Sweet Moments With Young Patsy Cline : PATSY CLINE: “The Birth of a Star” Razor & Tie (***)
Even though Dick Clark’s “American Bandstand” was a major vehicle for teen pop exposure in the ‘50s and ‘60s, some performers turned to adult variety shows for wider mainstream attention.
Among the most celebrated examples: Elvis Presley’s series of appearances on CBS’ weekly “Stage Show,” where he introduced “Heartbreak Hotel” early in 1956, and the Beatles’ landmark 1964 performances on “The Ed Sullivan Show.”
Cline, the great country-pop singer who was just 30 when she was killed in a 1963 plane crash, got a major career boost by winning and then guesting several more times on CBS’ “Talent Scouts,” a forerunner of “Star Search,” hosted by Arthur Godfrey, a folksy man who commanded a large, loyal radio and TV audience in the ‘50s and ‘60s.
These 17 previously unreleased selections were recorded during Cline’s appearances with Godfrey in 1957 and 1958, and they give us a delightful look at a young, unknown singer eager for recognition--alongside a TV personality who obviously likes her talent and enthusiasm.
According to the liner notes, Godfrey saw Cline performing on a Washington, D.C., variety show and invited her to compete on his program. The album includes Cline’s mother’s introduction of her daughter on the show and Godfrey’s chat with the singer.
Cline, who had already released a few singles in the country field without success, sang her latest recording, “Walking After Midnight,” a bluesy pop-country tune that won the evening’s competition.
“Don’t go away, Patsy, honey,” Godfrey says after the audience response, which determined each show’s winner. “You done won this thing . . . bless your little heart. . . . Is that the first record you made?”
“No, I’ve got four records made,” she replies nervously.
“Have you had any hits?”
When she says no, Godfrey tells her enthusiastically, “I’ve got a hunch this one is [a hit]. . . . This one is commercial.”
Sure enough, “Walking After Midnight” went on to be a smash in both the country and pop fields, the start of a brief but glorious career that also included such classic singles as “I Fall to Pieces” and “Crazy.”
Those other hits aren’t included here, however, because they were recorded after Cline’s appearances on the show. But the songs on “The Birth of a Star"--from the romantic anguish of “Three Cigarettes in an Ashtray” and a wonderfully soulful interpretation of Hank Williams’ “Your Cheatin’ Heart” to a striking blues-country treatment of “Write Me in Care of the Blues"--demonstrate the vocal instincts and authority that would make Cline an influence on everyone from Janis Joplin and Linda Ronstadt to k.d. lang.
These recently discovered recordings--which for years were believed by Cline’s husband to have been destroyed by water damage at their house--aren’t the place to turn for a musical introduction to Cline, who was played by Jessica Lange in the 1985 film biography “Sweet Dreams.”
As a career extra, however, they are a special treat.
Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent).