What Was Patsy Cline Really Like On Stage? Eyewitnesses Remember
‘The white cowboy hats and boots of the fans were to be seen everywhere around New York on the night of the show — and when it started, they screamed their heads off with delight!’
Patsy Cline’s career was cruelly cut so short by her death in 1963, at just 30 years old, that most of us can only fantasize about what it would have been like to see her perform live. We’ve been examining the archives to shed a little more light on the great country star’s stage work — inspired by some comments from a uDiscover Music reader.
Our story about Patsy’s US album chart debut with Patsy Cline Showcase prompted a response from Gordon Williams, who posted a comment to say that in that very year of 1962, he was working in the “Cage” at the Mint Casino. He remembered Patsy performing at the famous nightspot in Las Vegas. “What a wonderful voice,” he enthused.
Further discussion with Gordon revealed him to be a self-described “98 years old young gentleman,” who remembered other country performers coming to Las Vegas to perform, including a show across the street from the Mint by Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys.
An enduring memory
But he was at pains to point out that his work duties at the Mint prevented him from seeing Cline’s show. “I worked the 2-10 pm shift in the Mint Casino Cage and could hear the performance,” he told us, but the memory of such a talented young singer was still with him more than half a century later.
Patsy was always cut out to be on stage. At just four years old, she won an amateur talent contest as a tap dancer, later performing in the local church choir in Virginia and in school plays. At a mere 16, it was via an audition with Wally Fowler of the Grand Ole Opry that she won his invitation to come to Nashville. That proved a false dawn, and with no record deal forthcoming, she returned home to Winchester to complete her education, performing throughout her high school years.
Once she made it big in Nashville, Cline would of course return to the town’s famous stages, where she knew how to entertain an audience, and how to relax afterwards. Fellow performer Waylon Jennings, in his 1996 autobiography Waylon, wrote that he would often see her at Tootsie’s, which was and remains one of Music City’s most famous bars. “The backroom was where the hillbillies hung out, and it was as close to an extra dressing room as the Opry had,” he remembered.
“On weekend nights it was always packed with the stars appearing at the Ryman [literally around the corner]. Hank Williams, Patsy Cline, Cowboy Copas – they all raised a glass there. Their signatures covered the walls. I wrote my name top to bottom when I had the chance. It’s still there, just like Tootsie’s.”
In May 1961, devoted Cline fan Louise Seger heard that her heroine would be performing at the Esquire Ballroom in Houston. Arriving early, she spotted Patsy sitting at a table, took her courage in both hands and went to speak to her. In Ellis Nassour’s book Honky Tonk Angel: The Intimate Story of Patsy Cline, Seger revealed what the star said to her.
‘Do you know my music?’
“I’m worried about the band,” she said. “I don’t know any of the musicians and I wonder if they know my music. Do you?” “Yes, ma’am, every beat.” “Would you do me a favor,” asked Patsy, “and, during the show, watch the drummer so he won’t rush me?”
After the concert, Seger heard Cline calling for a taxi to the Montague Hotel, and promptly invited her back to her house instead for something to eat. “At the kitchen table [they sat],” wrote Nassour, “and talked about ‘broken hearts, husband problems, children problems, loves lost, loves won…they traded stories until almost 4am.”
A typical Patsy Cline setlist from a concert at the Orpheum Theatre in Madison, Wisconsin in May 1962, shows her performing “Crazy” and “I Fall To Pieces,” among others, but also a version of “(Won’t You Come Home) Bill Bailey.” Then, in its December 28, 1962 issue, the New Musical Express ran a short news review of the Grand Ole Opry pilgrimage to Carnegie Hall in New York. Patsy was on the bill with Jim Reeves, Marty Robbins, Bill Monroe, and the Jordanaires in a show to raise money for the New York Musicians’ Aid Society.
“The trip to Carnegie Hall started out as an experiment on a giant scale,” wrote Alan Smith. “The WSM radio station wanted to prove to New Yorkers that people everywhere loved the show, and the music it presented. All the artists would donate their time and talent, and the station would pay the expense of a chartered plane, hotels, and food.
Screaming with delight
“It paid off in a big way. The white cowboy hats and boots of the fans were to be seen everywhere around New York on the night of the show – and when it started, they screamed their heads off with delight!
