I was saddened to read that pop/country singer Patti Page died recently. She was 85 when she died and had enjoyed a long career, continuing to be musically active almost to the end. She’s probably most remembered now for early hits like “Tennessee Waltz,” which was one of the best-selling records of all time — the biggest ever for a female — but she had countless best-sellers, and during the 1950s sold more records than any female vocalist around.
Young Clara Ann Fowler first began showing up as a professional singer on regional radio in her native Oklahoma during the post-war years. She soon changed her name to Patti Page, the moniker she’d temporarily been given by a sponsor, because she liked the sound of it. It wasn’t long before she was working with touring bands and eventually landing in Chicago, where she managed to snare a spot singing for one of Benny Goodman’s small groups. She was well-positioned to move into the recording studio and she soon did just that, closing the decade on an up note by generating several good-selling records.
Her real breakout occurred in 1950 with her first million-seller, “With My Eyes Wide Open.” She also had a number-one hit with “All My Love,” but that same year she made history with “Tennessee Waltz,” a record that would eventually sell 10 million copies. It was a great fit for her singing style, which not only featured her clear and melodic voice but also clever and inventive use of overdubbing. That allowed her to overcome a shortage of back-up singers by virtually accompanying herself, becoming the first pop star to do what is now an accepted part of the process.
Fans loved her and also loved her choices in songs, which were top-heavy with sentiment but still had room for occasional silliness — like the enormously successful “Doggie In The Window.” As the years passed she just kept the hits rolling, with songs like “I Went to Your Wedding,” “Allegheny Moon” and “Old Cape Cod” leading the way. She was so popular that she began appearing everywhere — on TV guest shots, headlining specials, and even hosting a couple of different series of her own. She also did a little acting, most notably in the 1960 film, Elmer Gantry. But it was music that would continue to occupy most of her attention through the passing decades, and even though things inevitably slowed down, she continued to make records and show up in live shows from coast to coast until her final years.