January 01, 2017

Patsy Cline’s I Fall to Pieces: The Tragic Tale Of A Country Idol


Sadly not unique. A very talented singer who unfortunately was but one of the few who had to struggle like this.
The postwar country music scene was a frontier land of drunks, swindlers and scammers.
There were thousands of venues and as many bands and singers entertaining Americans before televisions flickered in every home. These were mostly poor people, and the entertainers and their audiences would travel hundreds of kilometres for a show. 

The performers were a tight- knit community working in a brutal trade of gruelling tours and thieving promoters. It was a cash business and they were sometimes robbed. It was common for performers to carry a gun — like Buddy Holly, whose .22 pistol was found near his plane’s crash site. The Holly crash also claimed the Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens.

Driving to gigs could be equally perilous: country singers Johnny Horton and Betty Jack Davis were both killed travelling between shows.

This was the world over which Patsy Cline briefly ruled with a short run of beautifully produced country crossover hits driven by her pure contralto. Pioneering a movement later dubbed “countrypolitan”, Cline led a revival of sorts as more traditional music was sidelined by the rock ’n’ roll phenomenon.

Virginia Patterson Hensley was named after the state in which she was born in 1932. Her parents were working poor and after her father left home she dropped out of school for a series of menial jobs before asking the local disc jockey if she could sing on his show. It went well and the soon-to-be-renamed Patsy started performing around the state and coming to the attention of rising country star Jimmy Dean. About the same time she married Gerald Cline.

Like many stars of the era, and lacking confidence, Patsy Cline signed a hopelessly restrictive contract and found she could record only material also published by her record company. After a series of honky-tonk duds, she chanced on a Kay Starr reject — Walkin’ After Midnight. It took off, reaching No 12 in January 1957 on what by the end of the year would be renamed Billboard’s Hot 100.

But it was a false dawn, and Cline remained shackled by her contract until 1960. Signing with Decca, she quickly relaunched her career with the glorious ballad I Fall to Pieces, one of the most distinctive hits of the era. It went to No 1 on the country charts and glanced Billboard’s top 10.

But as I Fall to Pieces made its way to the top, Cline did just that: on June 14, 1960 she was almost killed in a head-on car crash in Nashville. Cline was in hospital for a month and shaken by the near-death experience that left scarring on her forehead but, on crutches, she returned to touring almost immediately.

She soon scored another hit with one of Willie Nelson’s first compositions, Crazy, and became the first female country star to headline her own shows. She had a full book of them when, on January 25, 1963, disc jockey Cactus Jack Call, an old friend, was killed in a Missouri car crash, setting off an extraordinary series of events.

On March 2, Cline played a concert with Tex Ritter and Jerry Lee Lewis. She and others on the bill agreed to perform at a fundraiser in Kansas City the following day to help out Call’s widow. Cline gave three performances, finally appearing in a white chiffon gown and singing I Fall to Pieces.

With the airport fogged in, they stayed the night, but her manager and pilot, the recently licensed Randy Hughes, who had less than 50 hours’ flying experience, decided to take off into the poor weather the next day. “Don’t worry about me,” Cline told her friend Dottie West, who was driving back. “When it’s my time to go, it’s my time.”

Unable to read the instruments in the heavy weather, Hughes lost control and the plane went down outside Camden, Tennessee. Cline and Hughes were killed alongside Cowboy Copas and Hawkshaw Hawkins.

One of the first on the scene the next morning was singer Roger Miller, a friend of all on board. He found the Piper Cherokee crashed nose down and everyone dead. “Oh my god, there they were. It was ghastly,” he said years later.

After the bodies were removed, local looters stole personal effects from the scattered wreckage, including the chiffon dress and Cline’s concert payment.

Cline was 30 and left a son and daughter by her second marriage, to Charles Dick, who died last year aged 81.

Not long after setting out from his home in Tennessee to attend Cline’s funeral, her old friend and label mate from those days on the road, singer-guitarist Jack Anglin, rounded a bend at high speed, lost control of his car and was killed instantly.

Below: Dwight Yoakam
Long White Cadillac

Allegedly about  Hank Williams.

The Blasters song by Mister Yoakam, a tribute the father of Country Music, Hank Williams
Enjoy and please visit http://www.dwightyoakam.com/
Live version by the Blasters: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sb2xyj...
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