“Marty Robbins had to do encore after encore, including his big hit of the time, ‘El Paso.’ In fact, he had a difficult time trying to end his act. Then Patsy Cline received the same overwhelming ovation, being stopped time after time for requests for ‘I Fall To Pieces’ and several of her other hit songs.”
We can only imagine the aura that would have continued to develop around Patsy Cline if she had lived to perform live in later years. But, as she once said: “I can’t miss a night’s work, and let my public down.”
Listen to the best of Patsy Cline on Apple Music and Spotify.
May 5, 2015 at 11:30 pm
she was th best of them all
Jennifer M. Janus
May 26, 2015 at 1:55 pm
she is the best and why dose the very best have to go way
May 26, 2015 at 3:00 pm
Every time I hear patsy sing any of her great songs,I FALL to pieces!!!!
May 26, 2015 at 5:02 pm
I saw her when I was 7 years old. Jimmy Dean even had me come up on stage and sing “Big John” with him, and then gave me $1.00. I remember going home and telling my mom that Patsy Cline didn’t shave her legs!! LOL Why a 7 year-old would notice that, I have no idea!
May 27, 2015 at 12:54 pm
Great story Kathy! It’s very cool that you got to see Patsy, thanks for sharing the memories with us.
May 26, 2015 at 5:49 pm
Crazy, I Fall to pieces are a couple of favorites of mine and I loved Patsey’s music as well!
May 27, 2015 at 8:11 am
a great entertainer love to listen to her songs a wonder full lady, sang with so much feeling the greatest
May 27, 2015 at 10:51 am
She had the most wonderful voice I have ever heard.
June 28, 2015 at 12:56 pm
I wish i could of met her Im 50 now and ive been listening to her songs everyday for the last 40 years She is a legend
Roberto G. Medina
June 28, 2015 at 5:07 pm
Whenever I heard her sing “South of the Border” and “I love You So Much It hurts”, through her records, she did not fail to make life a little more bearable. This happened when I was young and so alone. She still makes me happy whenever I play her discs. Thank you Patsy!
Anthony T. ABUISI
June 28, 2015 at 8:42 pm
I was part of a small group of Massachusetts residents (7)
that help raise the first monies to start the Patsy Cline museum back in 1996. Thanks to Kitty Zuckerman a Winchester Va. resident.
We brought a young lady by the name of Cindy Phillips to perform a tribute to Patsy Cline.
She was received wonderfully by the good folks of Winchester. We did the concert at Handley High School. It was an event I will never forget. She will always be the greatest female country artist ever.
June 28, 2015 at 9:41 pm
Only saw her once, loved her music, The one thing that stood out was that, She seemed in such a hurry. Picking the band up to move faster, It was almost a distraction from her great talent.
July 6, 2015 at 9:04 am
Miss Cline was one of the tender-hearted, caring, friendliest, out-going people that I have ever met. When she appeared on stage here in Toledo I was only something like 9 or 10 years old and I was completely and totally in love with her. We went to see her perform, and apparently she had heard about me and asked if anyone knew where I was sitting. My mom and dad pointed me out to her and she asked me to come on stage with her. I did, and to my most utter amazement and embarrassment she sang “I Fall to Pieces” to me. I melted like hot butter. I will never forget that. Ever.
July 22, 2015 at 11:32 pm
Can you send me all stocks that have pasty cline cds please thank you
October 10, 2015 at 3:43 am
God needed her in heaven to sing far him and all the angel’s
donald C overland
October 11, 2015 at 3:31 am
Back in the early 1960’s, in Redding ,California, at a small hall sometimes used as a skating rink, and maybe a few weeks before Pasty untimely death in a Airplane crash, I did see Pasty on a stage performing. She was fantastic and I enjoyed her music. I do have C assets of her music, still today.
January 9, 2018 at 6:17 pm
She was the greatest and still is no one can hold a candle to her
January 11, 2018 at 11:19 pm
Best singer gone too soon. Loved if You Got Leaving on your Mind
December 30, 2018 at 1:44 am
Most overrated Country singer of all time. Had she not died at a plane crash at age 30, she would not reach the cult status she has today. She lied her way onto the Arthur Godfrey show (relatives could not be talent scouts, but she used her mom as one). She also didn’t even win it. She had a recording contract, and the show was only open for unsigned amateur acts. Marty Robbins- was amazing, though!
October 21, 2019 at 3:35 am
Ridiculous, she was never over rated.