Winchester, Virginia, U.S..... Singer
Genres..... Country, Rockabilly, Gospel, Honky Tonk, Swing, Traditional Pop, Country Pop
Labels..... Four Star, Decca
September 8, 1932 – March 5, 1963 - An American country music singer. Part of the early Nashville sound, Cline successfully "crossed over" to pop music and was one of the most influential, successful and acclaimed vocalists of the 20th century.
Patsy Cline (born Virginia Patterson Hensley) was an American country music singer. Part of the early 1960s Nashville sound, Cline successfully "crossed over" to pop music and was one of the most influential, successful and acclaimed vocalists of the 20th century.
Cline was best known for her rich tone, emotionally expressive and bold contralto voice and her role as a country music industry pioneer. Along with Kitty Wells, she helped pave the way for women as headline performers in the genre. Cline was cited as an inspiration by singers in several styles. Books, movies, documentaries, articles and stage plays document her life and career.
Her hits began in 1957 with Donn Hecht's and Alan Block's "Walkin' After Midnight", Hank Cochran's and Harlan Howard's "I Fall to Pieces", Hank Cochran's "She's Got You", Willie Nelson's "Crazy" and ended in 1963 with Don Gibson's "Sweet Dreams".
Millions of her records have sold since her death. She won awards and accolades, causing many to view her as an icon at the level of Jim Reeves, Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley. Ten years after her death, in 1973, she became the first female solo artist inducted to the Country Music Hall of Fame. In 1999, she was voted number 11 on VH1's special, The 100 Greatest Women in Rock and Roll, by members and artists of the rock industry. In 2002, country music artists and industry members voted her Number One on CMT's The 40 Greatest Women of Country Music and ranked 46th in the "100 Greatest Singers of All Time" issue of Rolling Stone magazine. According to her 1973 Country Music Hall of Fame plaque, "Her heritage of timeless recordings is testimony to her artistic capacity".
Patsy was the eldest child of seamstress Hilda Virginia and blacksmith Samuel Lawrence Hensley. She soon had a younger brother and sister, Samuel Jr and Sylvia. They were known in the family as Ginny, John, and Sis. The family moved often before finally settling in Winchester, Virginia, when Patsy was eight. Sam Hensley deserted his family in 1947, but the children's home was reportedly happy nonetheless.
Cline was introduced to music at an early age, singing in church with her mother. She liked stars such as Kay Starr, Jo Stafford, Hank Williams, Judy Garland, and Shirley Temple. She had perfect pitch. Self-taught, she could not read music.
When Patsy was thirteen, she was hospitalized with a throat infection and rheumatic fever. "The fever affected my throat and when I recovered I had this booming voice like Kate Smith".
To help support her now fatherless family, Cline dropped out of high school and worked as a soda jerk and waitress by day at the Triangle Diner, across the street from her former school, John Handley High. After watching performers through the window at the local radio station, she asked WINC disc jockey and talent coordinator Jimmy McCoy if she could sing on his show. Her performance in 1947 was well received, and she was asked back. This led to appearances at local nightclubs, wearing fringed Western outfits her mother made from Patsy's designs.
Cline performed in variety and talent shows in the Winchester and Tri-State areas. Along with this and increasing local radio appearances on local radio gained her a large following. In 1954 Jimmy Dean, already a young country star, heard of her and she became a regular with him on Connie B. Gay's Town and Country Jamboree radio show, airing weekday afternoons live on WARL in Arlington, Virginia.
Bill Peer, her second manager, gave her the name Patsy, from her middle name, Patterson. In 1955 he gained a contract for her at Four Star Records, the label he was then affiliated with. Four Star was under contract to the Coral subsidiary of Decca Records. Patsy signed with Decca at her first opportunity three years later.
Her first contract allowed her to record compositions only by Four Star writers, which Cline found limiting. Later, she expressed regret over signing with the label, but thinking that nobody else would have her, she took the deal. Her first record for Four Star was "A Church, A Courtroom & Then Good-Bye", which attracted little attention, although it led to appearances on the Grand Ole Opry. As these performances were not "records" per se, they were not governed by her contract, and she could sing what she wanted, within reason. This somewhat eased her "stifled" feeling.
