Clara Ann Fowler (November 8, 1927 - January 1, 2013), known by her professional name Patti Page, was an American singer and one of the best-known female artists in traditional pop music. She was the best-selling female artist of the 1950s, and sold over 100 million records. She was often introduced as "the Singin' Rage, Miss Patti Page". A New York disc jockey on WNEW, William B. Williams, introduced her as "A Page in my life called Patti".
Page signed with Mercury Records in 1947, and became their first successful female artist, starting with 1948's "Confess". In 1950, she had her first million-selling single "With My Eyes Wide Open, I'm Dreaming", and would eventually have 14 additional million-selling singles between 1950 and 1965.
Page's signature song, "Tennessee Waltz", recorded in 1950, was one of the biggest-selling singles of the 20th century, and is also one of the nine official state songs of Tennessee. "Tennessee Waltz" spent 13 weeks atop the Billboard magazine's Best-Sellers List in 1950. Page had three additional No. 1 hit singles between 1950 and 1953, with "All My Love (Bolero)", "I Went to Your Wedding", and "(How Much Is That) Doggie in the Window".
Unlike most pop music singers, Page blended the styles of country music into many of her most popular songs. By doing this, many of Page's singles also made the Billboard Country Chart. Towards the 1970s, Page shifted her career towards country music, and she began charting on the country charts, up until 1982. Page was one of the few vocalists to have made the country charts in five separate decades.
When rock and roll music became popular during the second half of the 1950s, traditional pop music was becoming less popular. Page was one of the few traditional pop music singers who was able to sustain her success, continuing to have major hits into the mid-1960s with "Old Cape Cod", "Allegheny Moon", "A Poor Man's Roses (Or a Rich Man's Gold)", and "Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte".
In 1997, Patti Page was inducted into the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame. She will be posthumously honored with the Lifetime Achievement Grammy Award in 2013.
Early life edit:
Page was born Clara Ann Fowler on November 8, 1927, in Claremore, Oklahoma (although some sources give Muskogee, Oklahoma). She was born into a large and poor family. Her father, B.A. Fowler, worked on the MKT railroad, while her mother, Margaret, and older sisters picked cotton. As she related on television many years later, the family went without electricity, and therefore she could not read after dark. She was raised in Foraker, Hardy, Muskogee and Avant, Oklahoma, before attending Daniel Webster High School in Tulsa, from which she graduated in 1945.
Fowler became a featured singer on a 15-minute radio program on radio station KTUL, Tulsa, Oklahoma, at age 18. The program was sponsored by the "Page Milk Company." On the air, Fowler was dubbed "Patti Page," after the Page Milk Company. In 1946, Jack Rael, a saxophone player and band manager, came to Tulsa to do a one-night show. Rael heard Page on the radio and liked her voice. Rael asked her to join the band he managed, the "Jimmy Joy Band." Rael would later become Page's personal manager, after leaving the band.
Page toured with the "Jimmy Joy Band" throughout the country in the mid-1940s. The band eventually ended up in Chicago, Illinois, in 1947. In Chicago, Page sang with a small group led by popular orchestra leader, Benny Goodman. This helped Page gain her first recording contract with Mercury Records the same year. She became Mercury's "girl singer".
Music career edit:
Pop success: 1948-1949 edit:
Page recorded her first hit single, titled "Confess," in 1947. Because of a strike, background singers were not available to provide harmony vocals for the song, so instead, Page and the label decided to overdub her own.Mitch Miller, who produced for Mercury Records, was able to overdub Page's voice, due to his well-known use of technology. Thus, Page became the first pop artist to overdub her vocals on a song. This idea would later be used on Page's biggest hit singles in the 1950s. In 1948, "Confess" became a Top 15 hit on Billboard magazine, peaking at No. 12 on the "Best-Sellers" chart, becoming her first major hit on the pop chart. Page followed the single with four more in 1948-1949, only one of which was a Top 20 hit, "So in Love" (1949). Page also had a Top 15 hit on the Billboard magazine country chart in 1949 with "Money, Marbles, and Chalk."
