The Record
9:55 pm
Wed January 2, 2013

Patti Page, Who Dominated The '50s Pop Charts, Dies

Originally published on Thu January 3, 2013 3:27 am

Patti Page, whose comforting voice made hits of heartbreaking ballads ("Tennessee Waltz") and novelty songs ("How Much Is That Doggie in the Window?"), died Tuesday in Encinitas, Calif. She was 85 years old.

Page was born Clara Ann Fowler in Oklahoma in 1927, and as a teenager, sang on a radio program in Tulsa, Okla. She was soon touring with the Jimmy Joy Band and landed a record deal with Mercury Records after meeting Benny Goodman. Her country-inflected delivery and crossover appeal made her a dominant force on the charts, starting with a trio of hits released in 1950 — "With My Eyes Wide Open, I'm Dreaming," "All My Love (Bolero)" and "Tennessee Waltz," which stayed at No. 1 for months. Later hits included "I Went To Your Wedding," "Cross Over the Bridge," "Allegheny Moon" and "Old Cape Cod."

Page sold millions of records, making her one of the biggest recording artists of the decade, though her star dimmed as rock 'n' roll began to emerge in its latter half. She also hosted a string of televised variety shows, including The Patti Page Show and The Big Record, and appeared in the films Elmer Gantry and Boys' Night Out.

Page won her first Grammy in 1999, for Live at Carnegie Hall: The 50th Anniversary Concert, (most of her hits came out before the awards were created in 1959). She was scheduled to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award at this year's ceremony in February. According to a statement from The Recording Academy, she will be honored posthumously.

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Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Music fans began the new year with a goodbye - to Patti Page who died on the holiday at age 85.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TENNESSEE WALTZ")

PATTI PAGE: (Singing) I was dancing with my darling to the Tennessee Waltz when an old friend I happened to see...

INSKEEP: She was a defining voice of post-war America. She sold more than 100 million records, many of them copies of the "Tennessee Waltz."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TENNESSEE WALTZ")

PAGE: (Singing) Yes, I lost my little darling the night they were playing, the beautiful Tennessee Waltz.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Patti Page was born Clara Ann Fowler in Oklahoma in 1927, one of 11 children. She grew up in the years of the Depression and World War Two. And as a teenager, she appeared on a radio show sponsored by the Page Milk Company. The regular Page-singer was out and so she took the name and kept it, and went on to record a series of hits.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DOGGIE IN THE WINDOW")

PAGE: (Singing) How Much is that doggie in the window?

(Singing) The one with the waggily tail. How much...

INSKEEP: The woman who took her name from the Page Milk Company radio show eventually had her own "Patti Page Show" on network TV. In 1999, she finally won a Grammy Award for a live recording at Carnegie Hall, "Practice, Practice, Practice."

GREENE: Her death comes amid plans to award her a Lifetime Achievement Grammy. A singer who worked with her, George Jones, remembers her by saying, she hit notes I never dreamed of.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DOGGIE IN THE WINDOW")

PAGE: (Singing) I do hope that doggies for sale.

INSKEEP: This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

GREENE: And I'm David Greene. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.