Between 1955 and 1957, Cline recorded honky tonk material, with songs like "Fingerprints", "Pick Me Up On Your Way Down", "Don't Ever Leave Me Again", and "A Stranger In My Arms". Cline co-wrote the last two. None of these songs gained notable success. She experimented with rockabilly.
According to Decca Records producer Owen Bradley, the Four Star compositions only hinted at Patsy's potential. Bradley thought that her voice was best-suited for pop music, but Cline sided with Peer and the other Four Star producers, insisting that she could only record country songs, as her contract also stated. Every time Bradley tried to get her to sing the torch songs that would become her signature, she would panic, missing her familiar country fiddle and steel guitar. She often rebelled, only wishing to sing country and yodel. She recorded 51 songs with Four Star.
On July 1, 1955 Cline made her network television debut on the short-lived television version of the Grand Ole Opry on ABC-TV. This was followed by an appearance on the network's Ozark Jubilee later that month.
In 1956, Cline met Winchester native Charlie Dick, a linotype operator and good-looking ladies man who frequented the local club circuit Cline played on weekends, in Berryville, VA, eight miles from Winchester, at an Armory dance where she was the vocalist. His raw charm and persistence resulted in an affair—though still married to Cline, and involved in an on again/off again relationship with manager Bill Peer. Later that year, while looking for material for her first album, Patsy Cline, "Walkin' After Midnight" appeared, written by Donn Hecht and Alan Block. Cline initially did not like the song because it was, according to her, "just a little old pop song". However, the song's writers and record label insisted that she record it.
Late in 1956, she auditioned for Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts in New York City, and was accepted to sing on the CBS-TV show on January 21, 1957. Godfrey's "discovery" of Cline was typical. Her scout (actually her mother) presented Patsy, who initially was supposed to sing "A Poor Man's Roses (Or a Rich Man's Gold)". However, the shows producers insisted she sing "Walkin' After Midnight" instead, since it was set to be released shortly thereafter by Decca Records. Though the song was heralded as a country song, and recorded in Nashville, Godfrey's staff insisted that Cline appear in a cocktail dress rather than in one of her mother's hand-crafted cowgirl outfits.
The audience's enthusiastic ovations pushed the applause meter to its apex, winning the competition for her. After the Godfrey show, listeners began calling their local radio stations to request the song, so she released it as a single. Although Cline had been performing for almost a decade and had appeared on national TV three times, it took Godfrey to make her a star. For a couple of weeks thereafter, Cline appeared regularly on Godfrey's radio program. Disagreements over creative control caused Godfrey to fire her.
"Walkin' After Midnight" reached No. 2 on the country chart and No. 16 on the pop chart, making Cline one of the first country singers to have a crossover pop hit. The single drove her success for the next year or so. She stayed visible by making personal appearances and performing regularly on Godfrey's show, as well as performing for several years on Ozark Jubilee (later Jubilee USA). She had no other hits with Four Star.
In 1957, Cline recorded "A Stranger in My Arms" and "Don't Ever Leave Me Again", written by friends Lillian Clarborne and James Crawford, the only known releases on which Cline contributed music (she could play piano by ear) under her birth name Virginia Hensley. However, Four-Star Records lists Cline as a contributor to Barbara Vaughn's 1956 tune "Wicked Love", leading to speculation that she may have cut a demo of the song. If so, it has never surfaced.
After the birth of their daughter, Julie, in 1958, Cline and her husband moved to Nashville, Tennessee.
In 1959 Cline met Randy Hughes, a session guitarist and promotion man. Hughes became her manager and helped her change labels. When her Four Star contract expired in 1960, she signed with Decca Records-Nashville, directly under Owen Bradley, a legendary producer of female country singers. He was responsible for much of Cline's success and positively influenced the careers of both Brenda Lee and Loretta Lynn.
Even though she was still scared of the lush Nashville sound arrangements, Bradley considered Cline's voice best-suited for country pop-crossover songs. His direction and arrangements helped smooth her voice into the silky, torch song style for which she won fame.
