FANS FROM PATSIFIED.COM SUBMIT QUESTIONS
How and when did you become a Patsifan?
Surely when, in high school, I worked in a
record store in Vicksburg, Mississippi in the late 50s and early 60s. In November,
1962, I had the great opportunity of meeting Patsy while I was at the University of
Mississippi and booking entertainment into several Deep South colleges, but my real
knowledge of Patsy
came in 1970 when, as director of artist relations for Decca/MCA Music/Universal Studios,
I worked extensively with Loretta Lynn -- and Owen Bradley! It was Loretta who
introduced me to Charlie, who later sat for an interview and arranged for me to speak with
Hilda Hensley. At MCA, I met Brenda Lee and the team responsible for really putting
Loretta on the map, the Wilburn Brothers, Doyle and Teddy. Nine years
after working with Loretta, I did a series of four magazine articles, the first written
about Patsy since her death. That led to my first biography.
Was there one single thing in
particular that prompted you to write a book about Patsy?
The fact that she had been such a pioneer and
had virtually been forgotten...
What is it about Patsy that made her
such an interesting subject for you to pursue?
She had so many colorful aspects,
you couldn't help but like Patsy. She could be sweet and thoughtful and then cuss up
a storm and then be mean as hell if she felt the need. What I found most fascinating
was her attraction to Gerald; and then how she completely changed when she and Charlie
married. She also just loved her two "young'uns."
How did you create the book? Did
you start with the ending, the middle, or from the beginning? Did you set up the
layout first, then write within that layout, or was it more piecemeal?
There was nothing piecemeal about the book.
So other than that, ALL OF THE ABOVE. As a veteran of The New York Times, I
was adept at interviewing and research. I think my easy manner, perhaps from my Southern
upbringing, made people comfortable talking to me. Having Hilda's seal of approval also
a great deal and opened a lot of doors.
During your research, did you run into
any major problems that made you fear that this book wasn't going to happen after all?
NO. The magazine articles proved very
popular and were the basis for my proposal to the book publishers. Once it began to
circulate, the book was rejected by about eight major houses! They didn't know who
Patsy was and didn't think anyone would care.
What most surprised you to learn about
Patsy during your research?
After her death, except for two extensive but
superficial album liner notes, very very little was written about Patsy until she was
named to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1973, and very little then. So I began my
researchvery much in the dark about the REAL Patsy, and I was amazed at the strong
opinions people had of her, especially in her hometown. When I mentioned this to Hilda,
she told me that's the way it always
was. That Winchester never really took to Patsy, even after she achieved her fame.
Are there any little nuggets you can
share with us that didn't make it into your book?
Several, but I won't share them now because I
didn't feel comfortable sharing them then. Mainly because Patsy and Charlie's
children never really knew their mother. If you are ethical, you draw the line
somewhere. Though he evidently doesn't think so, I was very fair and objective toward
Charlie. He was the man Patsy loved above all others, and the father of her
children. If someone said anything negative about him that got in print, and the
name of the person I interviewed was there; if anyone said anything positive about
Charlie, I also printed it. Several people -- women as well as men -- made some startling
comments about Patsy, comments that I wouldn't dignify by printing. The biggest
"surprise" was my interview with Faron Young. He went on for over two hours,
sometimes with me on the floor laughing. It was the one interview
that I had to clean up. I could never have put it in the book the way he spoke it.
I still vividly remember coming out of his office over at Music City News in
Nashville red in the face and thinking, "How in the world will I be able to put that
in the book?" When the book came out, maybe after Faron was confronted by
Charlie, he denied he did the interview and told a paper in Dallas that I made it all
up. When they called to get my side, I played them the tape. And that was the
end of that. Sorry to say, Charlie faults me for things others have said, and I
don't think he sees that I tried very hard to be fair. Of course, I don't walk in
Whom did you most enjoy interviewing as
you conducted your research on Patsy?
Hilda, Number One, Charlie, Number Two and a
fascinating woman who befriended Patsy and Charlie when they moved to Nashville, Pearl
Butler, whose husband Carl was a major country star. She eventually joined his
act. I was greatly impressed with Kathy Hughes (Randy's widow) and her total
honesty; and Dottie West and Brenda Lee gave a great deal of their time because they
believed in the project.
