Patsy Cline Biography
Singing Girl From The Shenandoah Valley

Thank You Agnetha of Sweden for the Beautiful Patsy Cline Tag

Patsy Cline was born Virginia Patterson Hensley on September 8, 1932, in Winchester, Virginia. Her mother was Hilda Hensley (born Patterson) and her father was Samuel Lawrence Hensley. Samuel had two children from a previous marriage, Tempie Glenn and Randolph, which then eventually became half sister and half brother to Patsy. Shortly after Patsy was born the family moved to Sam's birthplace just outside of Elkton, and between that time and up until when the family moved to Winchester (when Patsy was in the eighth grade), they moved nearly 20 times... Hilda Hensley died on Dec 10, 1998. A great loss for the family, and for all devoted Patsy Cline fans. Patsy's father died in 1956. Up until around the time when Patsy turned 20, she was mostly called "Ginny", but to avoid confusion, I will use the name "Patsy" throughout this presentation.

In the early years Patsy was very interested in dancing, and wanted to become a dancer. Her idol was Shirley Temple. Patsy was entered in a children's dance competition by her mother, and surprisingly she won first prize. But after that Patsy suddenly lost interest in dancing, and was completely into music instead. First it was playing the piano, which she did by ear, and later it was singing. Patsy never did learn notes, and she hardly knew what key she sang in... But she sounded okay anyway...

She began her singing career in the Baptist church choir, and at the age of thirteen she became seriously ill. "I had a serious bout with rheumatic fever when I was thirteen", Patsy said in 1957. "I developed a terrible throat infection and my heart even stopped beating. The doctor put me in an oxygen tent. You might say it was my return to the living after several days that launched me as a singer. The fever affected my throat and when I recovered I had this booming voice like Kate Smith's".

Because of that, and her great determination, the singing career was beginning. She started off in local radio shows, and by singing at dances, and by having the luck to meet the right people, she managed to get a recording contract with Four Star Records in 1954. In Winchester, Patsy had several different jobs in order to help her mother provide for the family: She had kitchen police duty at Gus Kaknis' Capital Restaurant (where her mother worked as a waitress), she worked as a waitress in the Red Wing Restaurant and in Sid Veasey's Triangle Diner, she worked behind the food counter at the Greyhound Bus Terminal, and as a clerk and fountain attendant at Gaunt's Drug Store.

Some people say that Patsy had an unhappy childhood, but except the fact that her father deserted the family in 1947, when she was fifteen, she had a nice home life with her mother and her brother Sam (who for some reason was called John) and her sister Sylvia Mae ("Sis"). Patsy and her mother were more like sisters than mother-daughter, because Hilda gave birth to Patsy when she was only sixteen. (Hilda married Samuel six days prior to Patsy's birth, on Sep 2, 1932). And Patsy had some contact with her father again, in 1956, after he had been admitted to a hospital in West Virginia, due to lung cancer. Patsy and Hilda visited Sam at the hospital, and Patsy excitedly told her father that she had become a well known singer, and she said: "Daddy, you've never really heard me sing. I'm pretty good!". Patsy took farewell of her father in that hospital. He never got to hear his daughter sing... He died on Dec 11, 1956.

Back in 1953 Patsy Hensley married Gerald Cline, and thereby became Patsy Cline. The name "Patsy" (as opposed to "Virginia" or "Ginny") was suggested to her by Bill Peer, who helped her in the beginning of her career, and with whom she was said to have had an affair. Patsy and Gerald didn't have any kids. In 1956, when she was singing at a local dance, she met the love of her life, Charlie Dick, for the first time, and some time later she divorced Gerald and eventually married Charlie in 1957, and they had the children Julia Simadore, called Julie, (1958) and Allen Randolph, called Randy, (1961). Just after she had married Charlie, Arthur Godfrey asked her, "Are you happy?", and Patsy replied, "Just as happy as if I had good sense"...

