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A Tribute to the Legendary Country Music Star Patsy Cline

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Patsy Cline

Patsy Cline

Decca Records
Patsy Cline was born Virginia Patterson Hensley on September 8, 1932 in Winchester, Virginia. She was often described as a child prodigy, and at the age of four, made her public debut by winning first prize in an amateur contest in her home town of Winchester for her tap dancing skill. By the age of eight, she had also exhibited talent as a singer.

She started piano lessons at age eight, and this knowledge helped her improve her vocal skills. She was also a featured singer in her church choir, and continued to sing with that group through her teenage years.

At the age of sixteen, Wally Fowler of the Grand Ole Opry was starring in a touring show that played the Winchester Palace Theatre. Patsy auditioned for him and won a guest spot on the bill. With his help, her parents helped her go to Nashville to try to get a country music career. Initially she didn't have much luck, and had barely eked out a living as a dancer in small clubs. This discouraged Patsy, and she returned home to Winchester.

Patsy may have been discouraged with her first experience in Nashville, but she still wanted to score a music career, and auditioned and won a chance to appear on Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts. She chose to sing "Walkin' After Midnight" for her debut on the nationally televised program. The date was January 21, 1957, and her rendition of the classic tune won her an ovation from the studio audience and approval from followers of the program. She won first prize and soon after was given a recording contract with Decca, which released the single of the song. The record became a hit on both country and pop charts, and at the young age of twenty-five, Patsy embarked on the road to stardom.

In the late 1950s, after the success of "Walking After Midnight," it was a while before Patsy had another big hit, especially in the country field. But, in the early 1960s, she started to turn out songs that were widely favored with country fans. It was also during that time that Patsy became a headliner on the country concert circuit as well as a regular Grand Ole Opry cast member. Her biggest year would have to have been 1961, when she released her top-10 hit, "Crazy," as well as "I Fall To Pieces," which went to No. 1 on the country charts. In 1962 she had another No. 1 with "She's Got You," and a top-10 with "When I Get Through With You, You'll Love Me Too." In 1963, she had three more top-10 singles with "Faded Love," "Leavin' On Your Mind," and "Sweet Dreams (Of You)," the last being released after her death.

It was on March 3, 1963 that Patsy Cline made her final performance. She had the flu, but was performing a benefit for a disc jockey that had lost his life in an automobile accident in Kansas City, Missouri. The last song she sang was Moon Mulligan's "I'll Sail My Ship Alone."

The plane was owned by Patsy's manager, Randy Hughes, and he was at the controls on the fated flight. They had been scheduled to fly home on March 4th, but the weather was too bad, so they stayed another day. When the weather wasn't much better the following day, they sat at the airport waiting for it to clear. After a few hours, Patsy's friend, Dottie West asked Patsy if she wanted to go back with her in the car. Patsy seriously contemplated this, but just before they were going, Randy Hughes, who had been checking the weather reports constantly, told Patsy that the weather had cleared and they could leave, so Patsy decided she would fly.

The plane took off at 6:07 pm on March 5, 1963. The passengers, Randy Hughes, Patsy Cline, Cowboy Copas, and Hawkshaw Hawkins, were last seen at the airfield in Dyersburg, Tennessee, 90 miles from home.

The plaque at Patsy's grave says: "Death can not kill what never dies."

Patsy was inducted as a member of the Grand Ole Opry in 1960. She was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1973. The bronze plaque in her honor reads, in part:

"Patsy will live in country music annals as one of its outstanding vocalists... Her heritage of recordings is testimony to her artistic capacity. (Her) biggest hit, "I Fall to Pieces"... has become a standard... Joined Grand Ole Opry 1960... (which was the) realization of a lifelong ambition."

Through her music she touched many, and continues to do so every day.

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