Patsy Cline Exhibit Opens at Country Music Hall of Fame

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MCA Nashville

A solitary vocal take of "Sweet Dreams" along with a sampling of the singer's costumes, personal letters and collections offer a deeper look at the country icon.

Though she was born Virginia Patterson Hensley, and was referred to by many of her childhood friends as "Ginny," those names don't have the same ring as Patsy Cline. The country music icon is celebrated in a new exhibit, "Patsy Cline: Crazy For Loving You," which opened Friday at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville.

Compared to recent exhibits on the careers of Chet Atkins or Tammy Wynette, the collection might seem a little stark to the average fan. However, the goal of the exhibit was to focus the attention on Cline's music, rather than the dramatic -- and tragic --story of her death at a young age.

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Focusing on Cline's career from 1957 until her death in 1963, "Patsy Cline: Crazy For Loving You" chronicles the chart performance of "Walkin' After Midnight" as well as her appearances on Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts (was Cline the first country reality star?). An affiliation with Four Star Records and controversial executive Bill McCall, nearly stalled her career as soon as it started, keeping her talents under wraps for next three years, but with a label switch to Decca in 1960, things began to quickly change for the singer.

With producer Owen Bradley, Cline went on to create some of country music's most timeless, among them "Crazy," "I Fall To Pieces" and "Sweet Dreams," all of which are featured in the exhibit but presented in novel ways. For example, visitors can hear Cline's "Sweet Dreams" vocal by itself, and while artifacts include stage clothes and jewelry, an extensive salt and pepper shaker collection that Cline amassed over the years is also on display, along with a humorous Valentine's Day card she gave to Bradley and a letter she composed to her mother-in-law in 1960 -- just a year before "I Fall To Pieces" re-established her as one of the top voices in the format and a cross-over star. In the letter, she discusses some of her family's financial struggles, which were so severe that they could not afford a phone -- something that stands in sharp contrast to the iconic view most have of Cline today.

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A beautiful 80-page companion book published by the museum's Country Music Foundation Press will include a foreword by Rosanne Cash and an essay written by noted Cline authority Paul Kingsbury. This weekend, fans can experience the exhibit as well as a series of panels and discussions about her legacy. Charlie Dick, Cline's husband, and daughter Julie Fudge will be among those participating. There will also be a concert at the Hall, featuring Mandy Barnett, who portrayed the 1973 Hall of Fame inductee in the stage show Always, Patsy Cline.

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