Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Patsy Cline - a lady, not a tramp

Patsy Cline - First lady of country
(Decca publicity shot courtesy of
Country Music People)
Fifty years ago, the residents of Camden, Tennessee, looked up at the sky, startled by what they would describe as the sound of a car with engine trouble or its exhaust torn off.
The next day, a search of woodland three and a half miles to the west revealed the wreckage of a single engine green and yellow Piper Comanche.
The world had lost the pilot, Randy Hughes, country stars Cowboy Copas, Hawkshaw Hawkins and and a 30-year-old woman still widely regarded as the greatest female country singer ever: Patsy Cline.
Famous for such songs as Sweet Dreams and Crazy, Cline took country out of the honky tonks and onto the Las Vegas stage.
Her glamorous ball-gowns and velvet voice hid her tough upbringing on the wrong side of the tracks in Winchester, Virginia. Off stage, she has been described as loud and brash.
But country singer George Hamilton IV knew Patsy before she was famous and remembers her differently. Talking to me on March 5, last year, the actual anniversary of her death, he said, “The Patsy I knew was quite different from the one I read about in some of the books that were written to cash-in on her life after she was no longer around to defend herself. Yes, she liked to take a drink. She liked to be one of the boys and she could tell a shady joke now and then. But she was a lady. She was by no means a tramp.”

George Hamilton IV
1937 - 2014

Update: 18 September, 2014. Woke to sad news this morning that George Hamilton IV died yesterday, following a heart attack at the weekend. Hamilton knew Patsy Cline in the 50s, when he was the teen idol singer of A Rose And A Baby Ruth. He went on to have 40 country hits, including the chart topping Abilene. His travels abroad earned him the title, The International Ambassador of Country Music. He was particularly popular in the UK, where he appeared at the first of the legendary Wembley Country Music Festivals and went on to host the BBC's TV coverage of that long-running event. He later played the part of narrator in Patsy Cline: The Musical on the West End stage and in several UK tours.
In recent years, he recorded some of his best albums, including A Tribute To Luke The Drifter - The Other Side Of Hank Williams, a live recording of a show with which he had enthralled audiences across the UK.

Hamilton was due to tour the UK in October, co-starring with Sandy Kelly in the Patsy Cline 50th Anniversary Tour. He will be much missed.

Click here for my memories of George Hamilton IV.

What’s life like for today’s women of country music? Read about the musical and romantic adventures of Cindy Coin and Katie Carnegie in Nashville Cinderella.

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