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Country Music is a child of rural US folk songs and ballads. It appeared the 1920s, abetted by network radio. The weight of its songs rests on clear music and bulky lyrics that sell three-minute melodramas. Examples are “Crazy Arms,” by Ray Price; “Big City,” by Merle Haggard, and, more recently, “Black Cadillacs,” by Carrie Yearwood.
Singers sell songs. Lacking much vocal talent, Rod Stewart sells songs, well, across music styles. He has huge hits with Pop, Folk, Rock, Standards, Motown and Christmas songs.
A good Blues singer thinks of her life as full of back luck, as did Janis Joplin. It takes equal amounts of misogyny and male centric lust to sell Rock, as did Robert Plant. To sell Country Music, as well as does George Strait, calls for plenty of warmth and hope.
Patsy Cline sold songs much better than most. In 1955, she sold, “Walking after Midnight,” a recognized Country song, to a national television audience. Pop music was what that half-listening audience understood; Country Music was a hillbilly, backwoods novelty. Cline won the 1 July 1955 episode ...
... of “Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts,” an amateur talent show akin to “American Idol.” Her win confirmed she could sell any song to any audience.
“Her ability to sell a song,” says Vicki Gillespie, “led to a riddle, popular among singers and musicians in Texas. ‘How many Texas 'chick' singers does it take to sing Patsy Cline?’” The answer is all the Texas 'chick' singers.
Vicki Gillespie is no slouch when it comes to selling a song. She is lead singer for “Almost Patsy Cline.” “We’re not a tribute band,” says Gillespie. “The band name came from a friend who thought I sounded like Cline when I sing.” Yet, sometimes, they must do Cline to appease her most fervent fans.
“Almost Patsy Cline,” wrote reviewer , T Johnson, “is a Texas band with heart; the most enjoyable band in Hill Country.” A nameless blogger, wrote, “They sound so much like Patsy and her music, it is beyond spooky.” About Vicki Gillespie, a blogger wrote her voice is “as smooth as an expensive liqueur.”
The larger question is why Gillespie is a singer with “Almost Patsy Cline.” A retired schoolteacher, with a family, she earned the right to an easy life. Instead, she lives the wild life, of a sort, performing at least ten nights a month in dance halls all over Texas.
“I wasn’t getting any younger,” says Gillespie. “Would this chance come, again?” She went for it.” In 2001, Gillespie formed “Almost Patsy Cline,” with Lanette Pennell.
No jukebox band, “Almost Patsy Cline” sells a wide range of music, well beyond Classic Country. This isn’t what you expect from a Texas Two-step band. “Almost Patsy Cline” is not what you expect on first hearing the name.
Gillespie shows conventionality is only one road to success. In this interview, she explains why “Almost Patsy Cline” is a success.
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