Patsy Cline (September 8, 1932 ? March 5, 1963), born Virginia Patterson Hensley, was an American country music singer who enjoyed pop music crossover success during the era of the Nashville sound in the early 1960s. Since her death at age 30 in a 1963 plane crash at the height of her career, she has been considered one of the most influential, successful, revered, and acclaimed female vocalists of the 20th century.
Cline was best known for her rich tone and emotionally expressive bold contralto voice, which, along with her role as a mover and shaker in the country music industry, has been cited and praised as an inspiration by many vocalists of various music genres. The story of her life and career has been the subject of numerous books, movies, documentaries, articles and stage plays.
Posthumously, millions of her albums have been sold over the past 46 years and she has been given numerous awards, which has given her an iconic status with some fans similar to that of legends Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley. Only ten years after her death, she became the first female solo artist inducted to the Country Music Hall of Fame. In 2002, she was voted by artists and members of the country music industry as number one on CMT's television special of the 40 Greatest Women of Country Music, and in 1999 she was voted number 11 on VH1's special The 100 Greatest Women in Rock and Roll by members and artists of the rock industry. According to her 1973 Country Music Hall of Fame plaque, "Her heritage of timeless recordings is testimony to her artistic capacity." Among those hits are "Walkin' After Midnight," "I Fall to Pieces," "She's Got You," "Crazy" and "Sweet Dreams."
Born September 8, 1932, in Winchester, Virginia, she was the daughter of Sam and Hilda Patterson Hensley, a blacksmith and a seamstress; Hilda was only 16 when Patsy was born. Patsy was the eldest of three children, the others being Samuel and Sylvia. The three children, despite their given names, were called "Ginny," "John" and "Sis", respectively. Patsy grew up a poor girl "on the wrong side of the tracks," but except for the fact that her father deserted the family in 1947, when she was 15, the Hensley home was quite happy.
The family lived in many different places around Virginia, before settling in Winchester. Cline often said as a child that she would one day be famous, and admired stars such as Judy Garland and Shirley Temple. A serious illness as a child caused a throat infection which, according to Cline, resulted in her gift of "a voice that boomed like Kate Smith's." Well-rounded in her musical tastes, Cline cited everyone from Kay Starr to Hank Williams as influences. As a child, she often sang in church with her mother. Cline was also a by-ear pianist who sang with perfect pitch.
Cline began performing in area variety/talent showcases. She went to the local radio station (WINC-AM) in Winchester and asked DJ Jimmy McCoy if he would let her sing on his radio show. He did, which was a great opportunity for Patsy, as McCoy's radio show was a great showcase for local talent. As she grew older, she began to play in popular nightclubs.
To help support her family after her father abandoned them, she dropped out of high school and worked various jobs, soda jerking and waitressing by day at The Triangle Diner across the street from her high school, (John Handley High School). At night, Cline could be found singing at local nightclubs, wearing her famous fringed Western stage outfits she designed herself and which were made by her mother, Hilda.
First marriage and first recording
During this period in her early 20s, Cline met two men who would provide early influence in her rise to stardom. The first was contractor Gerald Cline, whom she married in 1953 and divorced in 1957. The dissolution of the marriage was blamed not only on a considerable age difference, but also Patsy's desire to sing professionally and Gerald Cline's lack of support of Patsy's quest for stardom. While she dreamed of a career as a superstar, he wanted her to conform to the role of a housewife first. The second was Bill Peer, her new manager, who gave her the name "Patsy", from her middle name and her mother's maiden name, "Patterson".
Cline began making numerous appearances on local radio, and she attracted a large following in the Virginia/Maryland area ? especially when Jimmy Dean learned of her. She became a regular on Connie B. Gay's Town and Country television show, broadcast out of Washington, D.C, which also featured Dean, himself an established young country star. She also began making appearances at the Grand Ole Opry.
In 1955, Cline was signed to Four Star Records. However, her contract only allowed her to record compositions by Four Star writers; Cline disliked this, and later expressed regret over signing with the label. Her first record for Four Star was "A Church, A Courtroom & Then Good-Bye," which attracted little attention, although it did lead to several appearances on the Grand Ole Opry. Between 1955 and 1957, Cline recorded honky tonk material, with songs like "Fingerprints," "Pick Me Up On Your Way Down," "Don't Ever Leave Me Again," and "A Stranger In My Arms," the latter two both co-written by Cline, and also experimented with rockabilly. None of these songs, however, gained any notable success.
According to Owen Bradley, her Decca Records producer, the Four Star compositions only seemed to hint at the potential that lurked inside of Cline. Bradley thought her voice was best suited for singing pop music. However, the Four Star producers insisted that Cline would record only country songs, as her contract also stated. During her contract with Four Star, Cline recorded 51 songs.
Cline made her network TV debut on January 7, 1956 on ABC-TV's Grand Ole Opry; followed by an appearance on the network's Ozark Jubilee later that month, returning in April.