On June 14, 1961, Patsy and her brother Sam were involved in a head-on car collision in front of Madison High School in Nashville. The impact sent Patsy through the windshield and nearly killed her, but due to some miracle she survived also this crisis... That was the second time she was near death... When Patsy was at the hospital, a new female singer by the name of Loretta Lynn, was singing Patsy's big hit "I fall to pieces" in a broadcast from the Ernest Tubb record shop, as a tribute to Patsy. Patsy liked it, and sent her husband Charlie down to the record shop to fetch Loretta and get her to the hospital, because Patsy wanted to meet this girl. And that was the beginning of a beautiful friendship...

Due to the car accident, Patsy got a visible scar on her forehead, and because of that she wore wigs that covered the scar, at her public performances after the accident.

The movie about Patsy's life, "Sweet dreams", begins at that very dance where Patsy and Charlie first met. Jessica Lange is doing a superb performance as Patsy, and Charlie is played eminently by Ed Harris. The music in the movie is from Patsy's original recordings (except "Blue Christmas" and "Rollin' in my sweet baby's arms" which are sung by Jamey Ryan), and if you haven't seen it I can really recommend it! It's a must see for a Patsy Cline fan, even though not all that happens in the movie is completely true... Some things have been added or changed to make it a "better" movie... Many people say that the movie is a little unfair to Patsy. She was much kinder and more generous in real life than in the movie, and she was not the hard drinking, partying type...

And another movie you also must see, is the movie about Patsy's close friend, Loretta Lynn, called "Coal miner's daughter", in which Patsy also plays an important role. Loretta Lynn is played by a fantastic Sissy Spacek, who also sings Loretta's songs in the movie, and Patsy is here played by Beverly D'Angelo, who also is a superb singer. Loretta's husband, Doo, is played by Tommy Lee Jones. I think that the portrait of Patsy in this movie is more accurate and to the point than the portrait that was made in "Sweet dreams".

Well... Both these movies of course show the horrible plane crash that took Patsy's life... Her last concert was held in Kansas City at a benefit for the family of a local disc jockey, on March 3, 1963. And just before she went to this concert, a conversation took place at the Ryman Auditorium (where The Grand Ole Opry was held), between Patsy and Ray Walker, a member of the Jordanaires. Patsy was just leaving, and Ray said: "Patsy, honey", and she turned around, "be careful, baby, we sure love you...". And she was just starting to go down the stairs at the back entrance of the Ryman, and she turned her head over her shoulder and said: "Honey, I've been into two bad ones... The third one will either be a charm, or it'll kill me"... Those were the last words she said in the Ryman Auditorium...

Her manager, Randy Hughes, flew his yellow Piper Comanche over for the gig on the 3rd. The day after, March 4, they were supposed to fly home, but the weather was so bad, so they had to wait until the next day. The weather wasn't much better then, so they sat at the airport, waiting for it to clear. Randy Hughes kept checking the weather forecasts. When they had waited a few hours, Patsy's friend Dottie West asked Patsy if she wanted to go back with her in the car, and Patsy seriously thought about doing that, but just before they were going, Randy came and said that he thought it was alright to fly, because the weather had cleared in the Kansas City area... And Patsy decided to fly... The plane and its passengers, Randy Hughes, Patsy, Cowboy Copas and Hawkshaw Hawkins, were last seen at the airfield in Dyersburg, Tennessee, 90 miles from home. "Why don't you stay the night?", the airport manager asked Randy Hughes. "I've already come this far", Hughes replied. "We'll be there before you know it".

The plane took off at 6:07 pm...
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Patsy Photos and Home Scanned from John's Book
"Patsy Cline - Singing Girl From The Shenandoah Valley"
By Stuart E Brown and Lorraine F Myers

Crash Photo from John's Book "Patsy Cline - An Intimate Biography"
By Ellis Hassour

Triangle Diner and Gaunts Drug Store taken on my visit to Winchester 3/9/2004

Wall Pictures taken by John at the Winchester Visitor Center March 9 2004


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Heavens GatesOld Time GospelRemembering The 50s
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The Big Band EraSwinging 60s and 70s

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