Numerous sources are reporting the death of Patti Page, a genre-blurring singer who epitomized the pre-Elvis innocence of popular music, creating a string of sentimental hits that made her the best-selling female artist of the 1950s and an international star for decades. Page was 85.
Born Clara Ann Fowler, Page adopted her stage name from the Tulsa radio show—sponsored by Page Milk—where she first broke out as a singer. From there, she became one of the most in-demand voices of the post-World War II era—a soothing voice that spoke of sweeter things and simpler times, with some critics later pointing to Page's songs in particular as examples of the inane, feeble pop music that rock 'n' roll was created to destroy. Be that as it may, Page certainly didn't suffer for being so unapologetically bland: Songs like "I Went To Your Wedding" and especially "(How Much Is That) Doggie In The Window"—which later found appropriate life as a children's novelty song—were huge, selling millions and spending months at the top of the charts. And for all the accusations of being derivative, on her early efforts like "Confess" and "With My Eyes Wide Open I'm Dreaming," Page was actually something of a musical pioneer, becoming noteworthy for multi-tracking her own vocal harmonies—some say the first to ever do so.
Page's signature tune, "Tennessee Waltz"—a "fluke" hit spawned from the B-side of the (gratefully) forgotten single, "Boogie Woogie Santa Claus"—was No. 1 on the pop, country, and R&B charts for a large chunk of 1951. Thereafter, it became something of a cottage industry unto itself, with several other versions of the song also climbing the charts and covers being performed by artists as varied as Otis Redding, Leonard Cohen, and Emmylou Harris. The state of Tennessee later adopted it as one of its official songs.
Page parlayed her celebrity into stints in films and on TV, co-starring in such movies as Elmer Gantry, Dondi, and Boy's Night Out. At the height of her fame, Page hosted shows on all three networks, including The Patti Page Show on NBC. Though she was inevitably lost to the rock revolution, she continued to score hits through 1965's Oscar-nominated "Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte" (from the Bette Davis film of the same name), and she remained a constant presence on the touring circuit until very recently, at times averaging around 50 shows per year. In 1999, Page finally won her first Grammy for the 1997-recorded Live At Carnegie Hall—a correction of a long-standing oversight, due mostly to Page hitting her peak before the Grammys were launched in 1959.