The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum will pay tribute to the life and legacy of Patsy Cline with their latest exhibition, Patsy Cline: Crazy for Loving You. The exhibit will open in the Museum’s East Gallery on August 24 and run through June 2013. It will be accompanied by a series of special programs throughout its run.
“Patsy Cline is an American music icon and perhaps the most accessible artist in country music history,” Museum Director Kyle Young said. “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.
“Though her life was tragically cut short,” Kyle 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, Patsy, known as ‘Ginny’ as a child, showed her talent at a young age. At four, she taught herself how to dance and won an amateur contest in Lexington, VA. At the encouragement of her older half-sister, she learned to play piano by ear. She also sang in her church’s choir and became a regular performer on local radio station WINC.
At 15, Patsy’s father deserted the family, leaving her to drop out of high school to help support her mother and two siblings. She worked in a drugstore by day and in the evenings, performed at bars and supper clubs. At 20, she met local country bandleader Bill Peer, who became her manager and suggested she change her name from Virginia to Patsy. While working with Bill, she met Gerald Cline and they married in March 1953.
A month after her wedding, Bill took Patsy to Nashville to perform on Ernest Tubb’s Midnight Jamboree. Later that year, he cut a demo of her singing in hopes of generating interest among major record labels. In August 1954, Patsy competed in the fourth annual National Championship Country Music Contest in Warrenton, Virginia and won the vocalist category. Music impresario Connie B. Gay who sponsored the contest began featuring her on his Town Country TV program, hosted by Jimmy Dean.
Though the efforts of Bill and Connie, Patsy’s demo got the attention of Four Star Records and Patsy signed a recording contract in September 1954. Her debut single, “A Church, a Courtroom and Then Goodbye,” was released in 1955 and performed poorly, as did her next three singles, but her TV and personal appearances helped her gain a following. She made her national television debut in January 1957 on Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts performing “Walkin’ After Midnight,” which became a No. 2 country hit and reached No. 12 on the pop charts. Her follow up singles, geared towards her success on the pop charts, didn’t catch on and by 1957, she had semi-retired.
After the birth of her daughter, Julia, in August 1958, Patsy moved to Nashville and signed with manager Randy Hughes, who booked performances for her across the country to help kick start her career. Patsy had wanted to join the Grand Ole Opry and approached Opry management. She joined the Opry on January 9, 1960.
When Patsy’s contract with Four Star expired in the summer of 1960, she signed with Decca and among the songs chosen for her to record by her producer was “I Fall to Pieces.” Patsy didn’t care for the song initially but was convinced to record it.
In January 1961, Patsy gave birth to a son, Randy, and in June, survived a near-fatal car accident, just as “I Fall to Pieces” was starting to climb the charts. The song, which hit No. 1 on the country charts and No. 12 in Billboard‘s pop rankings, solidified her career and provided her with financial stability. She followed it up with “Crazy,” which was a No. 2 hit on the country charts and a crossover hit.
Patsy’s final show was a benefit in Kansas City on March 3, 1963. She died in a plane crash en route back to Nashville. Pilot Randy Hughes and fellow Opry stars Cowboy Copas and Hawkshaw Hawkins also died. Her singles “Leavin’ on Your Mind,” “Sweet Dreams (of You)” and “Faded Love” all charted Top Ten after her death. She was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1973.