In the 1950’s, Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters helped put the blues forward as a new kind of popular music. It was also in this decade that many pop artists added blues stylings to their songs.
Patsy Cline is still one of the most popular female vocalists of all time. In 1957, the hit song “Walkin’ After Midnight” not only stormed the country charts, but crashed the pop charts too. Patsy’s incredible talent, and specifically this song where she added what’s called “a blue note” to the chorus, changed the way that women were looked at in country music. Not just an opening act, Patsy Cline was obviously headline material.
Like many blues artists, Patsy struggled on her way to the top. Signed to a questionable label for 10 years, who wouldn’t let her choose any of her own songs, she was stuck in obscurity. But one evening while appearing on The Jimmy Dean Television program, talent scout Arthur Godfrey was watching. And after that night, neither Patsy Cline nor the place of women in music would ever be the same. It would be only 5 years from this point of success until her death by plane crash. And she was gonna make the most of it.
KEXP Documentaries are written and produced by Michele Myers. With assistance from John Felthous, Jentery Sayers and Executive Producer Kevin Cole. This series “Blues for Hard Times” was made with much input from University of Washington Music History Professor Larry Starr. These short radio stories are made possible by a grant from The American Music Partnership of Seattle. You can hear all of our over 150 documentaries – with series on Punk, Latin music, Electronic Pop, Soul, Post-Punk, Music Revolutionaries and more here. To keep a closer eye on the docs, and to share in research materials including videos, songs and film documentaries, become our Facebook friend here.