In the short recording career of Patsy Cline, there’s one single that represents a truly bizarre incident, and perhaps the rarest disc that she was ever associated with. Or, to put it another way, this is the story of the single that connects the great country star with the erstwhile 30th President of the United States.
Come with us, then, back to 1957, when the 24-year-old Patsy has finally made her chart breakthrough with the No. 2 country hit ‘Walkin’ After Midnight.’ As often happened, such a big hit prompted a cover version, swiftly promoted by one Bill McCall, the president of 4-Star Music Sales, the company to which Patsy was signed before she made it big. She recorded the Alan Block-Don Hecht song for them in November, 1956.
Cline’s recording was licensed to Decca and became her first national success. Back at 4-Star Music, McCall was keen to maximise the song’s popularity, and was soon touting the “first male version” of ‘Walkin’ After Midnight.’ As you can see by the label above, it purported to be by an artist called Calvin Coolidge, also the name of the American President who had served between 1923 and 1930.
In fact, the real identity of ‘Calvin Coolidge’ was… Patsy Cline. The opportunistic McCall had taken her hit recording and had it slowed down to album-playing speed, 33 revolutions per minute, and then pressed onto a single to be played at 45rpm. Amusingly, to be brought back to Patsy’s normal voice, the single would need to be played at about 60rpm.
Word was that McCall had some 250 copies of the single pressed for distribution to radio, but it was never commercially released, and never heard of again, making it perhaps the rarest disc in the Patsy Cline “catalogue.” The disc can now be seen in Nashville’s Patsy Cline Museum, where co-founder Bill Miller proudly told us a copy of it resides. Read more from Bill about the museum, and from Patsy’s daughter Julie.
Follow the official Patsy Cline Best Of playlist.