsy Cline

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Born: September 8, 1932
Birthplace: Winchester, Virginia
Died: March 5, 1963

Patsy Cline definitely charted new territories when she entered the country music scene.

Patsy danced into the entertainment world at age four, winning a tap dance contest in her hometown. As a youngster, she started singing on street corners, at churches and benefits-and a gift of a piano when she was eight sealed her destiny as an entertainer.

When her father left her mother, she quit school to clerk in a drugstore to help support the family but continued to sing wherever she could, including with name acts who performed in Winchester. It was Wally Fowler, who along with his Oak Ridge Quartet performed regularly with Roy Acuff's Nashville radio show, who convinced Patsy, then 15, to go to Nashville to audition for the Grand Ole Opry. Despite a job offer from Acuff, Patsy's money ran out, forcing her to return to Virginia where she resumed clerking and singing locally. During this period, in 1953, Patsy married Gerold Cline: the marriage lasted three years.

Patsy's style-pure country influenced greatly by pop artists Kay Starr and Patti Page-was too good to remain local talent forever. She began touring with Opry stars Faron Young and Ferlin Husky, appeared on the Grand Ole Opry, and-upon signing a recording contract with Four Star Records-released her first record, "A Church, a Courtroom and Then Good-Bye" in 1955.

But it wasn't until January 21, 1957, when Patsy appeared on the nationally televised Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts, singing a song she didn't want to sing, that she became the proverbial overnight success. The song, of course, was "Walkin' After Midnight," and after Patsy's rendition literally froze the applause meter, bringing the audience to its feet, Decca Records, Four Star's distributor, signed her and heavily promoted her.

"Walkin' After Midnight" was her first song to hit the charts (country Number Three, pop number 12). Despite a couple of follow-ups, she retired shortly afterwards when she married her second husband, Charlie Dick, on September 15, 1957. Charlie and Patsy had two children, Julia and Randy, and for a couple of years, she was a happy housewife. In 1959, however, the bug bit here again, and she and the family moved to Nashville where, on January 9, 1960, Patsy became a member of the Grand Ole Opry.

After signing a new contract with Decca, Patsy released her first Number One record, "I Fall To Pieces." Seven more hits followed-"Sweet Dreams," "Crazy," "She's Got You," "Faded Love," "Leavin' On Your Mind," "South of the Border" and "You Made Me Love You." The sessions that produced these hits were directed by Owen Bradley, whose name has become inextricably linked with hers, and who was responsible for helping her develop her instinctive talent for the Nashville Sound, more commercially viable in those years than twangy country.

"Crazy," written by Willie Nelson and considered one of Patsy's most famous songs, was recorded in 1961 while she was recuperating from a serious car accident that hospitalized her for over a month. It was two years later, on March 5, 1963, that Patsy was killed in another accident, when the plane in which she was returning to Nashville following a benefit concert in Kansas City crashed near Camden, Tennessee. Killed with her were Hawkshaw Hawkins, Cowboy Copas and Cline's manager, Randy Hughes.

In 1973, 20 years after her death, Patsy was the first women elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame as a solo act. And more than 30 years after that fateful crash, Patsy's versions of "Crazy" and "I Fall To Pieces" still stand as benchmarks for a heartfelt country-pop song.

As of 1993, no fewer that 27 different re-issues of compilations of her music were in print on CD; her records still outsell many contemporary hit-makers. More than 30 years after her death, her influence on country music remains immense, and her vocal talents stand as a benchmark against which those have come since are sooner or later measured.

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