Music career and national discovery
The year 1957 was a year of great change in Cline's life which made her undoubtably one of the greatest country and western singers of the 1950's. as she found national stardom and she met Charlie Dick. Dick was a good-looking, well-known ladies' man who frequented the local club circuit Cline played on weekends. His charismatic personality and admiration of Cline's talents captured her attention. Their relationship resulted in a marriage that would last the rest of Cline's lifetime. Though their dramatic love affair has long been publicized as controversial, it was he whom Cline regarded as "the love of her life."
While looking for material for her first album Patsy Cline, a song appeared titled "Walkin' After Midnight", written by Don Hecht and Alan Block. Cline initially did not like the song because it was, according to her, "just a little old pop song." However, the song's writers and record label insisted she should record it.
She auditioned for Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts in New York City, and was accepted to sing on the CBS-TV show on January 21, 1957. Godfrey's "discovery" of Cline was typical. Her scout, actually her mother Hilda Hensley, presented Patsy who sang her recent release, "Walkin' After Midnight". Though heralded as a country song, recorded in Nashville, Godfrey's staff insisted Cline not wear one of her mother's hand crafted cowgirl outfits but appear in a cocktail dress.
The audience's ovations stopped the meter at its apex, and for a couple of months thereafter Cline appeared regularly on Godfrey's radio program. Initially, Cline was supposed to sing the song "A Poor Man's Roses (Or a Rich Man's Gold)"; however, the show's producers insisted Cline instead sing "Walkin' After Midnight". That night, she won the competition and was invited to return. The song was so well-liked by the audience that she decided to release "Walkin' After Midnight" as a single. In short, although Cline had been performing for nearly a decade and had been recording and appearing on local Washington, D.C. TV for more than two years, Godfrey was responsible for making Cline a star.
The song was released in early 1957, and before long it was a hit, reaching #2 on the country charts and #12 on the pop charts. Cline became one of the first country singers to have a crossover pop hit. Cline rode high on the hit for the next year, doing personal appearances and performing regularly on Godfrey?s show and on Ozark Jubilee (later Jubilee USA). She couldn't follow up "Walkin' After Midnight" with another hit, however, in part because of the deal with Four Star that limited her to songs from its publishing company. After the birth of their daughter, Julie, in 1958, Patsy and Charlie moved to Nashville, Tennessee.
In 1959, Cline met Randy Hughes, who became her manager. With Randy's promotion and a new contract with Decca Records-Nashville, Cline would begin her ascent to the top.
A return in 1961 with "I Fall to Pieces"
When her Four Star contract expired in 1960, Cline signed with Decca Records-Nashville, under the direction of legendary producer Owen Bradley. He was not only responsible for much of the success behind Cline's recording career, but also for the careers of Brenda Lee and Loretta Lynn.
Thanks to her vocal versatility, and with the help of Bradley's direction and arrangements, Cline enjoyed both country and pop success. Bradley's arrangements incorporated strings and other instruments not typical of country recordings of the day. He considered Cline's voice best-suited for country pop-crossover songs, and helped smooth her voice into the silky, torch song style for which she is famous. Nevertheless, she did not really enjoy singing pop material. This new, more sophisticated instrumental style became known as ?The Nashville Sound,? founded by Bradley and RCA?s Chet Atkins, who produced Jim Reeves, Skeeter Davis, Connie Smith, and Eddy Arnold.
Patsy Cline promotional photograph shortly before her life-threatening car crash in June of 1961.
Cline's first Decca release was the country pop ballad "I Fall to Pieces" (1961), written by Hank Cochran and Harlan Howard. The song was promoted at both country and pop music stations across the country, leading to success on both country and pop charts. The song slowly climbed up the charts, until it officially hit No. 1 on the country charts ? Cline's first No. 1. The song also made No. 12 on the pop charts, as well as No. 6 on the adult contemporary charts, a major feat for any country singer at the time, especially a woman. The song made her a household name, and proved that a woman country singer could enjoy as much crossover success as a man.
The Opry and Nashville scene
In 1961, Cline also joined the cast of the Grand Ole Opry, realizing a lifelong dream. She became one of the Opry's greatest stars, and is believed to be the only person granted Opry membership merely by asking for it.
Believing that there was "room enough for everybody", and confident of her abilities and appeal, Cline befriended and encouraged a number of women when they were starting out in country music, including Loretta Lynn, Dottie West, Barbara Mandrell (with whom Cline once toured), Jan Howard, and Brenda Lee, all of whom cite her as an influence in their careers. According to Lynn and West, Cline always gave of herself to her friends, buying them groceries and new furniture when they were hard up. On occasion, she would even pay their rent, enabling them to stay in Nashville and continue their quest for stardom. In Ellis Nassour's 1980 biography Patsy Cline, Cline's friend, honky tonk pianist and Opry star Del Wood, was quoted as follows: "Even when she didn't have it, she'd spend it ? and not always on herself. She'd give anyone the skirt off her backside if they needed it."
