Virginia Hensley, born in Winchester, Virginia on September 8, 1932, came to be loved around the world as Patsy Cline. Patsy’s mainstream career in what became her speciality of effortlessly stylish, crossover country really only lasted six years, from when she hit No.2 on the country chart with “Walkin’ After Midnight” until her tragic death from multiple injuries in a plane crash at the age of 30 in 1963. But her music endures, as it always will.
Young Virginia grew up admiring vocal stylists in both the country and pop worlds, with an eye and ear for Judy Garland, Shirley Temple and Kay Starr. Her early performances in talent contests brought her to the attention of Jimmy Dean, whose own country hit career began in 1953 with “Bummin’ Around.” By 1955, Patsy had a record deal, with Four Star Records, but it was a false dawn, without any hits.
A Decca crossover
The big break was her 1956 audition for the CBS TV series Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts. She passed, and went on to perform “Walkin’ After Midnight” early in the new year. Now on Decca, she saw the recording reach not only No.2 country but the top 20 of the pop chart, a fairly rare crossover for the time. The follow-up, “A Poor Man’s Roses (Or A Rich Man’s Gold)” was a Top 15 country hit, but didn’t reach the pop audience. Four years in the chart wilderness would follow.
Then came her recording of Hank Cochran and Harlan Howard’s “I Fall To Pieces,” which soared to the top of the country chart in 1961 and reshaped Cline’s entire career. She followed up with her definitive interpretation of Willie Nelson’s “Crazy,” then another country No.1 with “She’s Got You” and a host of other hits. Not even a serious, life-threatening car crash in June of 1961 could stop her.
Cline was climbing the country charts with her latest hit, “Leavin’ On Your Mind,” when her private plane crashed on March 5, 1963, cutting short a unique career. Within weeks, she was in the bestsellers with what was now a terribly poignant ballad, “Sweet Dreams (Of You),” rapidly followed by “Faded Love” and other posthumous hits. Nearly two decades later, Patsy’s voice was still creating big hits, as on the “duet” “Have You Ever Been Lonely (Have You Ever Been Blue),” with another country star taken too young, Jim Reeves. She’ll never be forgotten.
Follow the official Patsy Cline Best Of playlist.