Cover image for Love always, Patsy : Patsy Cline's letters to a friend
Title:
Love always, Patsy : Patsy Cline's letters to a friend
Author:
Cline, Patsy, 1932-1963.
Personal Author:
Uniform Title:
Correspondence. Selections
Edition:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Berkley Books, 1999.
Physical Description:
xvi, 272 pages : illustrations ; 21 cm
General Note:
The singer's letters to Treva Miller Steinbicker, 1955-1959.

Includes index.
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780425171684
Format :
Book

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ML420.C57 A4 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
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Summary

Summary

In 1955, Treva Miller Steinbicker, a starstruck girl from East Tennessee, approached an up-and-coming country western singer in the hopes of establishing her fan club. Patsy Cline cheerfully accepted the honor. Over the next four years, through an intimate exchange of letters, she would become Treva's close friend and confidante.Love Always, Patsy is the collection of that remarkable, cherished correspondence--poignant, colorful, humorous, and genuinely revealing in its honesty and warmth. We meet the aspiring young singer from Winchester, Virginia, excited at the prospects of her burgeoning career--and devastated by its impact on a volatile and demanding marriage. We experience the joy of the birth of her daughter, the strains of stardom, and her loneliness on the road to success, and share in the rewards of a relationship with the one man who would become the love of her life. Above all, these intimate letters reveal the dreams and aspirations, the private heartbreak and the public pressures of an ordinary woman who would become one of the most recognized and beloved names in the history of country music.Love Always, Patsy is a rare treasure for fans--an intimate self-portrait told in a voice that rings as true, as unique, and as powerful as the music that made Patsy Cline a legend.


Author Notes

Cindy Hazen and Mike Freeman are the authors of Memphis Elvis-Style and The Best of Elvis . They are actively involved in the country music scene and are avid country music memorabilia collectors. They currently live in the house Elvis owned before he bought Graceland.