Cline's first release for Decca was the country pop ballad "I Fall to Pieces" (1961), written by Hank Cochran and Harlan Howard. The song was promoted and won success on both country and pop stations. On the country charts, it slowly climbed to the top, garnering her first Number One ranking. In a major feat for country singers at the time, the song also hit No. 12 on the pop and No. 6 on the adult contemporary charts, making her a household name and demonstrating that women could achieve as much crossover success as men.
On January 9, 1960, Cline realized a lifelong dream when the Grand Ole Opry accepted her request to join the cast, making her the only person to achieve membership in such a fashion. She became one of the Opry's biggest stars.
Even before that time, believing that there was "room enough for everybody", and confident of her abilities and appeal, Cline befriended and encouraged women starting out in the country music field at that time, including Loretta Lynn, Dottie West, Jan Howard, 16-year-old Brenda Lee and a 13-year-old steel-guitar player named Barbara Mandrell (with whom Cline once toured). All cited her as a major influence.
According to both Lynn and West, Cline always gave of herself to friends, buying them groceries and furniture and even hiring them as wardrobe assistants. On occasion, she paid their rent so they could stay in Nashville and continue pursuing their dreams. Honky-tonk pianist and Opry star Del Wood said, "Even when she didn't have it, she'd spend it — and not always on herself. She'd give anyone the skirt off her backside if they needed it".
She cultivated a brash and gruff exterior as "one of the boys", befriending male artists as well. Among them were Roger Miller, Hank Cochran, Faron Young, Ferlin Husky, Harlan Howard and Carl Perkins, with all of whom she socialized at the famed Tootsie's Orchid Lounge, next door to the Opry. In the 1986 documentary The Real Patsy Cline, singer George Riddle said of her, "It wasn't unusual for her to sit down and have a beer and tell a joke, and she'd never be offended at the guys' jokes either, because most of the time she'd tell a joke dirtier than you! Patsy was full of life".
Cline used the term of endearment "Hoss" to her friends, both male and female, and called herself "The Cline". She met Elvis Presley in 1962 at a fundraiser for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital and they exchanged phone numbers. Having seen him perform during a rare Grand Ole Opry appearance, she admired his music, called him The Big Hoss, and often recorded with his backup group, The Jordanaires.
By this time, Cline controlled her own career, making it clear to all involved that she could stand up to any man, verbally and professionally, and was ready to challenge them if they interfered with her. At a time when concert promoters often cheated stars by promising to pay them after the show but skipping out with the money before the concert ended, Cline demanded her money before she took the stage: Her "No dough, no show", became the rule. According to friend Roy Drusky in the The Real Patsy Cline: "Before one concert, we hadn't been paid. And we were talking about who was going to tell the audience that we couldn't perform without pay. Patsy said, 'I'll tell 'em!' And she did!" Dottie West recalled with amazement some 25 years later that "It was common knowledge around town that you didn't mess with 'The Cline!"
Unable to capitalize upon the success of "I Fall to Pieces" due to her hospital stay, Cline sought another recording to re-establish herself. When introduced to "Crazy", a song written by Willie Nelson, Cline expressed dislike because of the narrative on Nelson's demo recording. On Thursday, August 17, 1961, with Cline on crutches, the session was the rare time that Cline couldn't complete a recording in one take.
Working in a Quonset hut (where the original Bradley's Barn Studio was located before moving to Opryland), she tried to follow Nelson's idiosyncratic narrative style. Cline claimed this was too difficult,and her ribs, injured in the crash, were making it hard for her to reach the high notes. In an era when it was standard to record four songs in a three-hour run, those in the "Crazy" session spent four hours on a single song. It was eventually decided that Cline would return the following Monday and simply sing the lyrics, overdubbing her vocals on the best instrumental track. Able after rest to reach the high notes, she recorded her part in a single take.
The popular appeal of the final version was attributed to Bradley's management of Cline's fear, because he convinced her to imbue the recording with her unique persona. The song became an intimate representation of Cline and is seen as completely unlike Nelson's version. Now a classic, "Crazy" ultimately became Cline's signature song.
