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Patsy Cline

Country Music Singer, Songwriter, and Pioneer. She has been acclaimed, by fans, colleagues and music critics alike, as one of the most influential and unique vocalists in the history of modern music. She is often credited as a heroine by newer generations of female singers, who claim she opened doors to them in a business dominated by men in a career that only spanned five short years Birth: Sep. 8, 1932 Gore Frederick County Virginia, USA Death: Mar. 5, 1963Camden BentoTennessee She was best known for her rich tone, emotionally expressive and bold contralto voice. Born Virginia Patterson Hensley, her father was a blacksmith and her mother was a 16-year-old seamstress, and was the oldest of three children. She became familiar with music at an early age, singing in church with her mother. When her father left, she was forced to drop out of high school and work odd jobs to help support her family. After several weeks of watching performers through the window at her local radio station, she asked WINC-AM disc jockey and talent coordinator Jimmy McCoy if she could sing on his show. Her first performance on radio in 1947 was so well received that she was requested to come back and sing again. This led to performances at local nightclubs, wearing fringed Western stage outfits that her mother made from Patsy’s designs. She started singing in variety and talent showcases in and around the Winchester, Virginia and Tri-State area, and coupled with increasing appearances on local radio, she soon attracted a large following. In 1954 Jimmy Dean, a young country star in his own right, learned of her and she became a regular with Dean on Connie B. Gay’s “Town and Country Jamboree” radio show, airing weekday afternoons live on WARL-AM in Arlington, Virginia. In September 1953 she married Gerald Cline, a contractor who was considerably older than her and divorced him four years later due to her desire to sing professionally and his wish that she become a housewife. A few months later he married Charlie Dick, a linotype operator, with whom she would have two children. In 1955 her manager, Bill Peer, got her a contract at Four Star Records, the label with which he was then affiliated and also gave her the first name of Patsy, from her middle name and her mother’s maiden name, Patterson. She was limited to recording songs composed by Four Star writers which she found unfulfilling. Her first record was “A Church, A Courtroom & Then Good-Bye,” which attracted little attention but it led to appearances on the Grand Ole Opry. In the late fall of 1956, she auditioned for “Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts” in New York City, New York and was accepted to sing on the CBS-TV show on January 21, 1957. She was originally supposed to sing “A Poor Man’s Roses (Or a Rich Man’s Gold),” but the show’s producers insisted she sing “Walkin’ After Midnight” instead. Though heralded as a country song, recorded in Nashville, Godfrey’s staff insisted that Cline appear in a cocktail dress rather than in one of her mother’s hand-crafted cowgirl outfits. The audience’s enthusiastic ovations pushed the applause meter to its apex, winning the competition for her. After the Godfrey show, listeners began calling their local radio stations to request the song, and she released it as a single. The song reached Number 2 on the country charts and Number 12 on the pop charts, making her one of the first country singers to have a crossover pop hit. From 1955 to 1957 she recorded honky-tonk songs like “Fingerprints,” “Pick Me Up on Your Way Down,” “Don’t Ever Leave Me Again,” and “A Stranger in My Arms,” with her co-writing the latter two. In 1958, after the birth of her daughter Julie, she moved to Nashville, Tennessee. In 1959 she met Randy Hughes, a session guitarist and promotion man, and he became her manager and helped her change labels. When her Four Star contract expired in 1960, she signed with Decca Records. The same year, she realized a lifelong dream when the Grand Ole Opry accepted her request to join the cast, making her the only person to achieve membership in such a fashion, and became one of the Opry’s biggest stars. During this time she befriended and encouraged female country music star newcomers Loretta, Lynn, Dottie West, Jan Howard, and Barbara Mandrell. Her first release for Decca was the country pop ballad “I Fall to Pieces” (1961). The song was promoted and won great success on both country and pop music stations. On the country charts, the song slowly climbed to the top, garnering her first Number One ranking. In a major feat for country singers at the time, the song hit Number 12 on the pop and Number 6 on the adult contemporary charts, making her a household name and demonstrating that women could achieve as much crossover success as men. She was known to be generous with her friends, buying them groceries and furniture, hiring them as wardrobe assistants, and occasionally paying their rent in order for them to stay in Nashville to pursue their dreams.