Excerpts

Excerpts

Chapter One 1955 T HE ROAD TO STARDOM is seldom direct, especially for the impatient. In hindsight, success can seem quick and true, but this can never honestly be said of Patsy Cline's career. Hers was full of golden opportunities and critical acclaim with an equal measure of delays and false starts.     By the age of twenty-three Patsy Cline had been trying to push her career forward for more than seven hard years, singing on local radio and at supper clubs in her hometown of Winchester, Virginia, and the surrounding area. She'd quit high school to help support her mother and siblings, taking a full-time job at Gaunt's Drugstore while regularly performing late nights. She used every opportunity to promote herself to everyone she came across who was even remotely connected to the music business. Even her marriage in 1953 to Gerald Cline did not keep Patsy from singing. Her first husband wanted her to quit her budding career and stay home. She refused to give in. Gerald was destined to leave little in Patsy's life but his last name.     If fate had destined her a star early on, her appearance on Roy Acuff's "Dinner Bell" radio program on Nashville's WSM in 1948 surely would have transformed her, for all of the praise that it won her. The signing of a record contract with 4 Star Records in 1954 might have moved her along a little more quickly. Lesser artists might have been satisfied with those small accomplishments, but not Patsy Cline. She knew exactly what she wanted.     The year 1955 saw Patsy inching toward her goals. In retrospect this was a year of profound importance, and it seems that Patsy knew that this was a turning point. "I can't believe this is happening to me," she said in her first letter to Treva Miller. Her enthusiasm and wonderment is so contagious that one feels perched on the brink of success with her, but the day by day accomplishments were less miraculous. The stardom that Patsy longed for did not come with any one particular event. It was instead the product of many seemingly small steps, and, while perhaps exciting at the time, their significance is only more apparent with today's perspective.     Certainly the most important event of 1955 was Patsy's first recording session midyear in Nashville. The result, "A Church, A Courtroom, and Then Goodbye" backed with "Honky Tonk Merry Go Round," was met with little fanfare, largely because it was not promoted. While it did not immediately transform her into an overnight sensation, it introduced her to the man who would produce all but possibly one of her records, Owen Bradley.     The session was held at Bradley Film and Recording Studios, a business opened earlier that year by Owen and his brother, Harold, in a run-down neighborhood near downtown Nashville. It was the first recording studio to open in what is now known as Music Row. Owen was an accomplished musician and a talented arranger, and by 1955 he had gained considerable experience in the studio. While Patsy was relatively unknown and signed to a small label, the decision to place her with Bradley is an indication that there were larger forces at work, best understood by looking at Patsy's recording contract.     Patsy was signed with 4 Star Records, a label that had had moderate success with the Maddox Brothers & Rose and T.Texas Tyler. It was their artist, Jimmy Dean, who most likely influenced Patsy's decision to join the 4 Star roster, if for no other reason than that she knew him. Patsy had met Dean just weeks earlier in 1954 while appearing on the radio show "Town and Country Time." His 4 Star record "Bummin' Around" was a Top Ten hit in 1953.     William McCall, 4 Star's owner, was a shrewd man who saw opportunity in Patsy. The fine points of the three-page legal document seemed like standard fare to the naive young woman. One clause in particular she would later regret: "The musical compositions to be recorded shall be mutually agreed upon between you and us, and each recording shall be subject to our approval." Unknowingly, Patsy signed away her rights to record any songs other than those that Bill McCall selected. With her artistic rights neatly tied up, McCall was assured of earning a larger share of the pie; in addition to his label royalties he would get publishing royalties on everything Patsy recorded because he would only approve songs that he owned. In some instances he shared writers' royalties too. Patsy would earn a meager 2.34 percent artist's royalty, half of the industry standard. The deal was accepted by Patsy and witnessed by Bill Peer, who was acting as her manager.     As headstrong as Patsy was, if McCall had convinced her of the benefits to her career, she most likely would have signed the contract regardless of what anyone else advised her. Likewise, she would have been the first to go against her manager's wishes if she detected a raw deal. The truth is, she and Bill Peer both thought this was a contract to be celebrated.     While Peer had Patsy's interests at heart, his industry experience was limited to the bookings he secured for his band, the Melody Boys. These were always weekend gigs so as not to conflict with the sales jobs he held during the week. Patsy had been a part of his group since 1952 and their relationship was rumored to be more intimate. By all accounts he would do anything to please her. What she wanted most was a recording career. Peer arranged for Patsy to make some demo tapes and he began shopping them. He went to work selling Patsy to Bill McCall with more fervor than the Buicks or washing machines he normally sold.     