By late 1961, "Crazy" was a crossover success, straddling the country and pop genres, and reached the Top 10 on the charts. It became Cline's biggest pop hit. The song subsequently reached No. 9 on the US Hot 100 and No. 2 on both the Hot Country Songs and the Adult Contemporary lists. An album released in November 1961, entitled Patsy Cline Showcase, featured both of Cline's hits of that year. Loretta Lynn later reported on her album, I Remember Patsy, that on the night Cline premiered "Crazy" at the Grand Ole Opry, she received three standing ovations.
In the fall of 1961, Cline was back in the studio to record an upcoming album for release in early 1962. One of the first songs was "She's Got You", written by Hank Cochran. Cochran pitched the song over the phone to Cline and she fell in love with it at once. It was one of the few songs she enjoyed recording. Released as a single in January 1962, it soon crossed over, reaching No. 14 on the pop charts, No. 3 on the adult contemporary charts (originally called "Easy Listening"), and as her second and final chart-topper, No. 1 on the country chart. She would never again enter the pop charts during her lifetime.
"She's Got You" was also Cline's first entry in the United Kingdom singles chart, reaching No. 43. The cover by Alma Cogan, one of Britain's most popular female artists of the 1950s, performed notably as well. (The biggest Hit Parade UK record sales entry before her death was her version of the standard Heartaches, reaching the Top 30 in late 1962.)
Following the success of "She's Got You", Cline released a string of smaller country hits, including the Top 10 "When I Get Thru' With You", "Imagine That", "So Wrong", and "Heartaches". These were not big crossover hits, but still reached the Top 20 and Top 10.
In 1962, Cline appeared on Dick Clark's American Bandstand and released her third album, Sentimentally Yours in August. When asked in a WSM-AM interview about her vocal stylings, she said, "Oh, I just sing like I hurt inside".
Life on the road was beginning to wear on Cline. She longed to spend more time with her children, Julie and Randy, and was starting to talk about a hiatus. But Randy, her manager insisted that they had to strike while the iron was hot.
While bands typically backed up the female singer, Cline led the band throughout the concerts instead. She was so respected by men in the industry that rather than introducing her to audiences as "Pretty Miss Patsy Cline", as her female contemporaries often were, she was given a more stately introduction such as that given by Johnny Cash on their 1962 tour: "Ladies and Gentlemen, The One and Only – Patsy Cline". As an artist, she held her fans in extremely high regard, many of them becoming friends, staying for hours after concerts to chat and sign autographs.
Cline was the first woman in country music to perform at New York's Carnegie Hall, sharing the bill with fellow Opry members Minnie Pearl, Jim Reeves, Faron Young, Bill Monroe, and Grandpa Jones. The performance garnered sharp disapproval from gossip columnist Dorothy Kilgallen, at whom Cline eloquently fired back. In Los Angeles, she headlined the Hollywood Bowl with Cash. And in December 1962, she became the first woman in country music to headline her own show in Las Vegas, at the downtown Mint Casino.
This success enabled Cline to buy her dream home in the Goodlettsville suburb of Nashville, decorating it in her own style. It featured gold dust sprinkled in the bathroom tiles and a music room with the finest sound equipment. In The Real Patsy Cline, Lynn remembered: "She called me into the front yard and said, 'Isn't this pretty? Now I'll never be happy until I have my Mama one just like it.'" Cline called it "the house that Vegas built", since the money from the Mint covered its cost. After her death, Cline's home was sold to singer Wilma Burgess.
With the new demand for Cline came higher earnings. Reportedly, she was paid at least $1,000 per appearance toward the end of her life. This was an unheard-of sum for country music women, whose average fees were less than $200 a show.
To match her new sophisticated sound, Cline also reinvented her personal style, shedding her trademark Western cowgirl outfits for more elegant gowns, cocktail dresses, spiked heels, and gold lamé pants. In the days before Tanya's skintight leather pants and Reba's famous red dress shocked the country music establishment, Patsy's new image was considered riskier and sexier than anything anybody had ever seen. Country music industry personnel and fans were more used to seeing gingham and calico dresses. Like her sound, Cline's style in fashion was mocked at first, then copied. She also loved dangly earrings, ruby-red lipstick and her favorite perfume was Wind Song.
