Patti Page 'The Singing Rage' Dies at 85

Patti Page 1970 - P 2013
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Patti Page 1970 - P 2013

The "Tennessee Waltz" singer, who was the biggest-selling female vocalist of the 1950s, died New Year's Day in Encinitas, Calif.

Patti Page, the sultry-voiced pop star who guided millions of fans through "The Tennessee Waltz" and asked "(How Much Is That) Doggie in the Window?" died Jan. 1 at a nursing home in Encinitas, Calif. She was 85.

Page was a pop music icon and the biggest-selling female artist of the 1950s, topping the singles chart four times from 1950-53 with "Tennessee Waltz," "All My Love," "I Went to Your Wedding" and "Doggie in the Window."

After a couple of near-misses, she broke into the national top 10 in 1949 with "I Don't Care If the Sun Don't Shine." She reached the top 10 a remarkable 21 more times during the next decade, including "All My Love (Bolero)," "Would I Love You (Love You, Love You)," "Mockin' Bird Hill," "Old Cape Cod," "Allegheny Moon," "Changing Partners," "Let Me Go, Lover!" and "Cross Over the Bridge."

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Her signature song, "Tennessee Waltz," became one of the biggest-selling singles of the 20th century, selling nearly 15 million copies. It spent 30 weeks on the chart, 12 of them in the top 10, and was the first pop song that crossed over into a country hit. It also became one of the two state songs of Tennessee and was featured on the soundtrack to the 1983 film The Right Stuff.

She also teamed with country legend George Jones on "You Never Looked That Good When You Were Mine."

Page won her first Grammy in 1999 for best traditional pop vocal performance for Live at Carnegie Hall -- The 50th Anniversary Concert. She will be honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award from The Recording Academy during the Grammys on Feb. 9 in Los Angeles.

"Patti Page was an extremely talented artist known for her unique and smooth vocal style,” Recording Academy president and CEO Neil Portnow said Wednesday. “I recently had the privilege of speaking with Ms. Page and informing her that she would be recognized with The Recording Academy Lifetime Achievement Award this upcoming February, and she was grateful and excited to be receiving the honor. Our industry has lost a remarkable talent and a true gift.”

Born Clara Ann Fowler on Nov. 8, 1927, in Muskogee, Okla., and raised in Tulsa, she started her career with Al Klauser & His Oklahomans on KTUL-AM. Another singer at the station was billed as "Patti Page" on the Page Milk Co. Show, and when she left, Fowler took her place and stage name. She toured with Jimmy Joy during the late-'40s and also sang with Benny Goodman's band.

Using multivoice effects on many of her records, Page recorded 50 albums and scored an astounding 111 Billboard chart singles, more than a dozen of which were million-sellers. She was honored with the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame's Living Legend Award in 2002 and the Academy of Country Music's Pioneer Award in 1979 and also has stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and the Country Music Walk of Fame.

Page was so popular that she became the first singer to have television programs on all three major networks: The Patti Page Show aired on NBC during summer 1956, the Page-hosted The Big Record ran on CBS from 1957-58, and The Patti Page Oldsmobile Show aired on ABC from 1958-59.

Page also dabbled in acting, co-starring with Burt Lancaster in Elmer Gantry (1960), with David Janssen in Dondi (1961) and with James Garner and Kim Novak in Boys Night Out (1962). She also appeared onstage in the musical Annie Get Your Gun.

Page was married three times. First to Jack Skiba, a University of Wisconsin student, in May 1948, which only lasted a year. Then to choreographer Charles O'Curran in 1956, with whom she adopted a son and a daughter. They divorced in 1972.

She married her third husband, Jerry Filiciotto, in 1990. Filiciotto died in 2009. Together, they split their time between New Hampshire, where they ran a maple syrup business, and Solana Beach, north of San Diego.

Page is survived by her son, Daniel O'Curran, daughter, Kathleen Ginn and sister, Peggy Layton.

Funeral arrangements are pending.

Erik Pedersen contributed to this report.