Patti Page, the chart-topping singer whose hit “Tennessee Waltz” became
one of Tennessee’s state songs, died Tuesday night in Encinitas, Calif. She was 85.
Mrs. Page’s recording of “Tennessee Waltz,” written by Redd Stewart
and Pee Wee King, was one of the earliest country crossover successes,
topping the pop, country and R&B charts in 1951. The single eventually sold
more than 10 million copies.
As the best-selling female singer of the 1950s, Mrs. Page enjoyed numerous
other hits before and after — among them “I Went to Your Wedding,” “The Doggie in the Window”
and “All My Love” — but “Waltz” became her signature song, tying the California
resident to Tennessee for the remainder of her career.
“I knew that it was important,” she told The Tennessean in 2000. “I have always
enjoyed singing it. I have never tired of it.”
“Waltz” was adopted as a state song in 1965, and its legacy brought her
to Music City several times over the years.
In the wake of its chart success, Mrs. Page visited Tennessee for the first time
and made her first of many appearances on the “Grand Ole Opry.” In 1961, she came
to Nashville to record at producer and Country Music Hall of Famer Owen Bradley’s “Quonset Hut,” and
her first country album was released later that year.
Another high-profile session took place in 2007, when Tennessee U.S. Sen.
Lamar Alexander played piano on her re-recording of “Tennessee Waltz.”
Local songwriter and producer Victoria Shaw remembered Mrs. Page for her
down-to-earth humility, when they worked together on “Brand New Tennessee Waltz,” a 2000 release
that featured harmony vocals with contemporary artists such as Trisha Yearwood,
Alison Krauss and Kathy Mattea.
“She loved Nashville,” Shaw said. “She was a consummate professional and really enjoyed
being in the studio. She was shy in some ways, and didn’t have that
bigger-than-life way about her. She just enjoyed singing. She was very real.”
Grammy-winning songwriter Jon Vezner, who produced the album, marveled at the singer’s voice.
“The thing about Patti, what any of the musicians that played on that have said,
is that she was an artist in the true sense of the word,” he said. “She would just
go in there, and she would lead the band. You just played to her. Nobody had ever
worked like that before. It was a whole different experience than, you know, they build
a track and someone comes in and sings. The band played to her.”
Born Clara Ann Fowler, Mrs. Page built a career that will culminate with a
Grammy lifetime achievement award from The Recording Academy this year. She was
planning to attend a special ceremony on Feb. 9 in Los Angeles to receive the award.
Neil Portnow, the Academy’s president and CEO, said he spoke with Mrs. Page and she
had been “grateful and excited.” “Our industry has lost a remarkable talent and
a true gift, and our sincere condolences go out to her family, friends and fans
who were inspired by her work.”
In her later career, Mrs. Page and husband Jerry Filiciotto spent half the year living
in Southern California and half in an 1830s farmhouse in New Hampshire. He died in 2009.
Mrs. Page is survived by her son, Daniel O’Curran, daughter, Kathleen Ginn and sister
Peggy Layton. No funeral arrangements have been made at this time.
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