Cline also befriended Roger Miller, Hank Cochran, Faron Young, Ferlin Husky, Harlan Howard, and Carl Perkins, male artists and songwriters with whom she socialized at Tootsies Orchid Lounge, next door to the Grand Ole Opry. In the 1986 documentary The Real Patsy Cline, singer George Riddle said of her, "It wasn't unusual for her to sit down and have a beer and tell a joke. She'd never be offended at the guys' jokes, because most of the time she'd tell a joke better than you! Patsy was full of life, as I remember".
Cline used the term of endearment "Hoss" to refer to her friends, and referred to herself as "The Cline." Though she never met Elvis Presley, she admired his music, called him "The Big Hoss", and recorded with his male vocal backup group, the Jordanaires.
Near-fatal car accident
While Cline would continue to thrive in 1961, she also gave birth to a son, Randy. However, on , 1961, Patsy and her brother, Sam, were involved in a head-on car collision on Old Hickory Boulevard in Nashville, the second and more serious of two during her lifetime. The impact of the accident threw Patsy into the windshield, nearly killing her. Upon her arrival at the scene, singer Dottie West picked glass from Patsy's hair, while Patsy insisted that the other car's driver be treated first (when West was fatally injured in a car accident in 1991, she insisted that the driver of her car be treated first ). Patsy later stated that she saw the female driver of the other car die before her eyes at the hospital.
Suffering from a jagged cut across her forehead that required stitches, a broken wrist, and a dislocated hip, she spent a month hospitalized. While in the hospital, Cline, according to the Nassour biography Patsy Cline and to friend Billy Walker (who died in a vehicle accident of his own in 2006), rededicated her life to Christianity. She received thousands of cards and flowers sent by fans.
When she left the hospital, her forehead was still visibly scarred. For the remainder of her career, she wore wigs and careful makeup to hide the scars and headbands to relieve pressure on her forehead. She returned to the road on crutches, determined to be a survivor with a new appreciation for life.
Years later in the 1990s, a series of recordings from her first concert since the accident was released. These archives, recorded in Tulsa, Oklahoma, were found in the attic of one of Cline's former residences by the current owners and given to the family. The album, released in 1997, is titled Patsy Cline: Live At the Cimarron Ballroom, and features dialogue of Cline interacting with the audience, thus giving an historical archive of what her live performances were like.
The story of "Crazy"
After the success of "I Fall to Pieces", Cline needed a follow-up, particularly because the car accident had required that she spend a month in the hospital, which meant lost time from touring and promotions. The famous follow-up to her hit was written by Willie Nelson and called "Crazy", which Cline originally hated. Her first session recording "Crazy" turned out to be a disaster, and Cline claimed that the song was too difficult to sing. She tried to record "Crazy" like its demo recording, which featured Nelson's idyosyncratic singing, but had a tough time recording it not only because of its demo, but because she found the high notes hard to sing due to her injured ribs from her car accident. The entire day in the studio at Decca was a head-on fight between Cline and Owen Bradley.
However, Cline finally recorded the song the next week in one take, a version completely different from the demo. Because of this, it turned out to become a classic and, ultimately, Cline's signature song ? the one for which she remains best known. In late 1961, the song was an immediate country pop crossover hit, and was also her biggest pop hit, making the Top 10. Friend Loretta Lynn later reported that the night Cline premiered "Crazy" at the Grand Ole Opry, she received three standing ovations.
"Crazy" was a hit on three different charts in late 1961 and early 1962 ? the Hot Country Songs list (No. 2), the US Hot 100 list (No. 9), and the Adult Contemporary list (also No. 2). An album released that November entitled Patsy Cline Showcase featured Cline's two big hits of 1961. The album brought success to Cline late that year.
Effect and influence
Guitarist/producer Harold Bradley said of Cline in the 2003 book Remembering Patsy, "She's taken the standards for being a country music vocalist, and she raised the bar. Women, even now, are trying to get to that bar.... If you're going to be a country singer, if you're not going to copy her ? and most people do come to town copying her ? then you have to be aware of how she did it. It's always good to know what was in the past because you think you're pretty hot until you hear her.... It gives all the female singers coming in something to gauge their talents against. And I expect it will forever."
She was in control of her own career, making it clear that she could stand up to any man ? verbally and professionally ? and challenge their rules if they got in the way of where she felt her career should be headed. In a time when concert promoters often cheated stars out of their money by promising to pay them after the show and running with the money during the concert, Cline stood up to many of the male promoters before she even took the stage and demanded their money by proclaiming: "No dough, no show." According to friend Roy Drusky on the 1986 documentary The Real Patsy Cline: "Before one concert, we hadn't been paid. And we were talking about who was going to tell the audience that we couldn't perform without pay. Patsy said, 'I'll tell 'em!' And she did!" Friend Dottie West stated, "It was common knowledge around town that you didn't mess with 'The Cline!'"
