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'Tennessee Waltz' singer Patti Page dies at 85

Entertainer Patti Page, born Clara Ann Fowler in 1927 in Claremore, died New Year's Day at age 85 in Encinitas, Calif.
From staff and wire reports Modified: January 3, 2013 at 9:41 am •  Published: January 3, 2013

A year later she signed a contract with Mercury Records and began appearing in nightclubs in the Chicago area.

Her first major hit was “With My Eyes Wide Open I'm Dreaming,” but she got noticed a few years earlier with “Confess.”

“Tennessee Waltz,” her biggest-selling record, was a fluke.

Because Christmas was approaching, Mercury Records wanted Page to record “Boogie Woogie Santa Claus” in 1950.

Page and Rael got hold of “Tennessee Waltz,” convinced that a pop artist could make a smash hit out of it. Mercury agreed to put it on the B-side of the Christmas song.

“Mercury wanted to concentrate on a Christmas song and they didn't want anything with much merit on the flip side,” Page said. “They didn't want any disc jockeys to turn the Christmas record over. The title of that great Christmas song was ‘Boogie Woogie Santa Claus,' and no one ever heard of it.”

“Tennessee Waltz” became the first pop tune that crossed over into a big country hit. The waltz was on the charts for 30 weeks, 12 of them in the top 10.

Page performed at the Oklahoma Centennial Spectacular at Chesapeake Energy Arena along with Carrie Underwood, Vince Gill and Reba McEntire in November 2007. She had 24 records in the top 10, including four that reached No. 1.

She was popular in pop music and country and became the first singer to have television programs on all three major networks, including “The Patti Page Show” on ABC. In films, Page co-starred with Burt Lancaster in his Oscar-winning appearance of “Elmer Gantry,” and she appeared in “Dondi” with David Janssen and in “Boy's Night Out” with James Garner and Kim Novak. She also starred on stage in the musical comedy “Annie Get Your Gun.”

In 1999, after 51 years of performing, Page won her first Grammy for traditional pop vocal performance for “Live at Carnegie Hall — The 50th Anniversary Concert.”

Page was planning to attend a special ceremony on Feb. 9 in Los Angeles where she was to receive a lifetime achievement award from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.

Neil Portnow, the Academy's president and CEO, said he spoke with Page and she had been “grateful and excited” to receive the honor. “Our industry has lost a remarkable talent and a true gift, and our sincere condolences go out to her family, friends and fans who were inspired by her work.”

Contributing: Staff Writers George Lang and Rick Rogers

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