Patsy Cline was born Virginia Patterson Hensley on September 8, 1932, in Winchester, Virginia.
Her father, Samuel, was a blacksmith. Her mother, Hilda, was only 16 years of age when she married Samuel, who was considerably older than his bride. The couple had three children together over 10 years, but would separate in the late 40s. Young Ginny, as she was known, along with her mother Hilda, and “the kids”, as they would call the two younger ones, settled in Winchester in a little house that had no running water, bathroom, or kitchen. Hilda would sew to support her family. Ginny quit school as a teen to help support the family. She worked at a number of places including a poultry plant, the bus terminal, and a local drugstore soda fountain, where they would allow her to take time to travel locally to sing. Singing was another way she could help support her family.
Ginny had begun singing in church with her mother as a young child and had learned to play piano by ear. She never learned to read music, or play any other instrument. She eventually performed on local radio shows and entered amateur singing contests.
In the early 1950s Ginny met and married Gerald Cline. Gerald was a bit older than Ginny and was financially stable. They turned out not to be as compatible as first believed. By this time, Ginny was hoping to make a career of her singing, which was not what Gerald had in mind for a wife. Ginny also wanted a family some day. Another thing they did not have in common.
During this time, Ginny made a significant change in her life. The leader of the band she was singing with suggested a name change. After some thought, and the use of her middle name, she would become known as Patsy Cline. Patsy would sign a problematic contract with 4Star Records. Her hands were tied by the company, who insisted she record only the songs they had in their catalog.
Patsy's young career hit a turning point in 1957. She landed a spot on the Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts show. Patsy wowed audiences with her performance of "Walkin' After Midnight," winning the program's competition. After her appearance on Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts, her recording label would rush to release the as yet unreleased song, which would hit the country and pop charts. Patsy was on her way to becoming a household name!
Patsy and Gerald had decided to divorce. Patsy moved back in with her mother. It was not long before she would meet a charismatic young man named Charlie Dick. Patsy had to wait for her divorce to be final, but would then marry Charlie in September 1957. The couple had two children together, daughter Julie and son Randy. Patsy and Charlie moved to Nashville to properly pursue her career in 1959.
In the early 1960s, Patsy enjoyed great success on the country and pop charts. She was finally able to be free of her contract with 4Star Records and was able to sign a new contract with Decca Records. She also joined the cast of the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee. Patsy was the first to become a member simply by asking rather than being asked. With the direction of her producer, Owen Bradley, she released some of her greatest hits. These songs remain as popular, if not more so, today as ever. Patsy made a way for herself, and in doing so, made a way for many of the female artists that followed her. Her short career has inspired many.
On March 5, 1963, while returning home from a benefit concert for the family of the late Kansas City DJ Jack Call, Patsy and her manager Randy Hughes, Randy’s father-in-law and Grand Ole Opry star Cowboy Copas, and fellow Grand Ole Opry star Hawkshaw Hawkins were killed when their plane, piloted by Hughes, crashed in Camden, Tennessee.
In the years that have passed since her death, Patsy Cline has had greater success than she ever knew during her lifetime. Considered one of country music's greatest vocalists, she was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1973, the first solo female artist to be inducted. Her life became the subject of the 1985 film, “Sweet Dreams”, starring Jessica Lange. Her music remains popular today with fans around the world. Her Greatest Hits album has sold over 10 million copies worldwide, and spent more than 700 weeks on the Billboard charts. She has been awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. The tiny home she shared with her mother and siblings is now known as the Patsy Cline Historic House, and is on the National Registry of Historic Places. The award winning Patsy Cline Museum honoring her life and legacy, is in Nashville, TN.