On August 21, 1961, Patsy Cline recorded “Crazy,” a crossover chart topping country and pop hit. It reached number two on the Billboard charts and became the most played jukebox song in the United States of all time. Willie Nelson, a struggling country artist at the time, wrote the song that would eventually find its way onto his 1962 debut album.
Born in Winchester, VA on September 8, 1932, the daughter of a blacksmith and a seamstress, Cline had taught herself how to play piano at the age of eight. After dropping out of school at sixteen to get a job to support her family, she sang in her free time on local radio shows and singing competitions. She attributed her signature booming voice to a throat infection at age thirteen that nearly killed her. Cline’s big break was in 1957 when she won the Godfrey’s Talent Scouts singing competition show thanks to her performance of “Walkin’ After Midnight.”
By the early 1960’s, Cline had achieved the pinnacle of country stardom success as one of the biggest stars in the cast of Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry. Her first hit, “I Fall To Pieces,” became a top 20 pop chart single. Cline had to crutch into the studio to record her soon-to-be next crossover smash hit. Two months prior, she had survived a horrendous car accident, where she was thrown through a windshield. She was still recovering from a broken rib, so hitting the high notes in the song proved impossible. Even though they recorded the song in four hours, she had to return a few weeks later to record the lead vocals. When she debuted “Crazy” on the Grand Ole Opry stage, she got three standing ovations.
“Crazy” became her biggest hit song, making her the first country singer with a crossover hit. When discussing her new song, she ominously said, “I recorded a song called, ‘I Fall To Pieces,’ and I was in a car wreck. Now I’m worried because I have a brand-new record, and it’s called ‘Crazy’!”
Two years after “Crazy” was released, Cline died in a plane crash at age 30. Her beautiful alto voice and genre-crossing music would set the stage for future artists, like Dolly Parton and Faith Hill, to climb both the pop and country charts.