OBITUARY: Patti Page

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Jan 2013 OBITUARY: Patti Page


Fifties favourite

Patti Page

 The “Singing Rage” who sang one of the first hit records of the Top Twenty era, Tennessee Waltz, and made it one of the best-selling recordings ever, died on New Year’s Day in California, aged 85.

Patti was top-selling female singer of the 1950s with more than 100 million records to her credit. Her most enduring songs Tennessee Waltz one of two songs the state of Tennessee officially adopted. Her other big hit of the time was How Much Is That Doggie in the Window.

“I was a kid from Oklahoma who never wanted to be a singer, but was told I could sing,” she said in a 1999 interview. “And things snowballed.”

Her distinctive sound was aided by overdubbing her own voice when she didn’t have enough money to hire backup singers for the single Confess. She scored 15 gold records and three gold albums with 24 songs in the Top 10, including four at No 1.

Patti was popular in pop and country music – the first singer to have television programs, including ‘The Patti Page Show’ on ABC.

In 1999, after 51 years of performing, she won her first Grammy for traditional pop vocal performance for “Live at Carnegie Hall — The 50th Anniversary Concert.” Patti was planning to attend a special ceremony on February 9 in Los Angeles where she was to receive a lifetime achievement award from The Recording Academy.

She got her stage name working at radio station KTUL, which had a 15-minute programme sponsored by Page Milk Co. The regular Patti Page singer left and was replaced by Page, who took the name with her on the road to stardom.

Discovered by Jack Rael, a band leader making a stop in Tulsa in 1946, he quickly arranged an interview and abandoned his career to be Patti’s manager.

A year later she signed with Mercury Records and began appearing in major nightclubs in the Chicago area. Her first major hit was With My Eyes Wide Open I’m Dreaming, but she had shone a few years earlier in 1947 with Confess. The arrangement required an echo effect from back-up singers, but since they were paying, they decided Patti should do all the voices by overdubbing.

It was enough of a hit for Rael to convince Mercury to let her try full four-part harmony by overdubbing. The result was With My Eyes Wide Open I’m Dreaming. The label read, “Vocals by Patti Page, Patti Page, Patti Page and Patti Page.”

Tennessee Waltz, her biggest selling record, was a fluke.

Because Christmas was approaching, Mercury Records wanted her to record Boogie Woogie Santa Claus in 1950.

But Pattie and Rael convinced the recording company that a pop artist could make a smash hit out of Tennessee Waltz.

First pop tune

Mercury agreed to put it on the B-side of the Christmas song. But Tennessee Waltz became the first pop tune that crossed over into a big country hit, and on the charts for 30 weeks, 12 in the Top 10, and eventually selling more than 10 million copies, behind only White Christmas by Bing Crosby at the time.

Other Patti hits include Doggie in the Window, Mockin’ Bird Hill, Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte, and Allegheny Moon.

In films, Page co-starred with Burt Lancaster in his Oscar-winning appearance of “Elmer Gantry,” and in “Dondi” with David Janssen and in “Boy’s Night Out” with James Garner and Kim Novak.

She also starred on stage in the musical comedy “Annie Get Your Gun” and received the Pioneer Award by the Academy of Country Music in 1980.

Patti is survived by a son, daughter and sister.