Of all the posthumously released albums that have helped to keep the legend of Patsy Cline alive and well, one of the most fascinating is Live At The Cimarron Ballroom. It was recorded at that venue in Tulsa, Oklahoma on July 29, 1961 (ticket price: $1.50), and released for the first time on the same date in 1997.
The MCA release was a precious opportunity to hear a completely authentic live performance by the country queen from Gore, Virginia, and to experience a concert that took place a few weeks before her 29th birthday. She performs signature hits like “I Fall To Pieces” and “Walkin’ After Midnight,” as well as standards such as “Won’t You Come Home, Bill Bailey” and songs that she never recorded on a studio album, such as “When My Dreamboat Comes Home” and the Connie Francis hit “Stupid Cupid.”
‘I’m out of wind’
Live At The Cimarron Ballroom is a gripping recording, and not just because of Cline’s stellar vocal performance and undoubted star quality. The album is also striking for the inter-song chat, especially when it locks the concert in a very specific time frame. “I’m kind of out of wind, this is the first time I’ve worked since I got out of the hospital,” she tells the crowd at one point. Six weeks earlier, on June 14, she had been involved in a serious car accident, a head-on collision in Nashville.
A member of the audience can clearly be heard laughing at the comment, at which Cline, as assertive as ever, snaps back: “What are you laughing about? You wasn’t there!” Then she laughs herself, and adds: “Oh me…I tell you, those women drivers are rough on us good folks.” She then calls to her band for a B-flat chord and goes into ‘I Fall To Pieces.’
‘The sweetest music this side of heaven’
“This is the sweetest music this side of heaven,” she says, before going into “Shake, Rattle & Roll.” Then, coming out of “San Antonio Rose,” Cline returns to the subject of the accident. “I’d like to take everybody’s attention for just a moment,” she says.
“Y’know, a lot of folks have been asking, ‘Well, what happened to you? You look kind of beat up.’ Well, as I told you before, that’s what women drivers does for you. Not all of them. These Tulsa women, they’re different.”
Patsy then explains in extraordinary detail that the crash broke her hip, and that she has already had some plastic surgery, with more to come. “They say they’re going to give me a face lift and it’s going to make me like new. Until then, I’m so glad to be back,” she says.
“I just want to thank each and every one of you. I received over 1,200 cards, get well cards and letters, and boy, you’ll never know what it meant to this old gal to know that there was that many people left on this good old Earth that still think of me once in a while, and I sincerely appreciate it.” With unbearable irony, it was only 20 months later that a plane crash did take her life.
Buy or stream Live At The Cimarron Ballroom.