Patsy Cline (Virginia Patterson Hensley)

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Patsy played the piano by ear but only played on a couple of her recorded songs.

Patsy Cline was born on Sept.8 1932 as Virginia Patterson Hensley to Sam Hensley and Hilda Patterson in Winchester Virginia. She was the oldest and a younger brother Samuel and sister Sylvia. She was introduced to music very early at about age 3 as her mother joined her signing in church. The Hensley family was not affluent and she quit high school and took a job as a soda jerk and waitress at the Triangle Diner across the street from her old school.

She would watch performers through the window of the local radio station and she asked if she could add her talent to the show offered by talent coordinator Jimmy McCoy. He agreed and her performance in 1947 was well received and she was asked to perform again. This led to appearances at local nightclubs while wearing the cowgirl outfit made for her by her mother from Patsy’s design.

Patsy not only appeared at many talent shows and made WARL radio appearances at the Town and Country Jamboree in Arlington, Virginia. Her father left the family in 1947 so to help out she performed for money whenever she had the chance. She says she at the age of 13 was hospitalized with a throat infection and rheumatic fever and the fever later changed her voice to what she said was just like Kate Smith.

Patsy married a contractor Gerald Cline on March 7,1953 and the marriage ended with a divorce on July 4, 1957. It was said the husband did not like his wife performing away from home all the time instead of being a stay at home wife.

She married the second time to a printer named Charlie Dick on Sept.15,1957 and they became parents to two children Julie Dick on Aug 25,1958 and Randy Dick on Jan. 22, 1961.  Charles Dick survived her and died on Nov. 8, 2015 at the age of 81.

Bill Peer, her second manager gave her the name Patsy, from her middle name Patterson and in 1955 he gained a recording contract for her at Four Star Records. Four Star was under contract to Decca Recording Company and she signed under Decca three years later.

Being her contract under Four Star she could only sing songs by Four Star writers. She realized later that this was not a good arrangement but she took what was offered at the time. Her first song was “A Church A Courtroom and then Good-Bye” and this drew little attention. She later got to sing on the Grand Ole Opry and she could what she wanted there as it was not under her contract singing there.

Between 1955 and 1957 she co wrote 2 songs “Don;t Ever Leave Me Again” and “A stranger In My Arms” and sang “Fingerprints”, Pick Me Up On Your Way Down”. Patsy loved to sing Country songs but Decca thought she should sing Pop song materials as well. Being she was still contracted to Four Star and the contract was for Country only she stayed with that.

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On Jan. 21, 1957 Patsy made her television debut on Arthur Godfreys talent show and she sang “Walkin After Midnight”. She was scheduled to sing “A Poor Man’s Roses Or a Rich Man’s Gold” but the producer liked “Walkin After Midnight” as it was more country and that was fine with Patsy but the producer insisted she wear a cocktail dress instead of the little Cowgirl Dress her Mother made. The song hit number 2 on the Country charts and number  16 on the pop charts and Patsy became a star.

In 1957 she also recorded “A Stranger in My Arms” and “Don’t Ever Leave Me Again” written by friends Lillian Clarborne and James Crawford and these were the only songs where she provided piano music under her real name Virginia Hensley. After the birth of their daughter Julie in 1958 they moved to Nashville Tenn..

When Patsy’s contract with Four Star ran out in 1960 a friend (guitarist and promotion man) Randy Hughes helped her switch her contract to Decca and she worked under Owen Bradley who was a noted female country artist promoter. He helped her carrier immensely grow as he also promoted Brenda Lee and Loretta Lynn.

Her first release for Decca was “I Fall To Pieces” and was her first number one hit and also high on the POP charts. On Jan.9, 1960 accomplished her goal by being accepted into the Grand Ole Opry and she became one of the Opry’s biggest stars this was quite an accomplishment as top stars were mostly men. She was always glad to offer a helping hands to younger women like Brenda lee,  Barbara Mandrell,  Loretta Lynn, Dottie West and Jan Howard.

She was in the horrific car crash on June 14, 1961 with her brother Sam a lady in the other car which collided head on died on the scene and Patsy was thrown almost through the windshield and she almost died also. Dotty West arrived at the scene and picked glass off her face and out of her hair while waiting for the ambulance. Patsy demanded that the other women get medical attention first and Dotty West rode in the ambulance with her to the hospital. Her face was scared and after that she wore wigs and head bands to cover the scars.

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She introduced “Crazy” written by Willie Nelson from the studio while on crutches and this was Aug,17, 1961. In the fall of 1961 she was back in the studio and recorded an album. The songs started with “She’s Got You” and she later recorded ‘When I Get Thru’ With You”, “Imagine That”, “So Wrong”, and “Heartaches”. She recorded another album from the Dick Clark American Bandstand.

Patsy was the first women to appear at the New York’s Carnegie Hall. After that she had a feeling that of impending danger or death. She told one of the band members that she survived two car crashes and she probably wouldn’t be so lucky in the third.

After doing three performances while feeling ill at a benefit at the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall in Kansas City. After turning down an offer to drive with Dotty and her husband. She stayed the night at the motel as the city airport was fogged in. She boarded a private Piper PA-24 Comanche and they took off and refueled in Missouri and arrived at the Dyersburg Municipal Airport in Tennessee at 5 PM.

They were to continue but the weather was very low visibility and the pilot was not Instrument Rated or IFR but rather VFR and they were offered a free nights stay with meals but they decided to try to continue. They took off at 6:07 PM.and the plane crashed on the evening of March 5,1963 at 6:20 PM.

Roger Miller and a friend went to the crash site as soon as they heard the news and after running through the woods yelling their names he came over a rise and saw the devastating crash scene as the plane crashed nose down with no survivors. She was only 30 years old but had gone through so much.

Patsy on the cover of her "Walkin after Midnigjt" album
Patsy on the cover of her “Walkin after Midnigjt” album

Along with her on the flight was the pilot and Hawkshaw Hawkins and Cowboy Copas .

Patsy was buried at Shenandoah Memorial Park in Winchester, Virginia.