During her 5 1⁄2-year career, Cline received a dozen awards for her achievements, and three more following her death from the Music Reporter, Billboard Awards and Cashbox.
Cline wrote of her success in a letter to friend Anne Armstrong: "It's wonderful —- but what do I do for '63? It's getting so even Cline can't follow Cline!"
During the same period, Dottie West, June Carter Cash, and Loretta Lynn recalled Cline telling them that she felt a sense of impending doom and did not expect to live much longer. Cline, already known for her excessive generosity, had begun giving away personal items to friends; she wrote her will on Delta Air Lines stationery and asked close friends to care for her children should anything happen to her. She told The Jordanaires' bass singer Ray Walker as she exited the Grand Ole Opry the week before her death: "Honey, I've had two bad ones (accidents). The third one will either be a charm or it'll kill me".
In early February, Cline was back in the Quonset hut to record her fourth and what would become her final album of new material, originally entitled Faded Love. Mixing country standards and such vintage pop classics as Irving Berlin's "Always" and "Does Your Heart Beat for Me", these sessions were the most contemporary-sounding of her career. They featured a full string section with no conventional country music instruments. Before her death, as Owen Bradley told Patsy author Margaret Jones, he and Cline had talked of doing an album of show tunes and standards, including Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man, since Cline was such a fan of Helen Morgan, who had recorded the song back in 1927.
Cline got so involved with the stories in the songs' lyrics, she reportedly cried through most of her final sessions. The raw emotion can be plainly heard on such tracks as "Sweet Dreams" and at the end of "Faded Love". At the playback party, held after the sessions on February 7, according to singer Jan Howard in the documentary Remembering Patsy, Cline held up a copy of her first record and gestured towards the recording booth referencing her newest tracks and said, "Well, here it is ... the first and the last".
Loretta Lynn, also present at the playback party after having gotten herself and her husband Mooney up out of bed at the singer's request, admonished her. "Oh, Patsy!" she cried. Taken aback, the singer said, "Oh, don't get upset. I was only talking about my first recordings compared to the ones we did tonight. Listen to the difference". Cline died a month later.
In the 2003 book Remembering Patsy, guitarist-producer Harold Bradley said of Cline: "She's taken the standards for being a country music vocalist, and raised the bar. Even now, women are trying to get to that bar.... If you're going to be a country singer, and if you're not going to copy her – and most people do come to town doing just that – then you have to be aware of her technique. It's always good to know what was in the past, because someone might think they're pretty hot until they hear her.... It gives all the female singers coming in something to gauge their talents against. And I expect it will forever".
When Cline made her first commercial recordings in 1955, Kitty Wells was the top female vocalist in the field. By the time Cline broke through as a consistent hit-maker, Wells, known as The Queen of Country Music, was still country's biggest female star. Cline dethroned her in 1961-62, however, winning the Billboard Magazine Award for Favorite Female Country & Western Artist for two years in a row as well as the Music Reporter Star of The Year Award for 1962.
Southern Philadelphian pop punk band The Wonder Years references Cline as the basis for "A Song For Patsy Cline" off the album No Closer To Heaven. The song references Cline's impending sense of doom leading up to her death, such as her crying at the end of "Faded Love".
Three of Cline's songs became posthumous Top 10 Country hits: "Sweet Dreams", "Leavin' on Your Mind" and "Faded Love". Instead of the last sessions being programmed into an album of their own and released intact, a double-album entitled The Patsy Cline Story was released in June 1963 by Decca (now Universal Music Group). The album featured many of her greatest hits, a few singles that had never been previously released on albums, and about half of the material recorded during the February 4–7 sessions of 1963. In 1988, the material was released almost in its entirety as The Last Sessions. Rather than being programmed into an album as all her previous releases had been, this release merely presented the tracks in their original chronological session order. Two tracks from the period—the first track recorded on February 4 (Faded Love), and the last track recorded on February 7 (I'll Sail My Ship Alone) -- do not appear in this compilation.
