I think I may have become overly enamored with the idea of trying to use clever titles for my articles, but this one has an explanation that may not be obvious at first glance. I will divulge the connection later in the article.
My trip to Smithfield and the Ava Gardner Museum was so enjoyable that I decided to chase the memory of another female celebrity from the 50s, Virginia Patterson Hensley, better known as Patsy Cline.
Patsy was born in Gore, Va. just outside Winchester, Va. and lived in the area until she changed her base of operations to Nashville, Tenn. There is an affinity between Patsy and me since we were born in the same year, 1932 but I will admit that my attraction to her singing is something that occurred later in my life. She arrived in Nashville several years before I did and during my stay in the Mecca of country music, I was more attracted to the old fashioned type string music. Once I discovered Patsy, however, it became a real pleasure listening to her music and trying to learn more about her life. I saw the TV movie on her life several years ago and was not particularly impressed but when it ran again a couple of months ago, I absolutely loved it. You figure that one out. I can't.
There has been controversy about Patsy Cline from the beginning and there are people in her home town today who are not particularly proud to claim her as Winchester's own. I have concluded that the ill feelings towards her are based on the fact that she didn't fit the mold of a "proper lady" in the 50s and another part of it is pure snobbery. In other words, she wasn't from the "right part of town."
I talked for quite some time with the people in the Visitor's Center in Winchester and attempted to get a feel for how Patsy is viewed in Winchester today. I am told that it has been a long hard effort to get PC recognized as a treasure of Winchester but that things are looking up and, get this, Judy Sue Kempf, the resident expert on PC in the Visitor's Center predicts that in 2-3 years, a Patsy Cline Museum will exist in Winchester that will be larger in terms of traffic than the museum at Graceland, home of Elvis Presley. The pieces are falling into place finally and you can feel the excitement taking to Judy.
Various locations are identified around Winchester that are related to PC and as fate would have it, we ate lunch in one of the few diners left in Virginia, the Triangle Diner and learned that PC worked there for a short time in her younger years.
Ordinarily, you would expect someone who has been dead for almost 40 years not to be popular with the current record buying public which consists primarily of younger people. Unbelievably, 6 million of "Patsy Cline's Greatest Hits" had been sold up to 1995. Looks like the younger generation might have discovered Patsy and it is a trend that could extend well into the future because her singing was and is truly unique. It defies explanation how someone could rise from her background and perform music as she did. She could not read a note of music and she did not play a musical instrument.
To say that she was "crossover" is stating the obvious, and certainly that factor has been somewhat responsible for her continued popularity. The amazing thing is that she was able to effect the crossover without alienating her country music fans. Probably the most unique characteristic of her singing was that she had the ability to project the emotions associated with the words of a song and the audience immediately recognized it. On one of her recordings, she actually sobbed briefly at the conclusion and consideration was given to editing this show of emotion from the tape. Someone with a head on their shoulders decided to leave it on the tape and it adds considerably to the presentation of the song and the myth of Patsy Cline.
For those of you who are not familiar with Patsy Cline, let me review for you some of her achievements.
No. 1 juke box Record, "Crazy" ( See title of article ).
No.1 Female Artist 1961 and 1962
No. 1 song of1962, " I Fall To Pieces."
6 million sales of "Patsy Cline's Greatest Hits" as of 1995.
Inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, 1973
Grammy Awards induction into Hall of Fame for singing "Crazy", 1992
U.S. Commemorative stamp issued, 1993.
There are other honors, but the list above gives you an idea of how she has been recognized by her fans and the music industry.
It's a shame I couldn't have met Patsy Cline and Ava Gardner while they were living because I get the feeling that we would have gotten along famously. Fortunately, Patsy left behind numerous recordings that I and other music lovers will enjoy for years to come. Some of the female country stars today are good but all of them have a ways to go before they will have the impact on the music world as did Patsy Cline.
One UNC note before I conclude. In talking with Judy Kempf, we were discussing the role other country stars have played in honoring PC. She mentioned that George Hamilton 1V has been very supportive of their efforts which pleased me. Especially, when she mentioned that two of my, up to now, favorites have not been as supportive. No need for names. Let's just leave it that one of them, along with Patsy, once operated out of my distant relative's booking agency in Washington, D.C., Connie B. Gay from Zebulon and the other one was a coal miner's daughter. How many remember George Hamilton's first hit with over a million sales, "A Rose and A Baby Ruth." George was at UNC when I was but he transferred to American University in Washington, D.C. to finish his education. I assume the transfer was brought about because of the demands of his new found celebrity status after he had the Rose and Baby Ruth hit. Another big hit for him was "Abilene" which was written by John D. Loudermilk from Durham who performed as Johnny D. in the Triangle area before he moved to Nashville. Remind me to tell you sometime about a bunch of us, after a few beers, calling JL one night from Wrightsville Beach to "talk over old times." I bet he didn't know what hit him. We got his unlisted telephone number from the Nashville Police Department and it didn't hurt that we had some sweet talking females in order to accomplish this. I didn't know John personally but Mrs. RamFanatic and several others had attended Durham High School with him along with Roger Craig, the former major league pitcher and manager.
If you are ever in the Winchester area, you might want to drop by the Visitor's Center and check on the progress of the museum. Just tell Judy Kempf ole RamFanatic sent you.