Sunday, February 26, 2017

HGB Ep. 186 - The Life and Afterlife of Patsy Cline

Moment in Oddity - Court of Mysteries
(Suggested by: Sasha Wolfe)

There was an abandoned home in Santa Cruz, California known as the "Court of Mysteries." It was built by Kenneth Kitchen and his brother Raymond. Kenneth was a bricklayer and Raymond was a mason and they built many homes together in the area. Kenneth was inspired by mysticism and occult spiritualism and he decided that he wanted to build himself a home on a goat farm he owned. He wanted to model it after a Hindu temple. He hauled all the bricks himself in his car. He built the home at night, which was peculiar. When it was finished, it had two towers with an archway in the front that was called the “Gate of Prophesy.” The gate arch has four square-tapered minarets that had windows bearing opaque, onyx- grained glass, that were picturesque when lit. What was really strange was the mysterious triangular relief atop the arch. It resembled an all-seeing-eye and reportedly is a celestial chart that portends a celestial alignment between the plaque and temple's chimney, signaling an apocalypse before the "Age of Peace." Everything was covered in abalone mosaics. The well house was made like a crypt and had four minarets. These odd accoutrements have awed craftsmen with the curving brickwork and bulbous granite domes. There was also a peculiar device in the front yard that was called a Submarine Stopping Machine. Apparently, it worked and caused issues for the US Navy during World War II. Kenneth moved out and just disappeared in 1957. For years, it was a place for teenagers to hang out and vandalize. Today, it is privately owned and under restoration to its former temple inspiration and that certainly is odd!

This Month in History - The Day the Music Died

In the month of February, in 1959, American rock stars Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson were killed in a plane crash. That day came to be known as "The Day the Music Died." Buddy Holly and his band the Crickets were headlining the Winter Dance Party Tour that included Valens and the Big Bopper. They had been traveling from city to city by bus, but they started having mechanical issues with the bus. Holly decided to charter a plane to fly his band to the next stop in Moorehead, Minnesota. There were not enough seats for everybody. The Big Bopper pleaded with Waylon Jennings, who was a member of Holly's band at that time, to give up his seat because the Big Bopper had the flu and was not feeling well. The last seat went to Richie Valens when he won a coin toss. The group boarded the Beechcraft Bonanza and took off from the airport in Mason City. A few minutes later, it crashed in Iowa. Investigators blamed the crash on pilot error and the snow and ice that had gathered on the wings. The Big Bopper was only 28 and had his hit "Chantilly Lace" in the Top 10. Holly was 22 and was becoming a major star with hits like “Peggy Sue,” “Oh, Boy!,” “Maybe Baby” and “Early in the Morning.” Valens was a mere 17 when he died in the crash and was just emerging onto the scene with his hits “Come On, Let’s Go,” “Donna” and “La Bamba.”

The Life and Afterlife of Patsy Cline

Patsy Cline grew to become one of country music's biggest stars and although she died young at the age of thirty, her influence has continued to our present day. She had a cowgirl image, but she was one of the first country stars to cross over to the pop charts. She also paved the way for women to be headliners at shows and she became the first female solo performer inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. She survived two horrible car accidents, but the third crash she would be involved in aboard a plane would finally take her life. Her spirit reputedly has continued on in the afterlife. From the field where she died to some of the music venues she performed at, the spirit of Cline has been making appearances. We are joined by author Matt Swayne to share the life and afterlife of Patsy Cline!

Virginia Patterson Hensley was born in Winchester, Virginia on September 8, 1932 to Samuel and Hilda Hensley. Samuel was forty-one when he married 16-year-old Hilda and he would abandon the family in 1947 when Ginny, which is what the family called Patsy, was only fifteen. Ginny started playing the piano when she was only eight and she was largely self taught. A few years later she would discover her voice and really enjoyed singing. Rheumatic fever brought a throat infection when she was thirteen and she claimed that after she recovered, she had a booming voice like Kate Smith. At sixteen, she dropped out of school, so she could work to help support the family. She had a younger brother and sister. Ginny worked at a poultry plant and as a soda jerk. Disc jockey Jimmy McCoy let Ginny sing on his local radio show at WINC. She also started singing at local clubs.

Bill Peer was a bandleader and he became Ginny's manager. She started performing with his group and he suggested that she change her name. He thought Patsy suited her better and he got this from her middle name Patterson. She began performing as Patsy Hensley in 1952. She met contractor Gerald Cline around this time and by 1953, the couple was married. And Patsy Cline would be the name that would stick for this legend. In 1954, Bill Peer shopped Cline to Four Star Records and got her a recording contract. A part of the contract restricted Cline to performing only songs written by Four Star Records song writers. Cline accepted the contract because she thought it was her only opportunity, but she regretted that decision later as she was not thrilled with the material provided to her for performing. She was free to perform what she wanted at the Grand Ole Opry and that helped her to feel a little less stifled.

