It’s 60 years since a young Patsy Cline made her appearance on Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts and the rest was history. Hazel Davis pays tribute.
It’s widely documented (by me) that I was a massive dork as a teenager. While other kids had Bros and Five Star on their walls, my bedroom was aswirl with the sounds of Dolly, Tammy and, of course, Patsy. This was long, long before country was ever cool (I honestly couldn’t have ever imagined that actual fully functioning people with actual friends would ever like Johnny Cash the way I did).
I can’t quite remember where and when I first heard Patsy Cline’s voice: most things like this occurred while rifling through my grandparents’ metaphorically rhinestone-studded music centre. But it’s pretty fair to say I would have been instantly hooked.
I know I listened to Sweet Dreams (written by Don Gibson) over and over again, so much so that it – and many of her other songs – actually anachronistically reminds me of the Anne of Green Gables books that I was simultaneously obsessed with.
Cline, who was born Virginia, IN Virginia (handy), died when she was just 30 which, apart from being remarkably sad, is unbelievable given the fact her voice drips with wisdom and experience and the enduringness of her legacy.
And though the one she’s best known for, Willie Nelson’s Crazy, is one of those karaoke-mangle (again, by me) numbers, her canon contains every kind of song you could ever need. She’s Got You to the teenage me was just about the saddest song I had ever heard: “The only thing different, the only thing new, I’ve got your picture, she’s got you.” Wail. I mean, WAIL.
Then there’s I Fall to Pieces, which swoops and dips tragically against a jaunty snare. Faded Love may or may not be sung by an old lady remembering her dead husband (“It was in the springtime that you said goodbye”), but in my head it always has been.
Cline shot to fame after her appearance on Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts on 21 January 1957. She palled up with many male artists, having very modern friendships with the likes of Roger Miller and Carl Perkins, apparently telling the bawdiest jokes of all.
“Not only was Cline strong-willed and determined – not waiting for the Grand Ole Opry to call her but instead calling them and asking to join the cast – throughout her short career she reportedly went out of her way to help other women make it in a male-dominated industry.”
She married Gerald Edward Cline in 1953 but the marriage ended, supposedly due to the conflict between Cline’s professional singing ambitions and Mr Cline’s desire for a submissive housewife. Go Patsy. She married Charles Allen Dick in 1957 (who went with her to the Talent Scouts audition, presumably happily foregoing his pie and peas, and later acted as her road manager). They had two children, Julie and Randy.
Cline died in a plane crash at the age of 30, along with country music co-stars Cowboy Copas, Hawkshaw Hawkins and Randy Hughes. The story is sad enough but apparently in 1962, she told fellow female country stars June Carter Cash and Loretta Lynn that she didn’t think she would live long. She also wrote out a will on Delta Airlines stationery and asked friends to watch out for her children.
Before she boarded the fateful plane from Kansas, she’d refused a 16-hour drive, reportedly saying that if it was her time, it was her time. Fellow country singer (and another huge Davis family favourite) Roger Miller recalled racing through the woods searching for survivors, calling his friends’ names. Oh god.
Not only was Cline strong-willed and determined – not waiting for the Grand Ole Opry to call her but instead calling them and asking to join the cast – throughout her short career she reportedly went out of her way to help other women (such as Loretta Lynn) make it in a male-dominated industry. She also operated on a ‘no dough, no show’ policy, standing firm when promoters tried to do her or her peers over.
In 1973 Cline became the first female solo artist to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame for not only having one of the best voices in history but for being a proper badass to boot.
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Hazel Davis is a freelance writer from West Yorkshire. She has two tiny children but the majority of her hours are taken up with thinking about Alec Baldwin singing sea shanties and the time someone once called her "moreishly interesting".