Always…Patsy Cline, which runs at Theatre NorthWest from Nov. 24-Dec. 14, explores the true story of Patsy Cline’s friendship with a Texas fan named Louise Seger. It depicts their first meeting at one of Patsy’s Houston shows, their instant connection, and some of the letters and phone calls they exchanged until Patsy’s death.
If you enjoyed Million Dollar Quartet and Ring of Fire: The Johnny Cash Story at Theatre NorthWest, then this show is for you. It showcases 27 songs from Patsy Cline’s repertoire, weaving them beautifully into a story about friendship. I have already warned the cast that some audience members may not be able to contain their tapping toes and singing voices!
Since many of you already have your tickets (opening night is almost sold out!), I will take this opportunity to delve into Ms. Cline’s life and explore some things you might not know about her.
Patsy Cline was born Virginia Patterson Hensley. Her mother, only 16 at the time of Patsy’s birth, was a seamstress. She hand-sewed all the cowgirl outfits Patsy wore in the early days of her career. Her father was a blacksmith, 43 years old when Patsy was born. He left the family early in Patsy’s life. To help her mother with the bills, Patsy dropped out of school.
At 21, Patsy married Gerald Cline, taking his surname as her own. They divorced four years later in 1957. Two months after that, Patsy married Charlie Dick. Together, they had two children named Julie and Randy.
On March 3, 1963, in Kansas City, Patsy sang at a benefit concert for DJ “Cactus” Jack Call, who had died in a car accident the month before. Dottie West, who also sang at the concert, asked Patsy to drive home to Nashville with her and her husband to not risk flying in the stormy weather. Fatefully, Patsy declined the 16-hour drive and chose to fly, eager to return to her children as soon as possible. Patsy told Dottie, “Don’t worry about me, Hoss. When it’s my time to go, it’s my time to go.”
Two days later, on March 5, 1963, Patsy’s plane encountered inclement weather and crashed, killing everyone on board.
Patsy did not write her own music, although she did co-write a few early songs. In fact, one of her best-known pieces, Crazy, was written by Willie Nelson. He wasn’t a celebrity at the time, but, of course, become a star himself. Patsy often covered music by other artists, including Kitty Wells, who laid the foundation for female singers.
When first presented with Walkin’ After Midnight, she didn’t want to sing it because she regarded it as a “pop” song. However, she decided to sing it during her audition for Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts (think America’s Got Talent) in 1956. She performed in a cocktail dress, foregoing her usual country attire, and the song was a hit. Walkin’ After Midnight reached number 2 on the country charts and number 16 on the pop charts, making Patsy one of the first artists to have a cross-genre hit.
In January of 1960, Patsy joined the cast of the Grand Ole Opry. In 1961, she spent a month in the hospital following a terrible car accident. While still on crutches and recovering from her injuries, she recorded one of her most-beloved songs, Crazy. Later, Patsy became the first woman to sing at Carnegie Hall and the first woman to headline her own show in Las Vegas. In 1973, ten years after her death, she became the first woman inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Anna Russell is an Artistic Associate at Theatre NorthWest and the Assistant Director for Always…Patsy Cline.