Although she died in 1963, the memory of Patsy Cline is more alive than ever. The beloved country music queen was celebrated recently by the music industry at the Country Music Hall of Fame.
The event was in honor of the opening of the new exhibit, Love Always, Patsy: Letters From the Jewelry Box. Sponsored by 650 WSM and MCA Records/Nashville, the exhibit will remain open through February 2001. The exhibit includes 10 original letters handwritten by Cline and addressed to Treva Miller Steinbicker, the young woman who established a fan club for Cline in 1955.
During his opening remarks to the crowd, Country Music Hall of Fame Director Kyle Young observed that although Cline passed away nearly four decades ago, she has remained one of the most enduring singers in popular music. “Patsy breaks all the rules,” Young said. “She still has an active career many years after her death.”
Mandy Barnett, one of contemporary country’s most acclaimed young singers, paid homage to Cline by performing a live version of the Patsy hit “Faded Love.” Barnett, who is signed to Sire Records and is currently reprising her role as Cline in the Ryman Auditorium theater production Always, Patsy Cline, was clad in a vintage, red sequined dress as she performed beneath a giant replica of Cline’s commemorative postage stamp.
Other dignitaries were on hand to honor Cline. Bruce Hinton, chairman of MCA Nashville and chairman of the board of the Country Music Foundation, ranked Cline’s impact alongside the careers of Frank Sinatra and the Beatles. “Any time I can talk about Patsy Cline, I feel like I’m on a mission,” he said from the podium. “Her music is more meaningful than ever. Patsy was one for the ages.”
“Patsy Cline is certainly an important part of who we are,” said Kyle Cantrell, operations manager of WSM, which broadcasts the Grand Ole Opry. Although Cantrell never personally met Cline, he reiterated how much she was beloved at the radio station. “Her personality was an optimistic, cheerful and vivacious force,” he said. “Her presence was — and is — still felt there. Her impact is more fully felt today.”
Mike Freeman and Cindy Hazen, authors of Love Always, Patsy, a book that collects the correspondence between Cline and Miller, were also on hand to see the Patsy exhibit. Among the Patsy letters on display is one that Freeman and Hazen donated to the Hall of Fame. During the event, Hazen read excerpts of Cline’s own words, while Freeman observed that “a soft, feminine side” of Cline emerged in these letters.
Like her music, Cline’s words sounded as fresh and vibrant as they did nearly forty years ago.