From staff, wire reports
CLAREMORE, Okla. —
Claremore native Patti Page, famous for her versions of “Tennessee Waltz” and “(How Much Is That) Doggie in the Window,” was remembered fondly this week by those who knew her and loved her music.
Page died Tuesday in Encinitas, Calif., at the age of 85.
“We know she’d been having some health issues for a while — the same which prevented her from coming to Claremore last year when we premiered ‘Flipside,’ the musical story of her life, here in Claremore,” said Tanya Andrews, director of the Claremore Convention and Visitors Bureau. “We’re all saddened to hear of her passing.”
Glenn Rowe calls himself a longtime fan, and on Wednesday he played a tribute to Page on his morning program on Carthage, Mo., radio station KDMO.
“I’ll probably play some tomorrow and talk about her again,” he said. “I pretty much grew up being a fan of hers in the 1950s. It was the kind of music the country was really looking for.”
Rowe remembers growing up in Michigan and learning to dance to Page’s songs in high school classes.
“We had to do the polka and the waltz,” he said. “I can remember doing it to ‘Changing Partners.’”
Page described herself in a 1999 interview as “a kid from Oklahoma who never wanted to be a singer but was told I could sing. And things snowballed.”
Page was born Clara Ann Fowler on Nov. 8, 1927, in Claremore. The family of three boys and eight girls moved a few years later to Tulsa.
She got her stage name while working at radio station KTUL, which had a 15-minute program sponsored by Page Milk Co. The regular Patti Page singer left and was replaced by Fowler, who took the name with her on the road to stardom.
Page was discovered by Jack Rael, a bandleader who was making a stop in Tulsa in 1946 when he heard Page sing on the radio. Rael called KTUL, asking where the broadcast originated. When he was told that Page was a local singer, he quickly arranged an interview and abandoned his career to be her manager.
Page went on to become one of the country’s best-known female artists in the late 1940s and 1950s. “Tennessee Waltz” scored the rare achievement of reaching No. 1 on the pop, country and R&B charts simultaneously, and was adopted as one of two official songs by the state of Tennessee.
Other hits included “Mockin’ Bird Hill,” “Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte” and “Allegheny Moon.” She teamed with George Jones on “You Never Looked That Good When You Were Mine.”
When rock ’n’ roll music became popular during the second half of the 1950s, traditional pop music was becoming less popular, but Page was one of few traditional pop music singers who were able to sustain success.
She also was the first singer to have television programs on all three major networks, including “The Patti Page Show” on ABC. In films, Page co-starred with Burt Lancaster in his Oscar-winning characterization of “Elmer Gantry,” and she appeared in “Dondi” with David Janssen and in “Boys’ Night Out” with James Garner and Kim Novak.
She also starred on stage in the musical comedy “Annie Get Your Gun.” Her death came just a few days after the conclusion of the run of “Flipside: The Patti Page Story,” an off-Broadway musical commemorating her life.
More accolades came later.
Page received the Pioneer Award from the Academy of Country Music in 1980. In 1997, she was inducted into the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame. She also is a member of the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame.
In 1999, after 51 years of performing, Page won her first Grammy for traditional pop vocal performance for “Live at Carnegie Hall — The 50th Anniversary Concert.”
In 2010, Page was included on the inaugural Claremore Wall of Fame at the J.M. Davis Arms & Historical Museum. She was honored alongside astronaut Stuart Roosa, Helen Walton, wife of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton, and others.
Page had been scheduled to be honored with a Lifetime Achievement Grammy Award in 2013, but she may instead receive it posthumously.
In her later career, Page and husband, Jerry Filiciotto, spent half the year living in Southern California and half in an 1830s farmhouse in New Hampshire. He died in 2009.
Page is survived by son Daniel O’Curran, daughter Kathleen Ginn and sister Peggy Layton.
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS and CHNI News Service contributed to this report.
“TENNESSEE WALTZ,” Patti Page’s biggest-selling record, was a fluke.
BECAUSE CHRISTMAS was approaching, Mercury Records wanted Page to record “Boogie Woogie Santa Claus” in 1950. Mercury agreed to put “Tennessee Waltz” on the B-side of the Christmas song.
“MERCURY WANTED to concentrate on a Christmas song, and they didn’t want anything with much merit on the flip side,” Page said later. “The title of that great Christmas song was ‘Boogie Woogie Santa Claus,’ and no one ever heard of it.”