When Cline made her first recordings in 1955, Kitty Wells, known as "The Queen of Country Music", was the undisputed top female vocalist in the country music field. By the time Cline broke through as a consistent hit maker in 1961, Wells was still country's biggest female star; however, Cline dethroned Wells by winning Billboard Magazine's "Favorite Female Country & Western Artist" for two years in a row and the 1962 Music Reporter "Star of The Year" award.
The two country queens could not have been more different, given that Cline's husky, full-throated, sophisticated sound was a marked contrast to Wells' pure-country, quivering vocals. Cline proved her name was such a household word that she needed no "royal" title other than her own name to prove her popularity. Though she was gaining attention on country and pop charts, she did not think of herself as anything other than a country singer and was known for her humility in her motto: "I don't want to get rich ? just live good."
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With Cline?s success climbing the record charts, she was in high demand on the concert circuit. Whereas most women in country music at that time were only considered ?window dressing", opening acts or extra attractions for the more popular and higher paid male star headliners, Cline was the first to headline her own show and receive top billing above many of the male stars with whom she toured. While bands typically backed up the female singer, Cline led the band through the concert instead.
Cline was so respected by men in the industry, that, rather than being introduced to audiences as ?Pretty Miss Patsy Cline? as her female contemporaries often were, she was given a more stately introduction such as that given by Johnny Cash on their 1962 tour together: ?Ladies and gentlemen, the one and only Patsy Cline.? As an artist, Cline held her fan base in extreme high regard (many of whom became lifelong friends), staying for hours after concerts to chat with them and sign autographs.
Cline was not only the first woman in country music to perform at New York?s Carnegie Hall (which she did with fellow Opry members and disapproval from elite gossip columnist Dorothy Kilgallen ? whom Cline fired back at) but also to headline the Hollywood Bowl with Johnny Cash and, later, in 1962, the first woman in country music to headline her own show in Las Vegas.
This success enabled Cline to buy her dream home in Nashville's Goodlettsville community, personally decorated in her style featuring real gold dust sprinkled in the bathroom tiles and a music room. Loretta Lynn stated in a 1986 documentary interview, "She called me into the front yard and said, 'Isn't this pretty? Now I'll never be happy until I have my Mama one just like it.'" Cline called her home "The house that Vegas built" since she was able to pay it off with the money she earned during her time there. (Later, after Cline's death in 1963, Cline's home was sold by her husband to singer Wilma Burgess who told Patsy Cline author Ellis Nassour that "strange occurrences" happened during her years there.)
Patsy Cline's 1961 studio album, Showcase With the Jordanaires, which featured her big hits from that year, "I Fall to Pieces" and "Crazy". This is the original album cover from 1961. The cover of the album was then changed in 1963 following Cline's death to the more-familiar shot seen today.
With this new demand for Cline came a higher price tag and, reportedly, towards the end of her life she was being paid at least $1,000 for her appearances ? then an unheard-of fee for women in the country music industry, since they usually grossed less than $200. In fact, her second-to-last concert, held in Birmingham, Alabama, grossed Cline $3,000.
To match her new sophisticated sound, Cline also reinvented her personal style, shedding her western trademark cowgirl outfits for elegant designer sequined gowns, cocktail dresses, spiked heels, and even gold lame pants. Cline?s new image was considered riskier and sexier by a then-conservative country music industry more accustomed to gingham and calico dresses for women. But like her sound, Cline?s style in fashion was mocked by many at first, then quickly copied. Cline also loved dangly earrings, and ruby red lipstick; her favorite perfume was Wind Song.
During her short career of only five and a half years, Patsy Cline received 12 prestigious awards for her achievements in music and three more following her death. Most of these were Cashbox, Music Reporter, and Billboard Awards, which were considered high honors during her time. (Awards such as the ACM and CMAs were not established until after her death, and the Nashville chapter of The Grammys wasn't founded until 1964.)
Cline stated of her success in a letter to friend Anne Armstrong (from the 1993 documentary Remembering Patsy): "It's wonderful ? but what do I do for '63? Its getting so even I can't follow Cline!"
The last album: Sentimentally Yours
In late 1961, Cline was back in the studio once again to record some songs for her upcoming album in 1962. One of the first songs recorded in late 1961 was the song "She's Got You". The song was written by Hank Cochran, who pitched the song over the phone to Cline before she actually recorded it. This song was actually one of the few songs Cline ever enjoyed recording.
The song was released as a single in January 1962, and soon was another country pop crossover hit, reaching No. 1 on the Country charts again (her second and last chart-topper), No. 14 on the pop charts, and No. 3 on the adult contemporary charts (originally called "Easy Listening"). It would be Cline's last Top 40 Pop hit. "She's Got You" was also Cline's first entry in the U.K. singles chart, covered by one of Britain's most popular female artists, Alma Cogan; it reached No. 43. Her biggest U.K. record sales Hit Parade entry, before her death, was her version of the standard tune Heartaches, reaching the Top Thirty in late 1962.
Following the success of "She's Got You", Cline enjoyed a string of smaller country hits, including the Top 10 "When I Get Thru' with You", "Imagine That", "So Wrong", and "Heartaches". These hits were not big crossover pop hits like her previous three had been on the Country charts; however, they were Top 10 and 20 hits.