These early songs did not receive much attention. Cline was afraid to go beyond the twang of country, but Owen Bradley, who was a producer at Decca Records approached Cline and said her vocal range suited pop perfectly and she should consider singing torch songs. Cline declined to go that route at the time. While her music career was hitting a wall, her marriage to Gerald was doing the same. Gerald wanted Cline to be the little housewife, but she wanted to continue to pursue her music career. They divorced on July 4, 1957. Her career then began its upward climb as more people heard her iconic vocal range. She remarried to Charles Dick in September of 1957, a few short months after her divorce. Cline would call him the love of her life. They met at an Armory dance where she was performing. Cline was still married at the time, but that wasn't her only relationship entanglement. Her manager Bill Peer was her on again/off again lover. Charles and Patsy started an affair regardless.

Arthur Godfrey hosted a program on CBS-TV called Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts. Cline auditioned to be on the show and she appeared in 1957. She wanted to sing "A Poor Man's Roses (Or a Rich Man's Gold), but the producers wanted her to sing a song written by Donn Hecht and Alan Block. It was called "Walkin' After Midnight." The producers also insisted that she wear a cocktail dress rather then one of her cowgirl get-ups. She was an absolute hit. Godfrey used to have this meter that measured applause and it went nuts while she sang. The song went on to rise up the country and pop charts and Cline was a star. In 1958, Patsy gave birth to a daughter named Julie. Reputedly, Charles started beating on Patsy and they had a tumultuous relationship. Patsy gave birth to a son in 1961.

Randy Hughes was a session guitarist and he became Patsy's new manager at this time. Decca Records offered her a contract and as you will recall, one of its producers wanted Patsy to use her voice for pop torch songs. This was really the opportunity Patsy had been looking for: freedom to record what she wanted. She joined the cast of the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee and started releasing her biggest hits with "I Fall to Pieces" hitting number one on the country charts in 1961. That song was a pop crossover as well and hit 12 on the pop chart. It was written by Hank Cochran and Harlan Howard. Willie Nelson wrote "Crazy" and it was an instant hit for Cline. She released it in 1961 as well and it became her signature song.

That same year, Cline survived a traumatic car crash in which she was thrown through the windshield of the car in which she was riding. Patsy had a huge gash in her forehead that would leave her with a permanent scar. She also had a dislocated hip and had to spend a month in the hospital. She rededicated her life to Christ. In 1962, things got even bigger for Cline. She recorded "She's Got You" and it hit number one also on the country charts. George Jones, Johnny Cash, June Carter and Loretta Lynn all performed with Patsy. As Matt shares, Cline mentored Loretta Lynn. She not only helped female artists out, she loved hanging with the boys and she could hold her own. Singer George Riddle said of her, "It wasn't unusual for her to sit down and have a beer and tell a joke, and she'd never be offended at the guys' jokes either, because most of the time she'd tell a joke dirtier than you! Patsy was full of life". She also told concert promoters, "No dough, no show" and made them pay her before she performed.

Cline seemed to know that her death was imminent. After recording her fourth and what would be her final album, Patsy held up her first album and then gestured at the recording booth and said, "Well, here it is...the first and the last." A month later, March 3, 1963, she was performing at a benefit at the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall in Kansas City. The benefit was to raise money for the family of a disc jockey named "Cactus" Jack Call. Ironically, he had died in an automobile crash. Patsy gave three performances even though she was ill with the flu. Her final song was "I'll Sail My Ship Alone".

Cline wanted to fly out the next day, but the thick fog in the area grounded all planes. Some friends asked Cline to ride home with them in their car, but she refused. She finally was able to fly out on March 5th and she did so on a Piper PA-24 Comanche plane, aircraft registration number N-7000P. The plane took off at 6:07pm. Winds were high and the pilot was not trained in instrument flying. The airfield manager suggested that the plane not leave. The pilot tried to use visual flight rules (VFR), but that didn't work because of the driving rain. The plane went down and Cline's stopped watch was found with the time of 6:20pm, so many believe that is when the plane crashed. It had been in the air less than 15 minutes. It went down in a forest and everyone on board was killed instantly. A man named Roger Miller searched for the wreckage in the morning. He said, "As fast as I could, I ran through the woods screaming their names -- through the brush and the trees -- and I came up over this little rise, oh, my God, there they were. It was ghastly. The plane had crashed nose down". Artifacts from the crash that are now at The Country Music Hall of Fame include Cline's studded belt, Cline's wristwatch, Confederate flag cigarette lighter and three pairs of gold lamé slippers.

Cline is buried at Shenandoah Memorial Park in her hometown of Winchester, Virginia. Her grave is marked with a bronze plaque, which reads: "Virginia H. (Patsy) Cline 'Death Cannot Kill What Never Dies: Love'". Dottie West and Loretta Lynn erected a bell tower at the cemetery in her memory. It plays hymns daily at 6:00 p.m., the hour of her death. Another memorial marks the exact place off Fire Tower Road in Fatty Bottom, Tennessee, where the plane crashed in the still-remote forest. That was not the end for Patsy though. Her legend continues, but so does her spirit in the afterlife. Matt Swayne shared the many hauntings and locations that have reports of Cline's ghost.

Is Patsy Cline's ghost still visiting some of her favorite places? That is for you to decide!

Show Notes:
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