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Singer, Claremore Native Patti Page Dead At 85

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Patti Page circa 2002 from her web site. Patti Page circa 2002 from her web site.
ENCINITAS, California -

Already this year, we've lost one of Oklahoma's Own, who became the voice of a generation.

In the ‘50s, everyone was singing along with Claremore's Patti Page.

Maybe it was something she learned from her mother, who picked cotton in the hot sun of eastern Oklahoma. Maybe it was music that kept her mother going, hour after hour, day after day, summer after summer. Maybe it was music that held a poor Oklahoma family together—11 children in all.

Born Clara Ann Fowler, it was music that delivered the future Patti Page out of poverty.

She was discovered at a junior high school assembly. A radio station came to visit, and needed someone to buy time while they set up their equipment. A teacher tapped young Clara on the shoulder.

"And he said, 'We've got a little girl up here who can sing,'" Page said. "And I had a sister who was in the 11th grade, and she knew it had to be me. And she was so embarrassed. And she said, ‘Oh no, that's my sister. So with her head covered up, I pranced up on stage and sang, ‘Frankie and Johnnie.'"

That radio station never forgot and put her on the air, filling in, when another singer was sick.

No one knew then of the "Tennessee Waltz" or "Mockin' Bird Hill" or "Doggie in the Window" or any of the hits that would make Patti Page the best selling female artist of the 20th Century.

She got her name off a milk carton, literally. Patti sang on a radio show, sponsored by Tulsa's Page Milk Company. She took the name.

She burst onto the scene in 1947 and was responsible for healing a nation, left rattled and broken after World War II.

"Patti Page was the perfect artist for that time and place," said Bob Blackburn, Executive Director of the Oklahoma Historical Society. "After World War II, Americans were looking for something new. They were looking for a comfort, looking for things that were a little easier going."

Working with bandleader Mitch Miller, she pioneered the use of overdubbing, a technique used in the music industry ever since.

The single was called "Confess" and the only thing Patti had to "confess" was that the she didn't have the money to hire backup singers and singing all the parts herself was cheaper.

It worked so well, she released quartets. Patti sang all four parts, one laid over the other, over the other, over the other. Her music catapulted her to fame, first on radio and then on television.

"The Patti Page Show" was the first of her many TV series. Page became the first singer to have a program on all three major networks.

She topped the pop, country, and R-and-B charts simultaneously. She had 24 Top 10 records and four number ones. And until recently, she had sold more albums than any woman in history. Celine Dion broke Patti's record two years ago.

"For a song to sell that much was unheard of, and I was very lucky that I was on the other end of it," Page said.

In later days, she was Nashville royalty. Her life and impressive musical catalogue inspired the musical "Flipside: The Patti Page Story," which ended its off-Broadway run last Sunday.

Her music lives on. The "Tennessee Waltz" has been adopted as one of the Tennessee state songs.

"I had no idea what it would do, and when I recorded it, I had no idea that it would become that popular," Page said.

When the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame opened, she was in the first class ever inducted, right alongside legends Merle Haggard and Woody Guthrie.

"In a state known for musical stars, from Garth Brooks to Reba McEntire and everyone else, Patti Page is a giant," Blackburn said.

"The Singing Rage," Miss Patti Page, was 85 years old.

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