Country singer Patti Page, who ruled the charts in the 1950s with songs like “Tennessee Waltz” and “With My Eyes Wide Open, I’m Dreaming,” died on January 1st at her home in California. She was 85 years old.
Page was born as Clara Ann Fowler in Oklahoma. She got her first break at age 18, when she performed on KTUL in Tulsa, after which she toured with the Jimmy Joy Band. The radio program on which she first performed was sponsored by the Page Milk Company; she was dubbed Patti Page on the air, and the name stuck.
After signing to Mercury Records in 1948, Page released her first single, “Confess.” The single was one of the first recordings to use overdubbed vocals, as a strike prevented background singers from being available. The song was the first of a series of hits Page had in the coming decade: “With My Eyes Wide Open, I’m Dreaming” became her first million-selling single, and “All My Love (Bolero)” topped the Billboard Magazine charts. However, it was her second number 1 hit “Tennessee Waltz” that propelled her to icon status. The song has sold close to 15 million copies to date, and it has become such a staple that Tennessee named it one of the state’s official songs.
Unlike many singers of her time, Page maintained her popularity throughout the rise of rock & roll, signing a number of television deals in the late 1950s and appearing in films in the 1960s. Even as her popularity shrank, she continued touring and recording, winning her first Grammy in 1999. She was announced this year as one of the recipients of the Lifetime Achievement Grammy.