By the mid-1960s, MCA had acquired Decca and continued to issue Cline albums into the early 1970s, garnering the artist several posthumous hits along the way. Some of the more notable start in early 1964 with a Top 25 country hit "He Called Me Baby", a song recorded during her "last sessions" in 1963. The track was released on her 1964 album That's How a Heartache Begins. Her Greatest Hits album, released in 1967, continues to occasionally appear on the country music charts and was the longest album to stay on the country charts in country music history until Garth Brooks surpassed it in the 1990s.
In 1973, Cline was the first female solo artist to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. Johnny Cash announced the honor for the CMA Awards show, televised live from Ryman Auditorium.
In the late 1970s, Cline's name occasionally appeared in magazine articles and television interviews with West and Lynn, who credited her with inspiration for their success. Although Lynn said in her 1976 autobiography that she would never record an album of Patsy's hits "because it would hurt too much", she did just that a year later. The tribute album, I Remember Patsy, was released in 1977 and contained the single "She's Got You" a hit with Cline in 1962, and renditions of such other Cline favorites as "Crazy", "Back in Baby's Arms" and "Sweet Dreams".
Lynn's 1976 autobiography, Coal Miner's Daughter, featured an entire chapter dedicated to her friendship with Cline. Viewers were reintroduced to Patsy when the biopic of the same name was released four years later. After Coal Miner's Daughter opened, MCA re-released "Always". The soundtrack released used the original 1963 vocal and overdubs by many of the Nashville sound musicians who had been a part of the original scene. The song reached No. 18 on the Hot Country Songs list in 1980. In 1981, two electronically produced duets were released between Cline and Jim Reeves, who died the year after her in another plane crash. Their duet of "Have You Ever Been Lonely (Have You Ever Been Blue)" was a No. 5 country hit that year and their duet of "I Fall to Pieces" became an interesting footnote in music history. Like Cline, Reeves gained a massive fan base after his death, as well as a string of re-issued singles. In 1985, the movie Sweet Dreams appeared, starring Jessica Lange as Patsy.
In 1992, the U.S. Postal Service created special-issue postage stamps to honor Patsy Cline, along with other country superstars such as Hank Williams, the Carter Family and Bob Wills.
A Patsy Cline exhibit was featured in 1993 when the Grand Ole Opry opened its doors in Nashville for its inaugural season. Several of her awards, stage outfits, wigs, make-up, hairbrushes, and a fully furnished replica of her dream home's music room were on display. The year marked the 30th anniversary of her death, so the Opry made its Saturday night segment a tribute to Cline, Hawkins and Copas. With Cline's widower and their daughter in attendance, her longtime friend Jan Howard paid tribute to Cline by singing "I Fall to Pieces" (co-written by Howard's ex-husband, Harlan Howard); Lynn followed with the classic "She's Got You". Later that year, Lynn, Dolly Parton and Tammy Wynette included Cline's cover of "Lovesick Blues" on their Honky Tonk Angels trio album, singing along with Cline's original vocals lifted off the early multi-track tapes. A year later, Cline became a member of the Texas Cowgirl Hall of Fame.
In 1997, Cline's recording of "Crazy" was named the number one jukebox hit of all time. "I Fall to Pieces" came in at No. 17. In 1998, she was nominated to The Hollywood Walk of Fame by a dedicated fan, and received her star posthumously in 1999; later, a street was named after her on the back lot of Universal Studios.
Also in 1999, VH1 named Cline number 11 on its 100 Greatest Women of Rock and Roll. She was also honored with the Nashville Golden Voice Award in its Legend Category that same year.
In 2002, CMT named Cline first on its 40 Greatest Women of Country Music, voted by members of the music industry. "I Fall to Pieces" was listed at No. 107 on RIAA's list of Songs of the Century in 2001. Lynn released a sequel to her autobiography, Coal Miner's Daughter, called Still Woman Enough and again dedicated a chapter to her friendship with Cline.I
IEarly in 2005, Patsy Cline's Greatest Hits was certified by the RIAA as Diamond, recognizing the sale of 10 million copies. The album was listed as Longest-Charting Title by a Female Artist in the 2005 edition of the Guinness Book of World Records. For its 40th anniversary reissue in 2007, Bob Ludwig remastered the album and featured the original 1967 cover art.
