Concert: Always: Singing the Legacy of Patsy Cline
Saturday, May 11, 2013 : 12:00pm
Concert: Always: Singing the Legacy of Patsy Cline
May 11, 2013
Four generations of female vocalists addressed the enduring influence of the late Patsy Cline in song and in personal remembrances during a ninety-minute concert before a sold-out crowd at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.
Always: Singing the Legacy of Patsy Cline featured participants ranging in age from eighty-three-year-old Jan Howard, a friend and contemporary of Cline's, to eleven-year-old Emma Shudde, who said she began listening to Cline's recordings at the age of three. Hosted by Country Music Hall of Fame member Brenda Lee, the program included appearances by Lorrie Morgan and Pam Tillis, who performed as a duo (as they do on an upcoming album and an ongoing concert tour), country music newcomer Kristen Kelly, and Canadian country singer Lisa Brokop.
The concert took place in conjunction with the museum exhibit Patsy Cline: Crazy for Loving You, which closes on June 9. The exhibit, which opened in August 2012, coincides with the fiftieth anniversary of Cline's tragic death in a plane accident on March 5, 1963.
"With her rich and emotive vocal style, and in her many surviving recordings and video footage, Patsy has attained almost mythical status," said museum program coordinator Abi Tapia. "She's an icon who influences singers today from all walks of life and around the world. As we near the end of the run of the exhibit, we wanted to take a day to celebrate Patsy's legacy and the artists who have carried her voice forward over the last fifty years-and will continue to do so."
Lee opened by recalling her friendship with Patsy. "I'm here to honor Patsy Cline, who was a dear, dear friend of mine," said Lee, who was twelve years old when she met her idol. She later named her daughter Julie, after Cline's daughter with the same first name. "We toured together, and we became the closest of friends. So this is really a treasured moment for me to be here."
Lee also introduced a friend she had met even before she knew Patsy Cline. Jan Howard was among the Opry members who embraced and encouraged a pre-teen Lee, a Georgia native, when she first started performing in Nashville. "She has been so good to me, and we've been close for so long," Lee said.
Howard had planned to perform, but she was battling laryngitis. Instead, she told stories about Cline, a close friend, highlighting Cline's strong-willed, colorful personality. The two became friends when Howard dared talk back to her after Cline, backstage at the Opry, chastised her for being distant, calling her a "conceited little s.o.b." When Howard pointed out that no one had been very welcoming to her, Cline changed her tune, admiring the newcomer's nerve. "You're all right, honey," the late legend replied. "Anybody that will talk back to the Cline is all right. We're going to be good friends."
Morgan and Tillis talked about their current tour, billed as Grits & Glamour, and an upcoming album, Dos Divas. Taking the stage together, they paired Cline covers with their own solo hits. The two share the fact that their fathers were country stars who became members of the Country Music Hall of Fame, and that they had their string of country hits around the same era, with Morgan scoring her first Top Ten in 1989 and Tillis in 1990.
"Lorrie and I are what you call Opry brats, we grew up around these fabulous ladies," Tillis said. "Brenda's mom used to babysit us!" Morgan added, "We grew up with so many of the great ladies of country music. We both have so many idols in this business, and of course Brenda and Jan Howard, and people like Tammy Wynette and Loretta [Lynn]." Tillis interjected, "I wanted to grow up to be just like Dolly Parton," she said, adjusting her blouse a bit, "but it didn't work out." Morgan exclaimed, "We can fix that!"
Tillis talked about Cline's friendship with her father, Mel Tillis, who wrote a couple of songs she recorded. Mel told his daughter of watching and listening to Cline in a studio session, saying, "We all just stood around with our mouths open." For her Cline selections, Tillis sang her father's songs that Cline recorded: "So Wrong," a #14 hit in 1963, and the compelling album cut "Strange."
Morgan sang "Leavin' on Your Mind," which she called her favorite Patsy Cline song. Before starting, she apologized, saying allergies had given her a touch of laryngitis. But she sounded great on all her performances. "Whatever you're doing there with the allergies and laryngitis, I'd keep doing it," Tillis joked. "It's really not a problem."
Together, Morgan and Tillis traded verses and harmonized on "Back in Baby Arms," another Cline hit. Of their idol, Morgan said: "I am a huge Patsy fan, have been for years. She was one of my great inspirations. I loved her because she was rough and pretty and real, that's kind of what attracts me to her personality."
Tillis also sang her hit "Mi Vida Loca (My Crazy Life)," a #1 hit in 1994, and Morgan sang "Except for Monday," a Top Ten hit in 1992. They closed with a powerful new ballad, "I Am a Woman," from their upcoming Dos Divas album.
Kristen Kelly, a new artist who just recorded a country album with producers Tony Brown and Paul Overstreet, proved that Cline's penchant for powerful vocals and a confident stage presence can be found in acolytes like Kelly today. She opened with "Walking After Midnight," from 1957 and Cline's first major hit; she closed her four-song set with "I Fall to Pieces," from 1961, and Cline's first #1 hit.
She also performed two of her own songs, both of which she co-wrote. The r&b-influenced "My Ex-Old Man" deals humorously with what Kelly described as a real-life situation where her ex-boyfriend left her for her a woman who then became her ex-best-girlfriend. She also included her new single, "He Loves to Make Me Cry," a torch song that shows off Kelly's powerful voice-and her connection to Cline's legacy.
Lee brought along a protégé, eleven-year-old Emma Shudde, who performed "Tennessee Waltz," a song Cline often performed in concert. "At her age I had the Jan Howards and the Patsy Clines. I had good women role models who believed in me and helped me," Lee said, wanting to do the same for her young friend. Shudde sang with poise and talent, receiving a loud ovation for her effort.
Another un-billed surprise for the audience came when Lisa Brokop took the stage. The award-winning Canadian country vocalist, currently singing harmony on tour behind Morgan and Tillis, performed a moody version of Cline's hit "Sweet Dreams" to a strong reaction from the audience.
"Aren't you loving these singers," Lee asked at one point. "Aren't they all wonderful?" The jam-packed crowd whooped and hollered, exhibiting the kind of rowdiness Cline would have welcomed.