These were followed by an appearance on American Bandstand in late 1962 and the release of a third album that August called Sentimentally Yours. When asked in a WSM radio interview about her vocal stylings, Cline stated, "Oh, I just sing like I hurt inside".
Though she was in high demand and her career was at its peak, the wear and tear of the road and business began to present the possibility of a short-term retirement for Cline, who longed to spend more time raising her children, Julie and Randy, especially after heading her own show at the Mint Casino in Las Vegas at the end of 1962.
A month before her death, Cline went into the studio to record her fourth album, Faded Love. Recording a mix of country standards and such vintage pop classics as Irving Berlin's "Always" and "Does Your Heart Beat for Me", these sessions proved to be most contemporary-sounding of her career, without any country music instruments and featuring a full string section. (Owen Bradley told Patsy author Margaret Jones that he and Cline had even talked of doing an album of showtunes and standards before her death, including "Can't Help Loving That Man of Mine", since Cline was a fan of Helen Morgan.)
Cline, so involved with the story in the song's lyrics, reportedly cried through most of what would be her last sessions. This emotion can be heard on certain tracks, especially "Sweet Dreams" and "Faded Love". At the playback party that night at the studio, according to singer Jan Howard, on the documentary Remembering Patsy, Patsy held up a copy of her first record and a copy of her newest tracks and stated, "Well, here it is...the first and the last".
As stated in the 1980 Ellis Nassour biography, Patsy Cline, friends Dottie West and June Carter Cash both recalled Cline telling them that she felt a sense of impending doom and didn't expect to live much longer in the months leading up to her death. Cline also told Loretta Lynn of this, along with Cash and West, as early as September 1962. Cline, though known for her extreme generosity, even began giving away personal items to friends, writing out her own last will on Delta Air Lines stationery and asking close friends to care for her children if anything should happen to her. She reportedly told Jordanaire back up singer Ray Walker as she exited the Grand Ole Opry a week before her death: "Honey, I've had two bad ones (accidents). The third one will either be a charm or it'll kill me."
On , 1963, Patsy, though ill with the flu, gave a performance at a benefit show at the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall, Kansas City, Kansas, for the family of a disc jockey, Cactus Jack Call, who had recently died in an automobile accident. Also performing on the show were George Jones, George Riddle and The Jones Boys, Billy Walker, Dottie West, Cowboy Copas, Hawkshaw Hawkins, Wilma Lee and Stoney Cooper, and George McCormick and the Clinch Mountain Clan. Cline wore a white chiffon gown and closed the show with her performance to a thunderous ovation. Her last song was the last one she recorded during her last sessions the previous month, "I'll Sail My Ship Alone."
Dottie West, wary of Cline flying, pleaded with her to ride back in the car with her and her husband, Bill. Cline, anxious to get home to her children, refused West's offer, saying, "Don't worry about me, Hoss. When it's my time to go, it's my time." She called her mother from the airport and then boarded a Piper Comanche bound for Nashville, flown by her manager Randy Hughes, along with Cowboy Copas and Hawkshaw Hawkins. After stopping to refuel in Dyersburg, Tennessee, the plane took off at 6:07 pm. According to revelations by the airfield manager in the Nassour biography, he suggested that they stay the night after advising of high winds and inclement weather on the flight path, but Hughes responded, "I've already come this far. We'll be there before you know it."
However, they never made it to Nashville. The plane flew into severe weather and crashed at 6:20 p.m., according to Patsy's wristwatch, in a forest outside of Camden, Tennessee, 90 miles from the destination. There were no survivors.
Throughout the night, reports of the missing plane flooded the radio airwaves. Roger Miller told Patsy Cline author Ellis Nassour that he and a friend went searching for survivors in the early hours of the morning: "As fast as I could, I ran through the woods screaming their names ? through the brush and the trees, and I came up over this little rise, oh, my God, there they were. It was ghastly. The plane had crashed nose down."
Not long after the bodies of the victims were removed, scavengers came to take what they could of the stars' personal belongings and pieces of the plane. Many of these items were later donated to The Country Music Hall of Fame; the white chiffon dress that Patsy had worn for her last concert was never found.
As per her wishes, Cline was brought home to her dream house for the last time before her memorial service, which thousands attended. Hours later, news that singer Jack Anglin had died on the way to her service surfaced, and the Opry mounted a tribute show to honor the victims.
She was buried in her hometown of Winchester, Virginia, at Shenandoah Memorial Park. Her grave is marked with a simple bronze plaque, which reads: Virginia H (Patsy) Cline "Death Cannot Kill What Never Dies: Love." A bell tower in her memory at the cemetory, erected with the help of Loretta Lynn and Dottie West, plays hymns daily at 6:00 p.m., the hour of her death. A memorial marks the place where the plane crashed in the still remote forest outside of Camden, Tennessee.
