Always...Patsy Cline

By Michael W. Stout

"Always...Patsy Cline" is a simple and refreshing glimpse at the legendary singer's music and her friendship with a charming and charmed fan. No booze. No marital strife. No harm. Just music and an amazing friendship. For nearly two hours, Patsy Cline was brought to life and she offered nearly two-dozen classics, all received as well, or better than in the late 1950's and early 1960's. The legend of Patsy Cline will forever remain, in part due to outstanding performances by Alice Spencer and Candyce Hinkle.

Told through the eyes of admirer-turned-friend Louise, humorously portrayed by Hinkle, the play opened on a simple bandstand, a trademark WSM Grand Ole Opry-style microphone, four band members representing Patsy Cline's Boudacious Bobcats and Alice Spencer's hauntingly similar, spine-tingling vocals wrapped around Cline's "Honky Tonk Merry Go Round" and "Back In Baby's Arms."

Louise got her first exposure to Patsy Cline on a black-and-white television set, as Cline belted out "Walkin' After Midnight" on "Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts." She was immediately hooked on this gal from Virginia called Patsy Cline.

Louise began requesting Patsy Cline records at her local radio station. One day, Hal, the local disc jockey, told Louise that Ms. Cline was coming to their hometown of Houston. Louise, her boyfriend, her boss and the rest of her "bunch" arrived first at the Esquire Ballroom to see the new, hot Decca's artist. Louise had no idea that as she sashayed through those swinging doors, that she was about to meet someone who would become one of her dearest friends.

The heart of this production centered on the first meeting of Patsy and Louise in a Texas nightclub and the remainder of that one evening. Louise clapped along all evening as Patsy wowed the crowd with "Your Cheatin' Heart," "She's Got You," "Lovesick Blues," and "Sweet Dreams." As this magical evening drew to a close, Louise insisted her new best friend accompany her to her place for bacon and eggs. There, the two discussed love, life and children and Patsy gave Louise an "early" listen to Willie Nelson's "Crazy," "If I Could See The World (Through The Eyes Of A Child)" and a well-received number (due to geographical location), the late Bill Monroe's "Blue Moon Of Kentucky."

Patsy Cline wound up spending that special night with her new friend and obliged her request for meeting her disc jockey friend Hal for an on-air interview early the next morning. As Patsy prepared to board a plane back to Nashville, the two exchanged addresses and phone numbers. Louise expected a "Faded Love" but was proven wrong when she got the first of many letters (each signed "Love Always, Patsy Cline") and phone calls.

They stayed in close touch until Louise heard the news bulletin on the car radio that Patsy Cline had been killed in a plane crash.

A magical friendship had come to an abrupt end.