Any eerie findings or happenings during
Yes, when Dottie West told me of Patsy's
premonition of an early death. That has stayed with me. I heard about eerie
things that happened to people who lived in the "dream house" and there were
Loretta's stories about how she felt Patsy was guiding her from the grave.
How long did it take you to write the
There's some confusion out there as to
why your book differs with the boxed set on the date of Patsy's first session. Could
you explain that?
The boxed set is wrong. The information I got was in the files at the Country Music
Foundation, the very same organization that put the souvenir book together for the box
set, with material from my book. My information came from Owen Bradley's very own records
of the sessions.
In your book it says that Randy Hughes'
Piper Comanche was green and white, but in the article in The Nashville Banner of
March 6, 1963, it says that the plane was yellow?
Not according to Kathy Hughes, my
source, along with the insurance company records, for information regarding the
plane. It was green and white when Randy bought it and he never had it painted.
How do you feel about the biographies
written by Mark Bego and Margaret Jones?
I never discuss the ethics and working
habits of Bego, as his reputation as a "cut and paste" writer speaks for
itself. If you want to see what kind of writer he is, all you have to do is compare
my book to the information in his book. His publisher, under threat of a lawsuit,
withdrew their book from the market and subsequently printed another edition with an
acknowledgement page regarding the tremendous amount of
material he lifted from my biographies. Jones, at the urging of her publisher, did
list references in the back of her book to pinpoint the information she took from my
biography. However, she should have added another 20 or so! It's a fact of
life that once someone writes a biography, it will be used as "reference" for
all other biographies. You may not like it, but there's nothing you can do.
However, I am very pleased to note that I have never received a negative letter or review
about my book from Patsy fans or in the media.Just the opposite. The oral histories
I gathered from those who knew Patsy, especially her mother, and how I shaped them seemed
to have struck an emotional chord with the readers. That's one reason the
book is still selling.
What makes your book "head &
shoulders" above other books about Patsy? How is it unique?
It was the first and, to date still, the most
definitive biography. It's the only book for which Hilda, Charlie, Dottie, Gerald,
Jean Shepard, Faron Young and so many of Patsy's home area friends were interviewed. Plus
I was lucky enough to stumble on Patsy's diaries and was smart enough to buy up all the
Are there any Patsy Cline recordings
that you've heard that haven't been released?
Not recordings, but audio tapes.
What Patsy discovery do you wish
someone would find?
Her appearance on American Bandstand. And the
negative of the film she and Dottie made in Florida.
What's your favorite Patsy song from
the Four Star years? And the Decca years?
1) "Fingerprints"; 2) "He
Called Me Baby."
Can you remember the first Patsy song
you ever heard?
Sure. "Come On In."
Which Patsy session would you love to
go back in time and attend?
"Faded Love." And what a thrill it
must have been to be at that session, when Patsy was still recovering from the auto
accident, on that Sunday when she recorded "Crazy."
Which Patsy concert would you love to
go back in time and attend?
To what do you attribute Patsy's
Her voice really delivered the full intent of
what the songwriters wrote, and the quality and innovation lavished on her sessions by the
real genius behind Patsy, Owen Bradley. No one sings a torch song like Patsy.
It's like she's living her own story. She sings with emotion. Harlan Howard
said something interesting, that no one but Patsy sang his songs the way he felt they
should be sung. He added that once
or twice he didn't realize how he wanted a couple of his songs sung until he heard Patsy
Do you have any info as to what Patsy's
sister Sylvia and brother John are doing these days?
The family is intensely private, and I have
always abided by their wishes to keep it that way. Sylvia and Sam keep a very low
profile. Sylvia lives in Woodstock, Virginia and John lives nearby in West Virginia.
I saw Sylvia last Fall and said hello, but I don't know if she knew who I was
(maybe it was just as well). Everyone is wondering what will happen to the contents
of Hilda's house (especially the hundreds of outfits she made for Patsy) now that it
has been sold to the Celebrating Patsy Cline entity that is trying to create the long,
long overdue Patsy Cline Museum.
Have you ever met Julie or Randy,
I respect their feelings and have made a
serious attempt never to comment on this.
What do you think Patsy's life teaches
Her life: YOU CAN MAKE DREAMS COME TRUE, and
when they come true you might have some regrets .Her death: God's plan for us is
If you could speak with Patsy now, what
would you say?