Patsy Cline

cline1September 8, 1932 ā€“ March 5, 1963

If country music had official royalty, Patsy Cline was its first queen.

Virginia Patterson Hensley knew she wanted to be a singer from the very beginning. Though she worked odd jobs in her Virginia hometown out of a need to help her family, it wasn’t long until she was aiming higher and soliciting auditions wherever and whenever she could. Following a brief illness at the age of 15 that affected her throat…and therefore her voice, Ginny realized quickly that she had been given a gift. Local radio shows and a stint with a regional country band followed and soon, her gift was being shared on television and larger radio markets.

In 1952, she changed her name to Patsy Cline (a nickname play on her middle name and her then-last name by marriage) and by the mid-1950s she had a recording contract with Four Star Records. Though her time with Four Star was educational and kept her busy, nothing she recorded with them managed to find an audience. She appeared on a 1956 national TV broadcast of Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts singing a song called “Walking After Midnight.” Though she was initially reluctant to do that particular song, she won the competition that evening and “Midnight” would become her first bona fide hit.

After a few more years of aimlessness at Four Star, she moved to Nashville for a fresh start. She eventually signed with Decca Records and scored a monster hit with her first Decca single, “I Fall to Pieces”. The song would top the country charts, cross over to the pop charts and cement Patsy firmly in the middle of the burgeoning Nashville scene. In 1961, Patsy was involved in a severe car accident that left her with facial scars and chronic pain for the rest of her life. She quickly and somewhat miraculously recovered and released – at the end of the year – what would become her signature song: “Crazy.”

The next year and a half brought more hits and saw Patsy’s star ascend rapidly. The influence she had become in both country and pop circles by March of 1963 remains unparalleled. Who knows how far her talent would have reached had she not boarded a fateful flight from Kansas City to Nashville at her absolute peak? On March 5, 1963 the plane carrying Patsy, fellow country stars Cowboy Copas and Hawkshaw Hawkins, and piloted by her manager, Randy Hughes, crashed in a western Tennessee forest killing all on board.

In the final years of her life, friends noted that she had become increasingly prescient of her death. I guess when you have the feeling that your time is running out, you make the best of it. Luckily for those of us who can still listen to her work, that’s exactly what Patsy did.

Burial

Shenandoah Memorial Park – Winchester, VA

Specific Location

At the front of the memorial park, near the northwest corner of the funeral home. Patsy’s grave is in the 2nd row from the road, just to the south of a tree and a stone bench.

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