Country music lost one of its icons yesterday, as Patti Page passed away in Encinitas, California of causes yet unreported. She was 85.
If you have not heard of Patti Page, you have certainly heard her songs at some point—most likely “(How Much Is That) Doggie In the Window” and “Tennessee Waltz”, the latter of which is widely considered to be one of the best-selling singles of all time (it sold 7 million copies in the 1950s, an astounding number for that era). For that matter, between 1950 and 1965, Page had no less than 14 hits that sold a million copies or more. Career-wide, she sold over 100 million records.
Page, whose career peaked in the 1950s, was a person of many “firsts.” She was the first female vocalist at Mercury Records to be financially successful; she was the first pop/country crossover singer (more on that momentarily); she is believed to be the first recording artist to overdub her own vocals; and she was the first female vocalist to have her own show on all three major television networks at different times.
Page didn’t set out to be a country singer; in fact, she didn’t set out to be a singer at all. The young girl born Clara Ann Fowler from Claremore, Oklahoma got her start (and her stage name) by filling a vacancy at a local Tulsa radio show. When she was signed to Mercury Records in the late 1940s, she was marketed to a traditional pop audience, but her leanings toward a country style made crossover inevitable. Eventually, she became indelibly associated with country music, and eventually purposely moved in that direction as her career progressed. She had continued to perform and tour up to the time of her death.
For all her success, Page only received one Grammy Award, largely because the Grammys had not yet been created during the pinnacle of her popularity. She did receive a Grammy in 1999 for her live recording celebrating 50 years in show business at the time, Live at Carnegie Hall: The 50th Anniversary Concert. Page was slated to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Grammys next month—an award that will now be given posthumously.
Goodbye, Patti Page. You will be sorely missed.