The record deal that Peer secured had its limitations, but it also had certain advantages. McCall basically ran a publishing house. Recording sessions were charged to the artists, and then the product was leased to the labels. As soon as he had Patsy on board he set out to interest Decca in his new young artist. He arranged a trip to New York and studio time to record some demos. Paul Cohen, Decca's Artists and Repertoire (A&R) director for its country division, was in charge.     Cohen liked what he heard, so much so that he offered to buy Patsy's contract. McCall wouldn't sell. Then there was debate as to what songs Patsy would sing, but McCall was adamant that the only songs considered would be ones owned by 4 Star. Finally, Cohen signed the leasing and distribution contract, regrettably leaving McCall with more control than he would have liked.     One can't help but wonder what might have happened in Patsy's career if she had met Paul Cohen before William McCall. Would she have risen to the top more quickly as a full-fledged member of the Decca stable of artists? The argument could be made that Patsy's career was held back by the lackluster material that she was forced to record. Once the 4 Star contract expired in 1960 Patsy's records began to soar.     Perhaps it wouldn't have made any difference at all if Patsy had been under contract to Decca. As it was, the agreement reached in New York was that Patsy's records would be marketed by Decca as if they were Decca's own. The lack of promotional support the company provided Patsy's first release might have been equivalent to that of any artist who had not yet demonstrated record sales.     What Decca did provide was expertise in the studio. It gave Paul Cohen the power to select the musicians and the arranger. He chose Owen Bradley, with whom he had worked for several years, to produce the session.     McCall was the one who made the phone call to Bradley. "I'm going to send you a girl to record," Bradley remembered McCall saying. "She's mean as hell and hard to get along with." With that introduction, Bradley was prepared for the worst. He was pleasantly surprised to find Patsy cordial. "She did anything we asked," Bradley said.     This wasn't exactly a precedent for their relationship. They both were strong-willed. Bradley knew precisely the sound that he wanted from his artists and he could be very direct. Patsy had her own vision and didn't hesitate to say what she thought. They were sometimes at odds, but Patsy usually acquiesced. Bradley always got the sound that he was looking for.     Today he is often credited with contributing to Patsy's longevity because the quality that he was insistent upon achieving was ageless.     Patsy's voice has stood the test of time. The depth and emotion that she gave to a song will never go out of style. The lyrics to her first recording released on Decca's subsidiary label, Coral, "A Church, a Courtroom, and Then Goodbye," may seem a little maudlin by today's standards, but no one can argue the feeling that Patsy conveys. She sang as if baring the depths of her soul. In hindsight, one wonders if she was. Patsy's two-year marriage to Gerald Cline was coming to a close when this song was recorded.     Patsy was tidying up her personal life. Before the year would end she would sever her relationship with Bill Peer. Despite his efforts to promote Patsy, he would never share in her success.     Still, the record that he helped make a reality was important in another way. With this record, another important person came into Patsy's life, a seventeen-year-old girl named Treva Miller.     Treva was a small-town east Tennessee girl who shared Patsy's passion for country music. She might not have been as bold as Patsy, but she was not shy. Already she was active in several fan clubs and writing her own country music newsletter. We may never know if she happened to see one of Patsy's early shows or if she simply heard her on the radio, but wherever she was introduced to Patsy's music she fell in love with it. She decided to meet the woman behind the voice and wrote a letter introducing herself. What's more, she had something to offer Patsy: She wanted to start a fan club for Patsy if the singer didn't have one already.     Treva became one of Patsy's greatest promoters, a champion at the grassroots level. She also became a good friend. And it all started with one letter written in the fall of 1955. Winchester, Va. Oct. 29/55 Dear Treva:     I will answer your most welcome letter which I received some time ago. It was so nice of you to take an interest in me, so I'll try to let you know a little about myself.     "A Church, A Courtroom, Then Goodbye," was my first record, and by Nov. the 7th I'll have another out called "Turn The Cards Slowly," b/w "Hidin Out." On Nov the 19th I'll appear on T.V. with Red Foley on the Ozark Jubilee, which I still can't believe is happening to me. Ever since I was four years old, I've dreamed and prayed that some day I might be able to hear myself on record, and to be an entertainer. Now that I'm going to do just that, I still can't believe it.     