NASHVILLE, Tenn., May 7, 2012 - The tear in her voice. The catch in her throat. These are the signatures of the legendary Patsy Cline. The Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum will pay tribute to this inimitable artist with the cameo exhibition Patsy Cline: Crazy for Loving You, which opens in the Museum's East Gallery on August 24, 2012, and runs through June 2013.
"Patsy Cline is an American music icon and perhaps the most accessible artist in country music history," said Museum Director Kyle Young. "Though she recorded for only eight years and made her last record nearly 50 years ago, her body of work-those classic torch songs and ballads of heartache-have continued to resonate with music fans of all genres. While she considered herself a country singer, she was equally adept at pop stylings, and was a key influence in bringing the two genres closer stylistically in the 1960s. The quintessential torch singer, she could wring every nuance of emotion from a lyric; and her prodigious vocal stylings and unique delivery have influenced scores of artists, including Loretta Lynn, Linda Ronstadt and Reba McEntire.
"Though her life was tragically cut short," Young continued, "her classic recordings are timeless, alive and vibrant. Our exhibit will not only explore Patsy's musical contributions, but will also offer visitors a look at the woman behind the songs, the firecracker who overcame childhood hardships to emerge as one of the most important artists of the 20th century. "
Born Virginia Patterson Hensley in Winchester, Virginia on September 8, 1932, "Ginny," as she was known in her youth, demonstrated musical proclivity at an early age. At the age of four, she taught herself to dance and won an amateur contest in Lexington, Virginia. With the encouragement of an older half-sister, she learned to play piano by ear, and her parents gave her a piano on her eighth birthday; she also sang in her church's choir and, while still in grammar school, became a regular performer on local radio station WINC.
When she was 15, Cline's musical aspirations hit a setback: Her father deserted the family, and Patsy dropped out of high school to help support her mother and two siblings. Working in a drugstore by day, Cline continued to perform in the evenings at bars and supper clubs.
At age 20, Cline met local country bandleader Bill Peer; he became her de facto manager and suggested that she change her name from Virginia to Patsy. While working with Peer, Patsy met Gerald Cline and married him in March 1953. The following month, Peer took Patsy to Nashville to appear on Ernest Tubb's Midnite Jamboree; later that year, he cut a demo of her singing, in hopes of generating major record label interest.
In August 1954, Cline competed in the fourth annual National Championship Country Music Contest in Warrenton, Virginia (near Washington, D.C.), and won first prize in the vocalist category. Music impresario Connie B. Gay, who sponsored the contest, took note of Cline's performance and began featuring her on his Town & Country TV program, hosted by Jimmy Dean.
Through the efforts of Peer and Gay, Cline's demo eventually attracted the attention of Bill McCall's Pasadena, California-based Four Star Records, and McCall signed Cline to a recording contract in September 1954. The contract, which would ultimately prove a hindrance to Cline's career, included a substandard royalty rate and also stipulated that she could record nothing without McCall's approval.
McCall worked out a lease arrangement with Decca country recording chief Paul Cohen by which Decca would release Cline's records on its Coral subsidiary. The agreement gave Cohen a say in who would helm Cline's recording sessions; Cohen chose famed Nashville producer Owen Bradley, thus beginning a producer-artist partnership that would endure throughout Cline's career. Cline's debut single, the weeper "A Church, a Courtroom and Then Goodbye," sold poorly when it was released in July 1955. Three follow-up singles also flopped, but Patsy's ongoing TV and personal appearances earned her a measure of regional fame.
She finally broke through in January 1957 when she made her national television debut on Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts. Cline's performance of "Walkin' After Midnight" led Godfrey to declare to her, "There is surely stardust on you." "Walkin' After Midnight" became a #2 country hit and reached #12 on the pop charts. That same year, Patsy divorced Gerald Cline and married Charlie Dick.
Cline's follow-up singles, geared to take advantage of her pop success and recorded (at McCall's request) without Bradley in Decca's New York studios, failed to catch on, and by the end of 1957 Cline retreated into semiretirement.
Following the birth of her daughter, Julia, in August 1958, Cline moved to Nashville and signed with manager Randy Hughes, who attempted to kick-start her career by booking performances across the country. Cline had long wanted to join the Grand Ole Opry and, during this nadir, approached Opry management about becoming a member. The esteemed program was happy to add Patsy to the fold, and she joined the cast on January 9, 1960.
When Cline's contract with Four Star expired in the summer of 1960, she immediately signed with Decca, and producer Bradley directed her toward the emergent Nashville Sound. Among Bradley's selections for her was the Harlan Howard-Hank Cochran song "I Fall to Pieces." Though Cline was not enamored of the song initially (a common theme with several of her biggest hits), Bradley convinced her to record it.
In January 1961, Cline gave birth to a son, Randy, and a few months later, in June, survived a near-fatal car accident, just as "I Fall to Pieces" was starting to climb the charts. The song, which hit #1 on the country charts and peaked at #12 in Billboard's pop rankings, solidified Cline's career and provided her with financial stability. Critical acclaim soon followed, with Billboard naming Patsy the Favorite Female Artist of C&W Disc Jockeys in October 1961 (breaking Kitty Wells' decade-long hold on the award). Cline rounded out the year performing on November 29 (as part of a Grand Ole Opry troupe) at Carnegie Hall.
Despite the popularity of "Pieces," it hadn't made an impact on the New York market, and Decca urged Bradley to find a more "sophisticated" follow-up single. Bradley's choice: "Crazy," a quirky honky-tonk song written by Willie Nelson that Bradley would shape into a lush ode to heartbreak. "Crazy" hit #2 on the country charts and was a crossover smash.
Cline maintained her momentum with the #1 hit "She's Got You" and with appearances at the Hollywood Bowl and on American Bandstand. She toured with the Johnny Cash Show and widened her audience further through a 35-day residency at the Mint Casino in Las Vegas.
Cline's final show was a benefit in Kansas City on March 3, 1963. Returning to Nashville, she was killed in a plane crash that also took the lives of pilot Randy Hughes and fellow Opry stars Cowboy Copas and Hawkshaw Hawkins. Cline's singles "Leavin' on Your Mind," "Sweet Dreams (of You)" and "Faded Love" all charted Top Ten posthumously. The subject of both the motion picture Sweet Dreams and the play Always ... Patsy Cline, she was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1973.
Patsy Cline: Crazy for Loving You will be accompanied by an ongoing series of programs throughout the exhibit's duration.
Accredited by the American Association of Museums, the Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum is operated by the Country Music Foundation, a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) educational organization chartered by the state of Tennessee in 1964. The museum's mission is the preservation of the history of country and related vernacular music rooted in southern culture. With the same educational mission, the foundation also operates CMF Records, the museum's Frist Library and Archive, CMF Press, Historic RCA Studio B and Hatch Show Print®.
More information about the Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum is available at www.countrymusichalloffame.org or by calling (615) 416-2001.
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