In 1950, Page had her first million-selling single "With My Eyes Wide Open, I'm Dreaming," another song where she harmonized her vocals. Because she was overdubbing her vocals, Page's name would be listed on the Pop charts as a group name. According to one early-1950s' chart, Page was titled as "The Patti Page Quartet," among others. Towards the middle of 1950, Page's single, "All My Love (Bolero)" peaked at No. 1 on Billboard magazine, becoming her first No. 1 hit, spending five weeks there. That same year, she also had her first Top 10 hit with "I Don't Care if the Sun Don't Shine," as well as the Top 25 single, "Back in Your Own Backyard."
"Tennessee Waltz": 1950 edit:
Towards the end of 1950, Page's version of "Tennessee Waltz" became her second No. 1 hit, and her most-popular and biggest-selling single. "Tennessee Waltz" was originally recorded by country music band Pee Wee King & His Golden West Cowboys in 1947, becoming a major hit on the country charts for them in 1948. It also became a major country hit for country star Cowboy Copas around the same time. Page was introduced to the song by Jerry Wexler, who suggested she cover a recent R&B version by the Erskine Hawkins orchestra. Page liked the song and she eventually recorded and released it as a single. The song spent 13 weeks at No. 1 between 1950 and 1951. "Tennessee Waltz" also became Page's second single to reach the country chart, becoming her biggest hit there, reaching No. 2. The song would later become one of the best-selling records of the time, selling seven million copies in the early 1950s, which prompted various cover versions of the song to appear on the charts during the year. "Tennessee Waltz" has also represented the biggest commercial success to date for the overdubbing technique, pioneered by producer Mitch Miller, which enabled Page to sound as if she were harmonizing with herself. Today, the song has come close to selling fifteen million copies. It also became the last song to sell one million copies of sheet music, due to the increasing popularity of recorded music. It was featured in the 1983 film The Right Stuff.
Breakthrough: 1951-1965 edit:
In 1951, Page released the follow-up single to "Tennessee Waltz" called "Would I Love You (Love You, Love You)," which was a Top 5 hit, and also sold a million copies. The next single, "Mockin' Bird Hill," (a cover of the version by Les Paul and Mary Ford was another major hit that year) was her fourth single that sold a million copies. Page had three additional Top 10 hits on Billboard magazine in 1951, starting with "Mister and Mississippi," which peaked at No. 8, "And So to Sleep Again", and "Detour," which had previously been recorded and made famous by Foy Willing and Elton Britt. Page's version was the most popular and became her seventh million-selling single. She also released her first studio album in 1951 titled, Folk Song Favorites, covers of Page's favorite folk songs. In 1952, Page had a third No. 1 hit with "I Went to Your Wedding," which spent two months at the top spot. Recorded in a country ballad style, the song was the flip-side of one of her other Top 10 hits that year, "You Belong to Me." "I Went to Your Wedding" became more successful, and the single became Page's eighth million-selling single in the United States (ironically, it displaced Jo Stafford's version of "You Belong to Me" at No. 1 on Billboard's Best Seller chart). She had continued success that year, with three additional songs in the Top 10 with "Come What May," "Once in a While," and "Why Don't You Believe Me" (the most popular version was recorded by Joni James).
In 1953, a novelty tune, "(How Much Is That) Doggie In the Window", became Page's fourth No. 1 hit, selling over a million copies, and staying on the best-sellers chart for five months. The song included a dog barking in the recording, which helped make it popular and one of her best-known and signature songs. The song was written by the novelty tune specialist Bob Merrill. It was originally recorded by Page for a children's album, "Arfie Goes To School" that year. She had a series of Top 20 hits that year. A final single that year reached the Top 5 titled "Changing Partners," which peaked at No. 3 and stayed on the charts for five months. The song was also recorded in a country melody, like many of Page's hits at the time. Into 1954, Page had further hits, including "Cross Over the Bridge," which also over-dubbed Page's vocals and became a major hit, peaking at No. 2, nearly reaching the top spot. Other Top 10 hits by Page that year included, "Steam Heat" (from the Broadway musical The Pajama Game) and "Let Me Go Lover" (the best known version of the latter recorded by Joan Weber). In 1955 Page had one charting single with "Croce di Oro," due to the increasing popularity of Rock & Roll music. Unlike most traditional pop music singers at the time, Page was able to maintain her success in the late-1950s (although not as successful as the early-1950s), having three major hits in 1956, including the No. 2 hit "Allegheny Moon." In 1957 she had other major hits with "A Poor Man's Roses (Or a Rich Man's Gold)" (recorded the same year by Patsy Cline) and the Top 5 hit, "Old Cape Cod."
