Backstage at the Opry


by Guy Cesario

True fans all know Patsy's story, her early start in the music business, her struggle to make it in the male-dominated country music arena, her bad deal contract with Bill Mc Call's Four Star Record Company, her success on the Arthur Godfrey Talent Scouts show, her tremendously successful career after she signed with Decca records (now MCA), her horrible automobile accident which left her with severe facial scars, her meteoric rise to fame with hits like "Walking After Midnight," "I Fall to Pieces," "Crazy," "She's Got You," and others; her acceptance as a crossover pop artist, playing Las Vegas, her triumph at Carnegie Hall in New York, and finally, her sad and tragic death at the height of it all in 1963 at age thirty in a plane crash that also took the lives of her manager Randy Hughes, and Grand Ole Opry stars Hawkshaw Hawkins and Cowboy Copas.   Many of Patsy Cline's fans of today were first introduced to Patsy and her music in Loretta Lynn's book, Coal Miner's Daughter, and especially from the movie that was made of the book, which featured Beverly D'Angelo as Patsy.  Miss D'Angelo, an excellent actress, did a masterful job singing Patsy's songs and portraying her, which should have earned her an academy award nomination for best supporting actress (she did not get the nomination, though Sissy Spacek did win as Best Actress for her portrayal of Loretta)Beverly D'Angelo as Patsy  In 1985, "Sweet Dreams," a feature film about Patsy's life with Jessica Lange as Patsy, and featuring Patsy's own voice garnered another whole crop of new fans.

Patsy Cline was an American original, no one before her was quite like her, and no one since has come along. I've read somewhere that she was one of those singers who just created magic when her voice went to tape.  How true that is -- just listen, you'll know what is meant.  If you can, try to get MCA's (produced by the Country Music Hall of Fame) boxed set, "The Patsy Cline Collection," and listen to her recordings chronologically, to see how she continually changed and improved her work.  This gal could sing anything, from pure country, to rock-a-billy, rock and roll, pop standards, jazz, blues, ballads and fast ones.  She never wanted to stray from her country roots, but her voice (and her record companies) made her a "crossover" into pop.  The ballads, the songs of love and love lost, the "heart" songs are the ones most people call to mind when thinking of Patsy Cline.  The emotion she put into her singing was real, just as real as she was, a fact that's unmistakable as soon as you listen.  Some of my favorites areCrazy, Sweet Dreams, Faded Love, and She's Got You.

Sure, we are sad that her life was so tragically cut short, and we can muse about what a great, superstar she would have become (bigger than Reba, bigger than Dolly, bigger, even, than Garth Brooks), let's be thankful for what we do  have -- her great legacy -- those fantastic recordings.  I'm sure, that in a way, she's still singing -- and she can be mighty proud of her fans who will always keep her memory alive - "Today, Tomorrow, and Forever."  Sweet Dreams.