1963 - 1985
Three songs in 1963 became Top 10 Country hits after Cline's death: "Sweet Dreams," "Leavin' On Your Mind" and "Faded Love". More albums of unreleased material followed posthumously, starting with The Patsy Cline Story in the summer of 1963. This album replaced Cline's planned fourth album, originally to have been released that March and titled Faded Love. Owen Bradley produced all of these tracks. The majority featured the legendary back-up vocal group The Jordanaires, who also appeared on many of Elvis Presley's albums. The album's cover photo and design, featuring Patsy in a smoky haze of gold and with simple titles across the top, is also considered the first contemporary album cover art in country music history.
As the 1960s and early '70s moved on, MCA (new owner of Cline?s former label, Decca) continued to issue Patsy Cline albums, so that Cline has had several posthumous hits, starting in early 1964 with a Top 25 Country hit "He Called Me Baby," a song recorded during Cline's "last sessions" in 1963, which was then released on her 1964 album That's How a Heartache Begins. Her Greatest Hits album, released in 1967, continues to appear on the country music charts to this day. It held the record as being the album to stay on the country charts the longest, until Garth Brooks surpassed it in the 1990s; however, it still holds the record for an album by a female artist.
In 1973, Cline was elected to The Country Music Hall of Fame along with guitarist/RCA producer Chet Atkins, making her the first female solo artist in country music history to receive that honor. Johnny Cash inducted Cline, from the CMA Awards show, which was televised live from the Ryman Auditorium. Along with the standard induction bronze plaque, the Hall houses a few of Cline's stage outfits, letters to her fan club president, and personal effects recovered from the crash site, including her "Dixie" cigarette lighter, donated by singer Carl Perkins.
Even in the late 1970s, Cline?s name occasionally appeared in magazine articles and television interviews by her friends, namely Dottie West and Loretta Lynn, who credited her with inspiration for the success they were seeing at that time. In fact, Lynn recorded a tribute album dedicated to Cline, I Remember Patsy, and scored a hit with Cline's 1962 hit "She's Got You."
It was encounters with MCA/Decca recording star Loretta Lynn by MCA manager of artist relations Ellis Nassour that led to a series of magazine profiles and the first of two complete biographies by Nassour, with interviews with Patsy's mother Hilda Hensley, her husbands, intimate friends and peers such as Dottie West, Brenda Lee, and Faron Young.
Loretta Lynn published her autobiography, Coal Miner's Daughter, which featured a chapter dedicated to her friendship with Cline. Lynn?s biopic of the same name followed and featured actress Beverly D'Angelo (who used her own voice) as Cline. Contrary to the movie's script, Cline and Lynn never toured together, as Cline never owned her own bus and stars during her time usually traveled in caravans and limousines. Public interest in Patsy Cline began to increase.
Singles continued to be released by MCA records through much of the 1970s, but none actually charted on the country list. In 1980, however, MCA, released an overdubbed version of her version of the song "Always," which was recorded back in 1963. The song went on to become a charted country hit, peaking at No. 18 on the Hot Country Songs list in 1980. An album of the same name was released that year.
In 1981, an electronically-produced duet between Cline and Jim Reeves, another legendary Country singer, who died the year after Patsy Cline, from the same fate. Their duet of "Have You Ever Been Lonely (Have You Ever Been Blue)" was a No. 5 Country hit that year. Like Cline, Jim Reeves gained a massive fan following after his death, as well as a string of re-issued singles.
1990 - present
In 1992, the U.S. Postal Service honored her, along with Hank Williams, the Carter Family and Bob Wills on a U.S. postage stamp. Also in 1992, MCA released a 4 CD/Cassette Collection of the discography, called The Patsy Cline Collection. This boxed set, which includes a booklet chronicling Cline's career (with many rare photos), remains one of the top 10 bestselling boxed collections in the record industry.
In 1993, the Grand Ole Opry opened its museum beside The Grand Ole Opry House in Nashville. It includes a permanent Patsy Cline exhibit, displaying several of her awards, stage outfits, wigs, make-up, hairbrush, and a fully-furnished replica of her dream home?s music room.
1993 also marked the 30th anniversary of the 1963 plane crash. To commemorate the event, The Grand Ole Opry televised its Saturday night segment as a tribute to Cline, Hawkins and Copas. With Cline's widower, Charlie, and their daughter, Julie, on hand, friend Jan Howard paid tribute to Cline, singing "I Fall to Pieces" (which her ex-husband, Harlan Howard, cowrote), followed by Loretta Lynn, who performed "She's Got You."
That same year, the musical play Always?Patsy Cline premiered. Produced by Ted Swidley, it chronicled the real-life story of Mississippi native Louise Seger, who at the time lived in Houston, Texas. In 1961, Seger, an ardent fan of Cline, arrived early at Houston's Esquire Ballroom for Cline's performance. In a chance encounter before the show, Seger met Cline, who she later persuaded to spend the night at her house rather than a hotel. Several weeks later, Seger received the first of many letters she would receive from Cline over the two year period prior to the singer's death. Cline signed each letter Always ... Patsy Cline, hence the title of Swidley's musical.
