Thursday, April 5, 2012

Patsy Cline--Crazy (1961)

    Looking back over 50 years now it seemed like a natural pairing, the great Patsy Cline and the great Willie Nelson....two giants of country music right?
    Well at the time it wasn't seen as such. Cline had a hit in 1957 with, "Walkin After Midnight" which had gained exposure through her appearance on Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts. She didn't have a crossover hit for another 4 years. Much of this was due to her contract with Four Star Records, who clearly didn't know what to do with her, and some of it to Cline herself who was more comfortable singing honky-tonk music.
     Her 1960 contract with Decca-Nashville and relationship with producer Owen Bradley changed all of that however. Bradley's use of strings and directly marketing for crossover exposure wasn't necessarily Cline's cup of tea, but after over 5 years and 50 recording, most going nowhere, she was willing to work with Bradley to change her style.

     The difference was magic. The first hit from this professional union was, "I Fall To Pieces" which might have done even better if she had been able to promote it. However, she was involved in a car wreck that took her out of commission for some time. While recovering she was introduced to a song that songwriter Willie Nelson had pitched to her husband. He loved the song called, "Crazy", as did Owen Bradley, Cline however hated it. She was still very uncomfortable singing in the "Nashville Sound" style that was Bradley's trademark, and Nelson's demo of the song she thought too difficult for her to sing.
     Nelson was a songwriter who was just starting to get on his feet in Nashville, having just moved there a couple of years before, he got a gig playing bass for Ray Price's touring band. He had some success writing for Faron Young, Roy Orbison and Billy Walker. It was Walker in fact who he had written "Crazy" for in the first place, but Billy rejected it and Willie was looking for someone to record it.
     Stories vary about how she was able to wrap herself around the song, but the short of it is that it became her signature song and biggest hit. Over the next year and a half, before her death in March of 1963, she became not only the biggest name in country music, but became a direct mentor to a whole generation of female country singers, as well as a myriad of country and pop singers over the last 50 years. 
     "Crazy" put Nelson on the map, but never was comfortable with Nashville and it's very rigid promotion machine. It wasn't until a move to Austin in 1973 that things began to change, and Willie began his move to stardom.


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