In 1956 Vic Schoen became the musical director for Page, producing a long string of hits that included "Mama from the Train", "Allegheny Moon", "Old Cape Cod", "Belonging to Someone" and "Left Right Out of Your Heart". Page and Schoen's most challenging project was a new recording of Gordon Jenkins narrative tone poem Manhattan Tower (recorded September 1956). The album was a tremendous success, both artistically and commercially, reaching No. 18 on the Billboard LP chart, the highest ranking of any album she ever made. Vic Schoen's arrangements were far more lively and jazzy than the original Jenkins arrangements. Schoen recalled, "Patti was an alto, but I pushed her to reach notes higher than she had sung before for this album. We always enjoyed working together." Page and Schoen kept in touch and worked together all the way up until 1999.
During the 1950s, Page regularly appeared on a series of network television shows and programs, including The Dean Martin Show, The Ed Sullivan Show, and The Steve Allen Show. This eventually led to Page acquiring some television specials of her own during the 1950s. Page would later have her own series, beginning with Scott Music Hall on NBC in the 1952-53 season, and a syndicated series for Oldsmobile in 1955 titled The Patti Page Show. However, the show only lasted one season, as did The Big Record on CBS (1957-58) and ABC's The Patti Page Olds Show (1958-59). Page also acted in fims during this time, given a role on the CBS show, Playhouse 90. Page made her film debut in the 1960s, with the 1960 film Elmer Gantry. Page also recorded the theme song for the film Boys Night Out, in which Page also had a role, playing Joanne McIllenny.
In the early 1960s, Page's success began to decrease, having no major hits up until 1961's "You'll Answer to Me" and "Mom and Dad's Waltz." Page had her last major hit on the Billboard Pop Chart in 1965 with "Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte," from the film of the same name starring Bette Davis and Olivia de Havilland, which peaked at No. 8, becoming her last top 10 hit (and her first since 1957).
Adult contemporary and country music: 1966-1982 edit:
Before releasing "Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte," Page signed with Columbia Records, where she stayed towards the end of the decade. She released a few studio albums for the Columbia label in the 1960s. Up until 1970, her singles began to chart on the Hot Adult Contemporary Tracks chart. Many of these singles became major hits, peaking in the Top 20, including cover versions of "You Can't Be True, Dear," "Gentle On My Mind" and "Little Green Apples" (the latter being her last pop chart entry). Page, who was a fan of country music, recorded cover versions of many country songs over the years. Some of these songs were recorded under Columbia and were released as Adult Contemporary singles, including David Houston's "Almost Persuaded" and Tammy Wynette's "Stand by Your Man." Page left Columbia at the end of the 1960s.
In 1970, Page returned to Mercury Records and shifted her career towards country music. In 1973, she returned to working with her former record producer, Shelby Singleton. Under Mercury, Columbia, and Epic in the 1970s, Page recorded a series of country singles, beginning with 1970's "I Wish I Had a Mommy Like You," which became a Top 25 hit, followed by "Give Him Love," with similar success. In 1971, she released a country music studio album, I'd Rather Be Sorry, for Mercury records. In the early 1970s, she had additional charted hits; her most successful was in 1973, a duet with country singer Tom T. Hall titled, "Hello, We're Lonely" which was a Top 20 hit, reaching No. 14 on the Billboard Country Chart.
Also, in 1973, Page moved back to Columbia Records, recording for Epic Records (a subsidiary). In 1974 and 1975, she released singles for Avco records again, with country singles "I May Not Be Lovin' You" and "Less Than the Song," both of which were minor country hits. After a five-year hiatus, she recorded for Plantation Records in 1980. In the early 1980s, she also performed with major symphony orchestras in Cincinnati, Ohio, and Mexico City, Mexico. She had a Top 40 hit with the Plantation label in 1981 titled "No Aces," followed by a series of minor country hits, including her last-charting single, "My Man Friday," which reached No. 80.
Later career: 1983-2012 edit:
In 1986 Page and arranger Vic Schoen reunited for a stage show in Las Vegas.
In 1988, Page appeared in New York City to perform at the Ballroom, marking the first time that she had performed in New York in nearly twenty years. She received positive reviews from music critics. In the 1990s, Page founded her own record label, C.A.F. Records, which released various albums, including a 2003 children's album.
