Country music legend Patsy Cline was born Virginia Patterson Hensley on September 8 1932, in Winchester, Virginia. She helped break down the gender barrier in this musical genre. Known for her smooth-sounding, emotive voice, she started performing at a young age. Her father Samuel was a blacksmith. Her mother Hilda was only 16 years of age when she married Cline’s father, who was more than 25 years older than his bride. The couple had three children together before splitting up. Hilda became a seamstress to help support her family.
Cline taught herself how to play piano around the age of 8. She later discovered her passion for singing. When she was sixteen, Cline dropped out of school to go to work. Her family desperately needed the money. She worked a number of places, including a poultry plant and a local soda shop. In her free time, Cline started her singing career. She performed on local radio stations and entered numerous singing contests.
In 1952, Cline began performing with bandleader Bill Peer’s group. Peer encouraged her to change her first name to “Patsy” for their performances. She picked up the second part of her now famous moniker the following year after marrying Gerald Cline. Cline landed a recording contract in 1954, but her first few singles failed to catch on.
Cline’s career hit a turning point in 1957. She landed a spot on the Arthur ‘Godfrey’s Talent Scouts’ show. Cline wowed audiences with her performance of “Walkin’ After Midnight,” winning the program’s competition. After her appearance on ‘Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts’, the song hit the country and pop charts. Cline divorced her first husband around this time. She soon married Charles Dick. The couple had two children together, daughter Julie and son Randy.
Country music lost a magical entertainer when her career was ended in an airplane crash in Tennessee, in 1963.
In 1973 Patsy was elected posthumously to the Country Music Hall of Fame, and her reputation is on record as one of the major female vocalists of all time. A bell tower has been erected in her memory at the Shenandoah Memorial Park, where Patsy Cline is interred. Several Highways, including the Patsy Cline Memorial Highway, Route 522, and Patsy Cline Boulevard in Winchester, have been named to commemorate her life.
Patsy Cline (1957)
Patsy Cline Showcase (1961)
Sentimentally Yours (1962)
The Patsy Cline Story, Decca Records compilation (1963)
A Portrait of Patsy Cline (1964)
That’s How a Heartache Begins (1964)