January 21, 1957 was a very big night in the life of 24-year-old, Virginia-born country singer Patsy Cline. That was the evening she was invited to perform on CBS’ highly rated variety series, Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts, TV’s premiere showcase for new talent. Even Elvis Presley hadn’t been able to secure a berth on Talent Scouts, nor did Buddy Holly make the cut. But Rosemary Clooney, Tony Bennett, and Connie Francis had all stopped by Godfrey’s show on the way to the top. This actually wasn’t Cline’s first-ever television performance—having already appeared on Town & Country Time and ABC’s short-lived Grand Old Opry—but it was her first opportunity to do her act on a top 20, national (as opposed to regional) show that was aimed at a general audience, not just C&W fans. And Cline made the most of this opportunity, singing a sultry and self-possessed rendition of the 1954 composition called “Walkin’ After Midnight,” which she had reluctantly recorded to appease her label.
Footage of that Talent Scouts episode has recently resurfaced on a Facebook account called Heppest Of The Hep, dedicated to showing classic live music performances of the 1950s and 1960s. Even today, nearly 60 years later, the performance still mesmerizes. The backup band is not too shabby, either, featuring the guitar talents of Hank Garland, as well as pianist Owen Bradley and second guitarist Grady Martin. Cline may not have been certain of “Midnight” when it was first presented to her by her label, but the song suits her incredibly well, with its undeniable longing.
The performance on Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts worked wonders for Cline’s career. The strong audience reaction to the show prompted Decca to rush release “Walkin’ After Midnight” as a single in February 1957, becoming a smash hit on the country and pop charts and eventually selling a million copies. Ironically, host Godfrey’s career was headed in the opposite direction. A series of shock firings had destroyed his folksy, lovable image. Both of his primetime series, Talent Scouts and Arthur Godfrey And His Friends, were off the air by the end of the decade.
[via Country Rebel]