Patsy Cline was a legendary singer with an unforgettable emotive voice who blazed a trail alongside Kitty Wells for future female country artists. The ache in her voice inspired many singers, including Reba McEntire, who stated in the official Patsy Cline box set, “Patsy taught me emotion, raw, unashamed and sincere.”
I have witnessed this during performances of “Always…Patsy Cline.” Patrons not only applaud as they hear the first few bars of their favorite Patsy hit; they also hum or quietly sing along. The nightly standing ovations, cheers and cries of “more” are not only a testament to the talented band, actor/singer Christine Mild, who plays Patsy, and to Karen Janes Woditsch as her pal Louise, but also to Patsy’s mystique.
Patrons exiting the theater have a twinkle of joy in their eyes and a huge smile on their faces. “Wow,” “That was wonderful,” “Thank You,” “Even better the second time” are just some of the comments the manager on duty hears from appreciative and enthusiastic patrons.
Before Cline died in a plane crash in 1963, she left a full body of work for her fans to appreciate. Patsy recorded 17 singles between 1955 and 1960, but only one was a hit. “Walkin’ After Midnight” was recorded in 1956 but was not released until after Patsy’s appearance on television. Because of an exploitive deal, which limited her to songs from one publishing company, she couldn’t follow up “Walkin’ After Midnight.”
The first time a large number of people saw her perform was on “Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts” January 21, 1957. Watching was Louise Seger, a homemaker from Houston, Texas, who became Patsy’s number one fan and friend. Louise narrates “Always…Patsy Cline.”
After Cline froze the applause meters, Godfrey stated, “There is surely stardust on you.” In the wake of her successful performance of “Walkin’ After Midnight,” the record was immediately released and the song peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard Country Singles chart.
“Back in Baby’s Arms” was a recording Christine and the band perform in “Always…Patsy Cline” that did not make the chart upon its initial release. However, the song is included on Patsy’s 1967 “Greatest Hits” collection, which was re-released in 1988. Eventually this album was certified diamond status by the RIAA, designating the sale of 10 million copies.
This Greatest Hits album was given the award of Longest-Charting Title by a Female Artist of any music genre in history in the 2005 edition of the Guinness Book of World Records.
In 1960, Patsy attained a new recording contract with Decca, recorded “I Fall to Pieces” and became a member of the Grand Ole Opry. In 1961, “I Fall to Pieces” hit number one in the country charts and number 12 on the pop charts, the first of several country-pop crossovers including “Crazy,” “She’s Got You” and “Leavin’ on Your Mind.”
“Crazy,” was written by Willie Nelson, and recorded with Floyd Cramer on piano, Grady Martin on guitar and Elvis’ backup singers, The Jordanaires. Patsy’s version is a treasure in the American Songbook. It peaked at number 2 in 1961 on the Billboard Hot Country and Western chart, number 2 on the Billboard Easy Listening and number 14 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Millions of her records have sold, making Cline a music icon comparable to Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash. In 2002, she was voted Number One on CMT’s The 40 Greatest Women of Country Music, and she rated 46th in Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest Singers of All Time.
In 2001, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), the National Endowment for the Arts and Scholastic, Inc. created a list of 365 songs to be included in Songs of the Century, a list that promotes a better understanding of America’s musical and cultural heritage. “I Fall to Pieces” was voted in at 107.
Cline’s achievements were acknowledged with her 1973 induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame and in a special 2012 exhibit for Patsy. The exhibit included Patsy’s red cowgirl-style skirt and blouse, appliquéd with felt longhorn-steer and wagon-wheel motifs and embellished with rhinestones and leather fringe, a costume designed and sewn by Patsy’s mother, Hilda Hensley. The exhibit also featured elegant stage and evening wear including Patsy’s gold lamé pants and matching ankle boots.
At the Players all of these outfits were painstakingly researched, crafted, created and assembled for “Always…Patsy Cline” by costume designer Pamela Rehberg and costume shop manager Kyle Pingle. More than 1,000 rhinestones were hand applied to various costume pieces by Kyle and production intern Ellen Johnson.
The Players production of “Always…Patsy Cline” closes this weekend, and we hope to see you by the bay tapping your toes along with Christine, Karen and the musical stylings of The Bobdacious Bobcats, Malcolm Ruhl on piano, Louis Jay Meyers on pedal steel guitar, George Sawyn on guitar, Craig McClelland on bass, Lynn Gudmundsen on fiddle and Bruce Newbern on drums.
I hope to see you around the bonfire with a hot cider or exiting the theater with stars in your eyes. Join us Wednesday through Saturday at 7 p.m. or Sunday, Oct. 19 at 4 p.m. For ticket information visit www.peninsulaplayers.com or phone 920-868-3287.