Patti Page Remembered As The Biggest Female Singer Of 1950s

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Robert Siegel talks to Dr. Hugh Foley, founding member of the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame, about Patti Page. Page was the top-selling female singer of the 1950s. She died at the age of 85 on New Year's Day in Encinitas, Calif.


Anyone who grew up listening to the radio or putting vinyl discs on a record player in the early 1950s will recognize this tune instantly.


PATTI PAGE: (Singing) I was dancing with my darling to the Tennessee waltz.

SIEGEL: "Tennessee Waltz" sung by Patti Page sold 10 million copies, and that was just one of her 15 gold records. Patti Page died on New Year's Day at age 85 in California. She is remembered as the biggest female singing star of the 1950s and in the state of Oklahoma as a native daughter who made good.

Dr. Hugh Foley was part of the committee that inducted her into the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame, and he joins us now from Stillwater. Welcome.

DR. HUGH FOLEY: A pleasure to be with you, Robert.

SIEGEL: And Patti Page came from Oklahoma, with rather very modest Oklahoma roots, I gather.

FOLEY: Yes, Sir. She was born in Claremore, Oklahoma. That's about 15 miles northeast of Tulsa. It's also where Will Rogers called home.

SIEGEL: In the 1940s, late '40s, she made a song called "Confess" in which through the miracle of recording as it still seemed in those days, I guess, one could hear Patti Page singing with Patti Page.


PAGE: (Singing) Confess, confess, confess. Why don't you confess? Say yes, say yes.

FOLEY: It was her idea, as I understand it, to add her own backup vocals to the track to create the impression of a vocal group, and as a matter of fact when they put the listing of performers on the record, it was the Patti Page Quartet.

SIEGEL: And I gather part of the virtue of it to the recording company was how cheap it was to have her do both parts.

FOLEY: Sure. You only have to pay one singer to do them all, so it worked out for her and for them.

SIEGEL: Patti Page will, I suppose, be remembered onto eternity for having recorded the great early '50s novelty tune "(How Much is That) Doggie in the Window."


PAGE: (Singing) How much is that doggie in the window (barking) the one with the waggley tail?

FOLEY: She said that "Tennessee Waltz" was a much bigger hit and artistically very significant, but what she's often remembered for sometimes derisively is that "Doggie in the Window" song because what rock music writers talk about with the onset of rock in the early 1950s is that popular music had just gotten silly.


PAGE: (Barking) (Singing) I do hope that doggie is for sale.


PAGE: (Singing) I introduced her to my loved one. And while they were dancing, my friend stole my sweetheart from me.

FOLEY: One of the things I think is really interesting about, especially when you start to talk about "Tennessee Waltz," is just how popular that song was on several fronts. I mean it was a mega-crossover hit, and she was able to become a country music artist as well as a pop music artist, and even "Tennessee Waltz" was considered an R&B hit.

SIEGEL: I'm still trying to figure out that one, but I've read that in all the obits that "Tennessee Waltz" broke - just broke through all barriers.

FOLEY: Oh, it sure did. When you listen to Patti Page, I think you can hear in her voice a polished element that comes from years of being in the popular music environment, but she was also able to conjure up her Oklahoma-ness, and so there is an easy delivery to her "Tennessee Waltz" that transcends the genre boundaries.

SIEGEL: Dr. Foley, thank you very much for talking with us.

FOLEY: My pleasure.

SIEGEL: Dr. Hugh Foley is professor of fine arts at Rogers State University in Claremore, Oklahoma. We were talking about the late Patti Page.



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