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Former US Pop Superstar Patti Page Dies at 85

  • Katherine Cole

Patti Page (2001 photo)

Patti Page (2001 photo)

Patti Page, the top-selling female artist of the 1950s with more than 100 million records sold, has died. She was 85. In addition to her hits, Page is believed to be the first artist to overdub her voice in the studio, long before it became a standard part of the recording process.

Page was one of the most beloved singers of the post-war era. Her biggest hit, the "Tennessee Waltz," sold more than 10 million copies, and is considered to be the first true crossover music hit. It spent months on the pop, country and rhythm and blues charts. In a 1990 interview, Page explained that her hit was a happy accident.

"Actually it was a second side [flip side] and an afterthought really because we were having high hopes for 'Boogie Woogie Santa Claus' [because] it was coming out at Christmas time and the record company didn't think anything would sell but a Christmas song," she said. "So, we put it on the B side of that great Christmas song thinking it would be so nondescript that no disc jockey would pick it up."

Born Clara Ann Fowler in Claremore, Oklahoma, a small town near Tulsa, Page originally dreamed of a career in commercial art. Her first job in the art department at a local radio station soon led to performing on her own 15-minute program.

Patti Page in 1958.

Patti Page in 1958.

​At age 20, Page was discovered by big-band leader Jack Rael, who quit his job to become her manager. In 1948, she signed her first recording contract with Mercury Records and two years later enjoyed her first hit record. She stayed with Mercury for the next 14 years and recorded hit after hit including: “With My Eyes Wide Open, I’m Dreaming,” and "Old Cape Cod".

Her last hit was the Oscar-nominated “Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte,” recorded for the Bette Davis movie of the same name. And then, there was “Doggie In The Window.” The novelty tune was a huge hit, but with its repeated barking sounds and silly lyrics, the song has been cited by many critics as an example of all that was wrong with pop music in the early 1950s.

Patti Page is credited as the first artist to use the recording technique known as vocal overdubbing. She pioneered the concept in 1947, when she dueted with herself on the Top 20 single "Confess.”

"That came about through economics actually, because we had to pay for all the studio time, musicians and I had not sold any records or made any money," she said. "So, my manager [and] partner got the idea for me to do the echo on 'Confess' and so that's how that came about."

“Confess" was enough of a hit that Mercury was convinced to let Page try full four-part harmony by overdubbing on "With My Eyes Wide Open I'm Dreaming." The label read: "Vocals by Patti Page, Patti Page, Patti Page and Patti Page.”

Throughout the 1950s, Patti Page made regular appearances on television variety shows and in 1957 she was chosen to host the rock-oriented musical program, "The Big Record." The following year, Page appeared in her own CBS television series, "The Patti Page Show." She continued to record and perform into the 21st century, most recently releasing an album of songs for children, a Christmas record, and a new “best of” collection.

In addition to music, Patti Page did a bit of acting. She co-starred with the Oscar-winning Burt Lancaster in "Elmer Gantry," and also starred on stage in the musical comedy "Annie Get Your Gun."

In 1980, the Academy of Country Music honored Patti Page with the Pioneer Award. She is also a member of the Oklahoma Hall of Fame.

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