‘Tennessee Waltz’ singer Patti Page dies at 85
By CHRIS TALBOTT AP Music Writer January 2, 2013 8:16PM
FILE - This 1958 file photo shows singer Patti Page. Page, who made "Tennessee Waltz" the third best-selling recording ever, died Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2012 in Encinitas, Calif. She was 85. (AP Photo, File)
Updated: February 4, 2013 3:01PM
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Patti Page, the “Singing Rage” who stumbled across “Tennessee Waltz” and made it one of the best-selling recordings ever, has died. She was 85.
Ms. Page died on New Year’s Day in Encinitas, Calif., according to publicist Schatzi Hageman.
Ms. Page was the top-selling female singer of the 1950s with more than 100 million records sold. Her most enduring songs remain “Tennessee Waltz,” one of two songs the state of Tennessee has officially adopted, and “(How Much Is That) Doggie in the Window.”
“Tennessee Waltz” scored the rare achievement of reaching No. 1 on the pop, country and R&B charts simultaneously. Its reach was so powerful, six other artists reached the charts the following year with covers.
“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.”
She created a distinctive sound for the music industry in 1947 by overdubbing her own voice when she didn’t have enough money to hire backup singers for the single, “Confess.” She went on to score sell 15 gold records and three gold albums with 24 songs in the top 10, including four that reached No. 1.
She was popular in pop music and country and became the first singer to have television programs on all three major networks, including “The Patti Page Show” on ABC.
In 1999 Ms. Page won her first Grammy for traditional pop vocal performance for “Live at Carnegie Hall — The 50th Anniversary Concert.” Ms. Page was planning to attend a special ceremony on Feb. 9 in Los Angeles where she was to receive a lifetime acheivement award from The Recording Academy.
Ms. Page was born Nov. 8, 1927, as Clara Ann Fowler in Claremore, Okla.
She got her stage name working at radio station KTUL, which had a 15-minute program sponsored by Page Milk Co. The regular Patti Page singer left and was replaced by Ms. Page, who took the name with her on the road to stardom.
Ms. Page was discovered by Jack Rael, a band leader who was making a stop in Tulsa in 1946 when he heard Ms. Page sing on the radio. When told Ms. Page was a local singer, he quickly arranged an interview and abandoned his career to be Ms. Page’s manager.
A year later she signed a contract with Mercury Records and began appearing in major nightclubs in Chicago.
Her first major hit was “With My Eyes Wide Open I’m Dreaming,” but she got noticed a few years earlier in 1947 with “Confess.”
“Tennessee Waltz” was a fluke. Because Christmas was approaching, Mercury Records wanted Ms. Page to record “Boogie Woogie Santa Claus” in 1950.
Ms. Page and Rael got hold of “Tennessee Waltz,” convinced a pop artist could make a smash hit out of it. Mercury agreed to put it on the B-side of the Christmas song.
“Mercury wanted to concentrate on a Christmas song and they didn’t want anything with much merit on the flip side,” Ms. Page said. “The title of that great Christmas song was “Boogie Woogie Santa Claus,” and no one ever heard of it.” AP