It all started Treva, when I was 8 years old in Lexington Va., where I received a piano for my birthday. Then up through the years I began to play for church, and play and sing with my Mother at Home prayer meetings. At the age of sixteen, in Winchester, I had to stop school to help Mother keep the home and my brother and sister in school. I worked every day and at nite sang for anything where I could be heard. In 1948, I went to Nashville, Tenn., for an audition. While there, I sang with Roy Acuff on his Dinner Bell Program over W.S.M. Was asked to stay in Nashville, but I had to return home with Mom and the children. I still didn't give up. Then I started singing with "Bill Peer and The Melody Boys" over W.E.P.M. Martinsburg, W.Va. and W.I.N.C. Winchester, Va. singing at dances and shows. Then in 1954 I signed with 4 Star Record Co. but didn't make any records until 1955 this past July. While in my recording session it was decided that I could be put over on Coral Records, which I was really tickled about. So when my first record came out, it was on Coral. While in Nashville this past July, I appeared on the Grand Ole Opry with Ernest Tubb and also on T.V. with him. He is the dearest and most wonderful man in the country music field I think. He has surely been a helping hand for me, along with Jimmy Dickens, Roy Acuff, Faron Young, Mr. Jack Stapp, Mr. Bill McCall, and Bill Peer, my band leader and manager. Of course, the ones who were always there when I needed them, my Mother and the Man Upstairs.     My Mother, Mrs. Hilda Hensley, makes all of my clothes, while I design them.     Enclosed you will find a small picture which I hope you can use. I am 23 years of age, stand 5 ft 5 1/2 in, weight 135 lbs., and have brown hair and eyes. My favorite foods are chicken and spaghetti. Also collect salt and pepper shakers, and earrings.     Treva, I hope some day to be able to thank you in person, and all the many friends like Bob Jennings and Ernest Tubb and others. I know that I would never have made it without the help and kindness of friends and the Man Upstairs.     After my trip to the Ozarks, I'll return home for Christmas with the family, and then in Jan. some time, back to Nashville, Tenn, and to the Grand Ole Opry.     Thanks again and I hope to meet your friend Max Lowe, in the future. If he is in the Country Music field, he's a friend of mine. Hoping to hear from you soon. Musically Yours, Patsy Cline. PS. As yet Treva, I don't have a fan club, and would you please send me the information on just what it does and what all there is to do to get one started? Thank You. Winchester, Va Nov. 9, 55. Wed. Nite. Dear Treva:     Received your welcome letter and was glad to hear from you again. You make me feel like I've known you all my life, but that's how I like people.     You sound like you are a busy little girl, but if you like Country Music like I do, you enjoy every bit of it. I'm getting songs ready for another recording session in about two wks.     My boss man called me yesterday and tells me I may have to wait until the 26th. of Nov. instead of the 19th to go to the Ozark Jubilee. So I'll have to drop you a card as to the exact date when he calls me, which I'll know in a couple of days.     I've answered your questions as best I could. I would say, the greatest song ever written was "Satisfied Mind," but of course it was "Just A Closer Walk With Thee" that put me where I am today. I sang it the first time I was in Nashville and sang it on the Dinner Bell Program with Roy Acuff. Then I went to the Opry in July 55. I sang it because Ernest Tubb thinks there is no one who can sing it like I can. (God Bless Him). And it happened to be the song I sang when Walley Fowler first heard me sing in 1948. That's when he set up an audition in Nashville for me.     About musical instruments, I use to play the piano (from age 8 to 16) but now I don't fool with it at all.     Of course, the biggest thrill, was when I stepped out on the Grand Ole Opry stage.     Yes I'm married to a wonderful guy from Frederick, Md. where I've lived for 2 years. But now we live with Mom until we can get a trailer. We've been married for 3 years.     We don't have any children as yet. We lost one, but hope to have some one day.     Thanks for the pictures you sent me, and tell Max "hello" for me and "good luck."     Thanks also for the Fan Club information.     I'm waiting a little while until people know who Patsy Cline is a little better and then I'll start a Club.     Well, I guess I'd better close and get supper ready. You write soon and let me know how things are. It's snowing here tonite. Our first. So long for now. Love and Luck, Patsy Cline Questions Q. When and where were you born? A. In Winchester, Va. Sept 8th 1932 Q. How long have you been singing? A. 16 years, but professionally 9 years. Q. Who gave you your first break? A. Wally Fowler made it possible for me to sing at W.S.M. Q. What musical instruments do you play? A. Piano. Q. What is your all time favorite song? A. Satisfied Mind or Just A Closer Walk With Thee Q. What was the biggest thrill for you in your career? A. When I sang on the Grand Ole Opry. In July 1955 Q. Are you married? A. Yes. Have been for 3 years. (Continues...) Copyright (c) 1999 Cindy Hazen and Mike Freeman. All rights reserved.