Patsy Cline Biography
Patsy Cline's country music career was cut short by a fatal plane wreck when she was only 30. Yet her dynamic voice and emotions made her a country legend for all times.
Patsy Cline was born Virginia Patterson Hensley in Gore, Virginia, on September 8, 1932. As a young girl living in poverty, she would sing along with Grand Ole Opry stars she heard on WSM broadcasts. Her goal was to become a member of the cast, and she took piano lessons to learn more about music.
When Cline was 16, Opry regular Wally Fowler came to nearby Winchester, Virginia, and she managed to get a meeting with him. After hearing her sing, Fowler urged Cline to try out for the Opry. She soon took her first trip to Nashville where she got an audition for Grand Ole Opry but failed to get a contract. Cline then went back home to Virginia and continued singing in local taverns and clubs.
In Virginia, Cline joined a local band, Bill Peer and the Melody Boys, and began having an affair with Peer. He mistakenly thought her middle name was Patricia and began calling her "Patsy." "Cline" came when she married Gerald Cline in 1953. Patsy soon regretted marrying Cline and continued seeing Peer although they never married. She divorced Cline in 1957 but continued using his name professionally.
Also in 1953 she made her second trip to Nashville to appear on Midnight Jamboree. A year later she made $50 by singing "It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels" on the Town and Country syndicated radio show. Later in 1954 she signed a record contract with Bill McCall of 4 Star Music Sales. This proved disasterous because of a clause saying only McCall could approve songs she recorded; her first four single records failed to make the top 50 charts. She signed a leasing deal with Decca in 1955 and several years later songwriter Don Hecht selected her to record "Walkin' After Midnight." It wasn't released right away. When Patsy appeared on the Arthur Godfrey Talent Scouts in 1957 she was persuaded to wear a cocktail dress instead of her usual cowgirl outfit. She won the contest, and the national exposure guaranteed the success of "Walkin' After Midnight," which was hurriedly released. It reached #3 on the country music charts and #15 on the pop music charts; sales totalled 750,000 records. She was asked to sing an encore on Talent Scouts, and she performed Hank Williams' classic "Your Cheatin' Heart", which she didn't record until 1962.
Patsy didn't know how to handle her success and she was in danger of becoming a flash-in-the-pan star. All of her follow up single records were slanted toward the pop music market and they made no impact on the country music market. In 1957 Patsy's second husband, Charlie Dick, entered the Army at the same time she found out she was pregnant. When he returned from his military duties, they were so poor that only an error in the amount of his paycheck gave them enough money to move to Nashville.
While Dick worked as a printer, Patsy sang on the road with Ferlin Husky and Faron Young. She hired a new manager, Ramsey Hughes, and joined the Grand Ole Opry in January, 1960, after her contract with McCall expired. The ingredients for her success were finally in place and she signed with Decca in November, 1960. "I Fall to Pieces" became another smash hit. Recovering from a serious car wreck took time away from promoting this hit, which reached #3 on the country music charts and #10 on the pop music charts. Her biggest hit of 1962 was "She's Got You" which stayed at #1 on the country music charts for four weeks. Her engagements included a show in Las Vegas at the Mint Casino.
On March 5, 1963, Patsy was returning to Nashville from a benefit concert in Kansas City when her plane crashed in Dyersburg, Tennessee, killing her, her manager, Randy Hughes and country stars Hawkshaw Hawkins and Cowboy Copas.
Following her untimely death, Decca released a two-record package "The Patsy Cline Story." Three more Patsy Cline singles reached the charts after her death and in 1973 she was the first female performer to be named to the Country Music Hall of Fame. A 1995 movie about her life, "Sweet Dreams," starred Jessica Lange as Patsy. The words on her grave say it all: "Death cannot kill who never dies."