The revue has made its way across the U.S., running off-Broadway in New York, New York and for over a year at Nashville's Ryman Auditorium, where it starred singer Mandy Barnett and sold out nightly. Other plays, based on Cline's life and career, have followed, including A Closer Walk with Patsy Cline, which starred Julie Johnson, and Patsy!, a version of A Closer Walk with Patsy Cline that was performed only at the Grand Palace in Branson, Missouri. These are the only plays licensed by Legacy, Inc., the company operated by the family. All Patsy Cline-related plays and merchandising are handled through the Legacy, Inc. office in the Nashville area.
Also in 1993, singers Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton and Tammy Wynette included Cline's cover of Hank Williams' "Lovesick Blues" on their "Honky Tonk Angels" trio album, singing along with Cline's original track/vocal.
Cline became a member of the Texas Cowgirl Hall of Fame in 1994. That same year, actress Delta Burke starred in her own television show, Delta, as a Nashville waitress trying to make it into country music. The show referenced Patsy Cline throughout its run, and included several of Patsy Cline's hits, all sung by Burke. One episode took her to pay homage to Patsy Cline's grave where she meets another visitor, singer Tanya Tucker, who played herself.
Cline was portrayed on film again in the 1995 CBS biopic Big Dreams and Broken Hearts: The Dottie West Story, featuring Michele Lee as Dottie West and actress Tere Myers as Cline. At that year's Grammy Awards, Cline was honored with a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, along with Barbra Streisand and Peggy Lee. On the Grand Ole Opry's 70th Anniversary Special on CBS, singer Martina McBride celebrated her induction as the Opry's newest member by paying tribute to Cline with her version of "Crazy."
In 1996, the episode Never No More of the Science-Fiction series Space: Above and Beyond was named after and featured the song "Never no more" prominently.
In 1997, Cline's recording of "Crazy" was named the #1 Jukebox Hit of All Time; "I Fall to Pieces" came in at # 17. In 1998, she was nominated to The Hollywood Walk of Fame by a dedicated fan, and received her star on the famed walkway in August 1999 and later a street was named after her on the back lot of Universal Studios.
Also in 1999, VH1 named Cline #11 on its 100 Greatest Women of Rock and Roll. She was also honored with the Nashville Golden Voice Award in its Legend Category that same year. Singer Trisha Yearwood celebrated her induction to the Opry that same year, paying tribute to Cline with her version of "Sweet Dreams" and receiving a necklace worn by Cline as a gift to commemorate the event from Cline's widower, Charlie, and their daughter, Julie.
In 2002, CMT named her #1 on its 40 Greatest Women of Country Music. Cline, like other artists featured on the show, was voted this position by artists and members of the music industry. Her place at number one was followed by those women who've said she inspired them, particularly Tammy Wynette (#2) and Loretta Lynn (#3).
Cline's hit song "I Fall to Pieces" was listed at #107 on RIAA's list of Songs of the Century in 2001. Loretta Lynn released a sequel to her autobiography, Coal Miner's Daughter, called Still Woman Enough and again dedicated a chapter to her friendship with Cline (called "Still Thinking of Patsy"). One of Lynn's daughters is named after Cline, and one of Brenda Lee's daughter's is named after Cline's daughter, Julie.
Throughout her career, country legend Reba McEntire has cited Cline as one of her childhood inspirations and, upon reaching stardom in the 1980s, featured Cline's hits on several of her first albums. McEntire closed her live shows for years with Cline's signature hit "Sweet Dreams," but discontinued the encore after closing a show with it on , 1991 when the airplane carrying her band crashed and killed everyone aboard early the next morning.
One of the most heard country music albums of all time, Patsy Cline?s Greatest Hits has sold 10 million copies worldwide since its 1967 release. Bob Ludwig remastered the set, and it has been reissued in its original cover art. In 2005, the album Patsy Cline's Greatest Hits was certified by the RIAA as Diamond (designating the sale of 10 million). That same year, the album was listed in the Guinness Book of World Records for staying on the overall music charts the longest of any female artist of any music genre in history.
Also in 2003, her childhood home in Winchester, Virginia was listed on The National Register of Historic Places, complete with a bronze marker in front of the house. Cline was also memorialized in Nashville's downtown Owen Bradley Park with her name on a slab of concrete featuring three of the hits that she and Bradley made famous. On the life-size grand piano upon which Bradley's statue sits is the sheet music for "I Fall to Pieces."
Each year, fans from around the globe gather in Cline?s hometown of Winchester, Virginia, where she is buried, to pay homage to her during its Labor Day events. They gather on the Labor Day weekend because it is close to her birthdate. September 8, 2007, was the 20th Annual gathering. Charlie and Julie and all of the grandchildren and great-grandchildren as well as other family members were in attendance. The efforts to erect a Patsy Cline museum in Winchester, Virginia, are still ongoing.