In the early 1990s, Page moved west to San Diego, California, and continued to perform live shows at venues across the country.
In 1998, Page recorded her first live album. It was performed at Carnegie Hall in New York and titled, Live at Carnegie Hall: The 50th Anniversary Concert. The album won Page a Grammy Award the following year for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Performance which, despite her prolific career, was her first Grammy.
In 2000, she released a new album, Brand New Tennessee Waltz, which consisted of new music. Harmony vocals were provided by popular country stars, including Suzy Bogguss, Alison Krauss, Kathy Mattea and Trisha Yearwood. The album was promoted at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee in 2000.
On October 4, 2001, Bob Baines, the mayor of Manchester, New Hampshire, declared the day "Patti Page Day" in the town. Miss Page was in Manchester to perform a sold-out concert at the Palace Theatre to benefit Merrimack Valley Assistance Program.
In 1998, a sample of Patti Page's recording of "Old Cape Cod" formed the basis of Groove Armada's 1998 UK hit "At the River". The lines "If you're fond of sand dunes and salty air, / Quaint little villages here and there..." sung in Page's multi-tracked close-harmony, are repeated over and over, with the addition of synthesizer bass, slowed-down drums and a bluesy trombone solo to produce a chill-out track. The success of this track exposed Page's music to a younger audience.
In 1999, Vic Schoen reunited with Page to record a CD for a Chinese label.
In 2004, she appeared on the PBS Special Magic Moments: The Best Of 50's Pop and sang her hits "Tennessee Waltz" and "Old Cape Cod". The DVD also includes a bonus backstage interview with Page.
In 2005, she performed a series of engagements at a theatre in Branson, Missouri, starting on September 12.
Until shortly before her death, Page was a host of a weekly Sunday program on the "Music of Your Life" radio network. She and Jack White of the White Stripes were interviewed in January 2008, after the White Stripes had recorded Page's early 1950s hit, "Conquest", on their 2007 studio album Icky Thump. Page and White were put together on the phone during the interview, talking to each other about their views on "Conquest".
Page continued to tour actively until September 2012, when she announced, on her web page, her retirement from performing, for health reasons.
During the time of Page's greatest popularity (the late 1940s and 1950s), most of her traditional pop music counterparts included jazz melodies into their songs. Page also incorporated jazz into some of her songs; however, on most of her recordings, Page added a country music arrangement.
During the 1950s, Mercury Records was controlled by Mitch Miller, who produced most of Page's music. Miller found that the simple-structured melodies and storylines in country music songs could be adapted to the pop music market. Page, who was born in Oklahoma, felt comfortable using this idea. Many of Page's most successful hits featured a country music arrangement, including her signature song, "Tennessee Waltz," as well as "I Went to Your Wedding" and "Changing Partners." Some of these singles charted on the Billboard Country Chart during the 1940s, 1950s, and early 1960s for this reason.
Many other artists were introduced to Page's style and incorporated the same country arrangement into many of their songs, including The Andrews Sisters and Bing Crosby, who together had a No. 1 hit on the country charts in the late 1940s with "Pistol Packin' Mama."
Personal life edit:
In his autobiography, Lucky Me, published in 2011, the former major league baseball star and front-office executive Eddie Robinson discloses that he dated Page during the period before her first marriage.
Page was married three times. She married University of Wisconsin student Jack Skiba in May 1948 and moved with him to New York, but asked for and received a no-fault divorce in Wisconsin within a year. Her second husband was Charles O'Curran, a choreographer, whom she married in 1956. O'Curran had been previously married to actress Betty Hutton. Together, Page and O'Curran adopted two children: a son, Danny, and a daughter, Kathleen. They divorced in 1972.
Page married her third husband, Jerry Filiciotto, in 1990. They ran a maple syrup business in New Hampshire and resided in Solana Beach, California. Filiciotto died on April 18, 2009.
The arranger Vic Schoen once recalled, "She was one of the nicest and most accommodating singers I've ever worked with." She and Schoen remained close friends and spoke regularly until his death in 2000.
In 1978, Sharon McNight recorded a song she had written in tribute entitled "Put A Nickel in the Jukebox and Bring Back Patti Page".
Patti Page died on January 1, 2013, at the Seacrest Village Retirement Community in Encinitas, California, according to her manager. She was 85 years old.