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Record-breaking singer and former longtime Rancho Santa Fe resident Patti Page dies

Patti Page at the piano of her Solana Beach home   Photo/Diane Y. Welch
Patti Page at the piano of her Solana Beach home Photo/Diane Y. Welch

Editor’s note:

This article contains quotations from a Solana Beach Sun article written by Diane Y. Welch who interviewed Patti Page in 2005.

By Diane Y. Welch

On New Year’s Day the world of music lost an icon when Patti Page, whose 1950s hits include “(How Much is That) Doggie in the Window?” and “Tennessee Waltz,” died of heart failure. She was 85 years old and was looking forward to next month’s GRAMMY celebrations when she was to be honored with a lifetime achievement award.

“Just last week we were discussing the transportation and what outfit she should wear,” said Michael Glynn, her Massachusetts-based manager. “She was just beaming, she really wanted to be a part of it.”

Known as “The Singing Rage,” because of her smooth vocal style that had universal appeal, Page said, “Retirement isn’t in my vocabulary,” when interviewed in 2005 by the Solana Beach Sun, as her career approached its seventh decade. Page had lived in Rancho Santa Fe for 30 years before she moved to Solana Beach, 12 years ago. She died at the Seacrest Village nursing home in Encinitas.

Born in Claremore, Oklahoma, on Nov. 8, 1927, Page’s roots in entertainment started in a nearby church in Tulsa. “I sang alongside two of my sisters, Ruby and Rema. They called me a little ham,” recalled Page who changed her name from Clara Ann Fowler when she left home at the age of 18 to begin her career. Growing up during the Great Depression she was the next to the youngest in a family with 11 children. “We were poor but we had no shortage of love,” she said.

An unparalleled record-breaking artist, she has sold more than a 100 million records, has earned 15 gold records, has charted 111 hits, recorded one hit that exclusively sold 20 million copies –“Tennessee Waltz”– and was the first artist to use over-dubbing techniques in the studio, allowing her to sing both lead and accompanying harmonies.

During her career she performed for five U.S. Presidents, an accomplishment that Page regards as her dearest, and had an impromptu jazz session with the King of Thailand, who played his clarinet whilst Page sang. “He also told me that he learned English while watching my shows on TV,” said Page.

Vintage Patti Page
Vintage Patti Page

In the 1950s she was featured on “Person To Person,” a television show hosted by legendary interviewee Edward R. Murrow, an accolade that was shared with presidents and royalty. She also appeared as a guest star on the game show, “What’s My Line,” and starred in her own variety shows, which included a twice weekly NBC show, “Oldsmobile presents Patti Page” ; CBS’s “The Big Record”; and ABC’s “The Patti Page Show.” Another record breaker that has not been matched: Page is the only performer to have had shows bearing her name on all three major networks.

In recent years Page starred in local PBS music specials. It was during the year of her 50th anniversary in show business that PBS filmed a retrospective of her life and career. She has also been honored by the Puccini Foundation, which recognized her achievements in the arts, and was inducted into the Casino Legend Hall of Fame for her numerous appearances in Las Vegas Casinos.

She has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and has been inducted into the Country Music Walk of Fame, just two of many honors earned. In 1997, Mercury, her former recording label, staged a retrospective at Carnegie Hall for Page who starred with guest artists whom she had not seen for decades. The line-up of songs were then captured on CD for which Page earned her first GRAMMY award in 1999.

Before Page passed away the rights to her music were licensed to a writer/producer to create a musical and last month it played off Broadway for 10 days. There are plans for the show to do a national tour. “I hope Patti’s legacy lives on forever,” said Glynn. “She contributed so much to the entertainment industry.”

Page leaves behind a son, Daniel O’Curran; a daughter, Kathleen Ginn; a sister, Peggy Leyton; 14 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

The Solana Beach Presbyterian Church held a public viewing on Wednesday, Jan. 9. Page was interred in El Camino Memorial Cemetery in Sorrento Valley.

Flowers may be sent to El Camino Memorial, Sorrento Valley, 5600 Carroll Canyon Road, San Diego, CA 92121. Memorial donations may be made to Society of Singers, Inc., 26500 W. Agoura Rd., 102-554, Calabasas, CA 91302 or GRAMMY Foundation, Attn: Annual Giving, 3030 Olympic Blvd., Santa Monica, CA 90404