In 2009, renovations were completed at her former high school's (John Handley High School) theatre originally built in 1923. On October 29, 2009 the theatre will officially be dedicated and named the Patsy Cline Theatre where Willie Nelson will perform live. The theatre has 1,327 seats.
Movies and documentaries
With Loretta Lynn's Coal Miner's Daughter book and hit motion picture making headlines, talk of a picture devoted solely to Patsy Cline's life story began to emerge.
In 1985, HBO/Tri Star Pictures produced Sweet Dreams: The Life and Times of Patsy Cline, starring actress Jessica Lange, lip-syncing as Cline, actor Ed Harris as Cline?s husband, Charlie Dick, and actress Ann Wedgeworth as Hilda Hensley, Cline's mother. The film depicted Cline's marriage to Dick as abusive, falsely portraying Cline as a victim of domestic violence and blowing their marital strife out of proportion. Dottie West said of the couple's disagreements in a 1986 interview: "It was always very interesting to watch -- because you ALWAYS knew Patsy was going to win! He was her man. He was her lover."
Cline?s family and friends claimed that this and other sequences in the film were inaccurately fictionalized for Hollywood and were not pleased with the final product. Cline's mother was quoted in a 1985 edition of People Magazine: "The producers told me they were going to make a love story. I saw the film once. That was enough. Jessica (Lange) did well with what she had to work with." Cline's widower, Charlie Dick, stated in the same article: "It's a great film -- if you like fiction."
Despite the film's controversy, the picture became a hit, and Lange was nominated for an Academy Award for her performance, one that she credits today as one of her favorites. The soundtrack to the film was a great success, and Patsy Cline?s recordings began to climb the charts again.
Hoping to set the record straight on her personal life, Cline?s family and friends have produced a series of videos/documentaries since Sweet Dreams including The Real Patsy Cline, Remembering Patsy, and most recently Sweet Dreams Still: The Live Collection. One of these, Remembering Patsy, was used on the A&E Channel's award-winning show Biography in the 1990s.
Also worth mentioning is the 2005 award winning Canadian film C.R.A.Z.Y. by Jean-Marc Vall?e that borrowed the title from the song Crazy, since that Patsy Cline's record bounds the main character and his father in a special way.
In December 1998, Cline?s mother, Hilda Hensley, died in Winchester, Virginia of natural causes. (Cline's father had died in the 1950s.) Hensley rarely granted live interviews, living the rest of her life practicing her craft as a master seamstress in Winchester and helping to raise her beloved grandchildren.
Cline's daughter, Julie, stated in a 1985 People Magazine article: "Grannie loved my mother so much that its still hard for her to talk about her." Hensley stated in her later years that the outpouring of love given to her by Cline's fans over the years had been amazing. "I never knew so many people loved my daughter" she told one newspaper.
Because Cline and her mother were so close in age, Cline often commented that her mother was also her best friend and the one person in life she could truly count on. Hensley also commented that Cline was a "wonderful daughter" who never let her family down in the hard times they endured. Cline's brother died in 2004, though her sister still lives in Virginia.
Patsy's husband, Charlie Dick, resides in Nashville, where he continues to be a well-known member of the country music community, producing documentaries on Cline and other artists through a video production company. Dick is very involved with Cline's fan base and considers them an extension of family, attending many fan functions. Daughter Julie joins him in representing Cline?s estate at public functions and has four children of her own (one, Virginia, named for Cline, was killed in an automobile accident in 1994) and five grandchildren, making Patsy Cline a great-grandmother. Son Randy was the drummer of a Nashville band and now lives in San Luis Obispo California, although he chooses not to live in the limelight. Dick's brother, Mel, heads up the "Always... Patsy Cline" fan organization.
After Cline?s death, Charlie Dick married singer Jamey Ryan in 1965, but they were divorced a few years later. Ironically, Jamey Ryan provided the vocals for three songs in the film Sweet Dreams: "Bill Bailey (Won't You Please Come Home), "Rollin' In My Sweet Baby's Arms" and "Blue Christmas" (a tune Cline never recorded). Ryan's sound is so close to Cline's that many fans search Cline's discography trying to find these two songs but soon discover that these tracks were recorded solely for the film and were not included on the soundtrack.
Compositions by Patsy Cline
Patsy Cline co-wrote two songs during her career. The songs Patsy Cline composed are:
"A Stranger in My Arms" (1957), written by Patsy Cline (under her birth name Virginia Hensley), Charlotte White, and Mary Lu Jeans and recorded on April 24, 1957. The song was released as a Decca 45 single, Decca 30406, on August 12, 1957 b/w "Three Cigarettes (In An Ashtray)" and also as a 45 single on the Festival label as Festival SP45-1620.
"Don't Ever Leave Me Again" (1957), written by Patsy Cline (under her birth name of Virginia Hensley), James E. Crawford, Jr., and Lillian N. Claiborne. "Don't Ever Leave Me Again" appeared on the 1957 Decca LP "Patsy Cline" and was the title track of a 1991 compilation album released on Laser Light.