The History Behind Patsy Cline’s Hit Songs

January 18, 2017
Despite her untimely death at just 30 years old, Patsy Cline quickly rose to the top of the music charts. She was an artist in every sense of the word, and her legendary career will be brought back to life on North Carolina Theatre’s stage with stars Sally Stuthers as Louise Seger – die-hard fan turned confidant – and Carter Calvert as Patsy Cline herself.
Whether you are a fan of hers or have never heard of her, Patsy’s contributions to both country and pop music live on to this day. Once you learn about who she was, it becomes impossible to forget her. Not sure what to expect? Here’s some of the history behind three of her most popular songs; all of which are featured in our production.
“Walkin’ After Midnight”
Written by Alan Block and Donn Hecht in 1954, “Walkin’ After Midnight” launched Cline’s career when it was released in 1957 and became her first major pop and country crossover hit single. The Billboard music charts ranked “Walkin’ After Midnight” as number two on its country music chart and number 12 on its pop music chart. It went on to sell over one million copies and is often included on authoritative lists of the all-time greatest songs in country music. Ironically, when Cline was invited to perform on CBS television’s Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts, she originally intended to perform “A Poor Man’s Roses (Or a Rich Man’s Gold),” but the show’s producers preferred “Walkin’ After Midnight.” Even though Cline reluctantly performed the song, the audience went wild. Their applause was so explosive that it actually led to technical difficulty when it froze the applause meter on the show. Naturally, this response meant Cline earned first place on the show. 
Penned by Willie Nelson, the genre-bending song “Crazy” eventually became one of Cline’s signature songs – despite her initial impression when her husband, Charlie Dick, pitched the song to her. She recorded it while still recovering from her near-fatal car accident in 1961. She persevered for about four hours, but her broken ribs made it difficult to reach the high notes. In the typically resilient Cline fashion, she returned to the studio a week later and recorded the lead vocal in just one take. According to an interview with Loretta Lynn, Cline later performed the song at the Grand Ole Opry on crutches where she received three standing ovations.
After its release, “Crazy” spent 21 weeks on the chart and has since been ranked number three on CMT’s TV special of the 100 Greatest Songs in Country Music and number 85 on Rolling Stone’s list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. In the 1993 documentary Remembering Patsy, Willie Nelson stated that Cline’s version of “Crazy” was his favorite song of his that anybody had ever recorded because “it was a lot of magic.”
“I Fall to Pieces”
Even though the Patsy Cline we know now is an iconic star in music history, that wasn’t always the case during her musical career. When this song was first released, it was virtually ignored by all radio stations – both pop and country. Of course, this changed as time went on. Now, “I Fall to Pieces” is arguably one of Cline’s most recognizable hit singles and is even classified as a country music standard. This shift into popularity was slow, however. In fact, its ascent on both the pop and country charts was the slowest one ever seen – peaking in August 1961, seven months after its release (Cline’s car accident didn’t help, as it cut into promoting). Interestingly enough, “I Fall to Pieces” was also one of the slowest chart descenders. The song was so successful, number one on the country charts and number two on the top 100 songs of 1961, that it earned Cline an invitation to regularly perform at the Grand Ole Opry – one of the highest honors she could have been bestowed as a country singer during her time. 
Although Cline’s time may have passed, don’t miss the opportunity to experience the performances that defined her short but legendary career. Patsy Cline’s story is told through the unlikely friendship between Cline and Louise Seger, her most devoted fan. Cline’s down-to-earth personality paired with Seger’s enthusiasm and unyielding loyalty forged an unbreakable bond between the two women. During Cline’s iconic career, she quickly rose to fame, leaving not only a legacy for herself but an avenue for female singers in a male-dominated industry.