ILater in 2007, Cline's childhood home in Winchester, Virginia, was awarded a prominent on-site marker cast in bronze for a place on The National Register of Historic Places. The house was placed on the Virginia Landmarks Register and features a State of Virginia Historical Marker on the street in front. Each year, on Labor Day weekend, thousands of fans celebrate Cline's birthday at Shenandoah Memorial Gardens. Cline's widower, daughter, and all of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren, as well as other family members, attended the 20th annual gathering on September 8, 2007. After a multi million-dollar renovation at her former school, built in 1923, authorities dedicated The Patsy Cline Theatre there in 2009. Winchester has also built a memorial bell tower at Shenandoah Memorial Park and named two roadways after her, the Patsy Cline Memorial Highway and Patsy Cline Boulevard.
In Coal Miner's Daughter, Beverly D'Angelo portrayed Patsy alongside Sissy Spacek as Loretta Lynn. The film gained a wide audience. Instead of lip-synching to the original recordings, as was common during the period, both actresses sang. Contrary to the movie script, Cline and Lynn never toured together. Cline also never owned a bus (though she had planned to buy one before her death), and stars during her time usually traveled in caravans and limousines.
In 1985, HBO/Tri Star Pictures released Sweet Dreams: The Life and Times of Patsy Cline, starring Jessica Lange in the lead role with Ed Harris and Ann Wedgeworth as her husband Charlie Dick and her mother Hilda Hensley, respectively. The film was based on research by Bernard Schwartz. Lange lip-synced to Cline's original recordings.
The film depicted Cline's marriage to Dick as abusive, portraying Cline as a victim of domestic violence; however, as Dottie West commented in a 1986 interview: "It was always very interesting to watch – because you always knew Patsy was going to win! He was her man. He was her lover". Cline's mother was quoted in a 1985 issue of People as saying, "The producers told me they were going to make a love story. I saw the film once. That was enough. Jessica (Lange) did well with what she had to work with". Charlie Dick stated in the same article: "It's a great film – if you like fiction". The remainder of Cline's family and close friends claimed that numerous sequences in the film had been inaccurately fictionalized for Hollywood and were not pleased with the final product.
Several inaccuracies in Sweet Dreams revolved around the plane crash. The aircraft used was a Cessna 172 Skyhawk, not a Piper Comanche, and the crashes cause was portrayed as difficulty restarting the engine after switching fuel tanks. The film also depicted the plane crashing into a mountain cliff and bursting into flames, though there are no mountains at the actual crash site and the plane did not explode. (In Billboard's review of Ellis Nassour's 1981 Patsy Cline: An Intimate Biography, the reviewer gives high praise to Nassour for his research in recreating events leading up to the crash and the crash itself. In the 2008 revised edition of Nassour's second biography, Honky Tonk Angel: The Intimate Story of Patsy Cline, Nassour includes further documentation obtained from the official CAB (Civil Aeronautics Board) report on the crash, which is kept at the regional office of the National Archives in Atlanta, Georgia.
Sweet Dreams was a modest hit and Lange was nominated for an Academy Award for her performance, one she has mentioned as a favorite. The soundtrack, featuring several numbers overdubbed with new orchestral arrangements, was a success, and Cline's recordings began to climb the charts again, as was the case after the publication of Coal Miner's Daughter. Since the earlier overdubbed recordings had done so well, Bradley and arranger Bill McElhiney laid her original vocals onto a digitally-recorded background for a fresh new sound. These new recordings returned Cline's voice to attention once again, producing several hits with Walkin' After Midnight Lovesick Blues and Foolin' Round from the soundtrack.
Subsequently, more accurate video documentaries have been produced, including Sweet Dreams Still: The Live Collection, The Real Patsy Cline and Remembering Patsy. The latter was re-edited and used on the show Biography on the A&E Cable Channel in the mid-1990s.
Ten years after Sweet Dreams, Patsy was portrayed again in Big Dreams and Broken Hearts: The Dottie West Story, a 1995 CBS made-for-TV movie featuring Tere Myers as Patsy and Michelle Lee as Dottie. In 2007, a biopic entitled Crazy, about the life of Hank Garland, lead guitarist on many of Patsy's records, featured Mandy Barnett of Always ... Patsy Cline fame as Patsy.