Though she was born Virginia Patterson Hensley, and was referred to by many of her childhood friends as “Ginny,” those names don’t, have the same ring to it as say Patsy Cline. The country music icon is celebrated in the new Patsy Cline: Crazy For Loving You exhibit, which opens today at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville.
Compared to recent exhibits on the careers of Chet Atkins or Tammy Wynette, the collection the Hall has assembled might seem a little stark to the average fan. However, the goal of the exhibit was to focus the attention on Cline’s music – rather than the dramatic personal life that has been attributed to the singer in a collection of books over the years.
Patsy Cline: Crazy For Loving You focuses on Cline’s career from 1957 until her death in 1963. She made a huge dent on the charts with “Walkin’ After Midnight” from her appearances on Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts (the first country reality star?), but due to her affiliation with Four Star Records and controversial executive Bill McCall, her star was kept hidden for the next three years.
However, with a label change to Decca in 1960, things began to quickly change for the singer. Free to record songs from outside the Four Star publishing umbrella, she and producer Owen Bradley began to create some of the most enduring music to ever come from Nashville. Those songs are featured in the exhibit – “Crazy,” “I Fall To Pieces,” and “Sweet Dreams” among others. However, some of her material is featured as never before.
On several of the cuts, Cline’s vocal can be heard by itself — without background or instrumental accompaniment. Hearing songs like “Sweet Dreams” – one of her last recordings in this fashion only seem to accentuate the power and passion of her music.
In addition to the music, there are several artifacts included that will surprise many. Several of her stage clothes are included, as well as some of her jewelry. Also a part of the collection is an extensive salt and pepper shaker collection that Cline had amassed over the years, a humorous Valentine’s Day card she gave to Owen Bradley, and a letter that she composed to her mother-in-law in 1960 – just a year before “I Fall To Pieces” re-established her as one of the top voices in the format, making her a cross-over star in the process. In the letter, she frankly discusses some of her family’s financial struggles, so severe that they could not afford a phone because of the $50 deposit – something that stands in sharp contrast to the iconic view we have of Cline today.
The exhibit will also be accompanied by a beautiful 80-page companion book, titled Patsy Cline: Crazy for Loving You. Published by the museum’s Country Music Foundation Press, the volume will include a foreword by artist Rosanne Cash and an essay by noted Cline authority Paul Kingsbury. This weekend, fans can experience the exhibit as well as a series of panels and discussions concerning her legacy. Charlie Dick, Cline’s husband, and daughter Julie Fudge will be among those participating. There will also be a concert at the Hall, featuring Mandy Barnett, who portrayed the 1973 Hall of Fame inductee in the stage show “Always, Patsy Cline.”