The Missing Music: Patsy Cline   Leave a comment

September 18, 2011

Part 1:  Patsy Cline • Sweet Dreams

This is the first of ten posts about ten important women in the recording industry, each of whom died long before their time. If you haven’t already read through the introduction to this series, please follow this link to the “introduction“, and then go on to any of the individual posts.

Patsy Cline (1932-1963)

Had Patsy Cline lived long enough for me to have met her when I was a teenager, I could have undoubtedly mustered up the courage to tell her that I liked her music. But it wouldn’t necessarily happen in front of my friends. The facts were simple. I didn’t grow up as a country music fan, and I didn’t grow up in Nashville. I was born and raised in Milwaukee. It was an accepted truth for me (and my friends) that as a child of the 1950s and 1960s, I would be true to rock ‘n’ roll.  I bought a guitar. I formed a band; and we played gigs around the midwest for about 8 years. But I knew all about those records of Cline’s: “Walking After Midnight”, “Back In Baby’s Arms”, “Crazy”, “She’s Got You”, “Leavin’ On Your Mind”, “Sweet Dreams”, and the Hank Cochran/Harlan Howard composition “I Fall To Pieces”. Beyond its chart-topping success,  “I Fall To Pieces” was also terribly prophetic. And yet there were so many other recordings by Cline. And what I wasn’t always able to tell my friends was, I liked them. I knew these twangy, empathetic records and they knew me.

Patsy Cline was highly unusual in those early days of rock ‘n’ roll: this was a young woman who paid her dues performing around local clubs and dance halls. Ultimately, she got a label deal, started making records, and soon she was a country star. And, Patsy Cline’s records crossed over from Country to Pop. And what a crossover it was. In the short space of six years, she placed nine singles in the top 20 on the country charts (and a tenth that peaked at 21,) plus nine which crossed over to the pop charts. And while not unique, she was a woman who achieved major success on the charts, under her own terms, with music that suited her. With no disrespect (OK, a little) to the recording industry in the early post-war period, too many artists were handed music that they probably would have avoided had they had the choice. Cline’s music was, as a friend of mine in Chicago used to say, “Spot on.” The songs suited her voice and her persona so much that one can believe that Cline was a strong woman in a man’s world. All of her success during her first decade in and around the recording business was a validation of her style, attitude, and the quality of the material. But then a small plane piloted by her manager, Randy Hughes, carrying Cline along with fellow country music stars Cowboy Copas and Hawkshaw Hawkins, crashed on the evening of March 5, 1963 near Camden, Tennessee. All aboard were killed. It was covered by the press, and it would not be known as “the day the music died,” but it was a significant loss. Disc jockey Bob Barry, then of WOKY radio in Milwaukee told me that, ironically, “I Fall To Pieces” was on his scheduled playlist for that next day in March. Needless to say he chose a different Cline recording, which my memory tells me was “Sweet Dreams”. I hope that’s exactly what she has enjoyed since that night in 1963.

Next post: Janis Joplin


Last: Introduction

David Steffen

© David Steffen 2011


Posted September 18, 2011 by Jazzdavid in Music History, Obituary, Popular Music, Review, Uncategorized

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