By Keri Finley – Bevis
Special to The Greenup Beacon
Editor’s note: This contains personal comments and observations of the writer.
With our area’s deep history of country music and country music stars, it isn’t hard to find someone that has a love for the music and the industry.
I have been exposed to it from birth. I have vivid memories of listening to a variety of ‘old country’ from the ripe old age of 3. My father, Jim Finley, listened to George Jones, Hank Williams, Conway Twitty, Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash, etc. around the house all the time.
It was sometime around the age of 10, I remember hearing a voice that gave me chills immediately. I remember being in my bedroom and hearing the stereo from the living room.
I came and asked my dad who it was singing, and he said, “That’s Patsy Cline.” From that day forward, I knew I had heard a voice unlike any other.
The first cassette tape I purchased was Patsy Cline’s Greatest Hits. Most people know of Patsy’s “Crazy,” “Walkin’ After Midnight,’ or “I Fall to Pieces.”
After learning all the words to all of the songs on the tape, I began collecting other cassette tapes of her recorded music, and trying to find anything I could written about the late singer, who died in a plane crash when she was 30 years old in 1963.
I continued to love her music and research her life. I fell in love with her voice, the words to her songs, and the very humble life she led. I found it incredibly sad that she died so tragically, and so young, leaving 2 very young children, (Julie, 4 and Randy, not quite 2), and her husband, Charlie behind.
I was 12-years-old the first time I sang her hit, “Sweet Dreams” in public, at the Ashland “Mardi Gras,” which ended up being replaced by today’s “Summer Motion” event.
In high school, I won the annual talent show singing Patsy Cline, even though many kids my age had never heard of her.
When I became an adult, and could afford to travel, I vowed to visit Patsy’s hometown in Winchester, Va., to see what history I could find about her.
The first time I was finally able to visit was 2010. It was at that time, I discovered her home place to be condemned.
It was boarded and locked up, with a simple sign on the street, stating it was a historic landmark and the home place of Patsy Cline.
I was so sad that I couldn’t see what it looked like inside. After this visit, I got online and discovered a foundation had been set up to restore her home, and I kept up with the progress.
Once it opened in the fall of 2011, I visited twice, before contacting the Director and asking if I could become involved somehow.
She invited me to become a docent at the home. It took some time to get it all worked out. It is about a 7 hour trip from here, and with kids and my crazy schedule, it was hard-but I was determined!
This past summer, I was afforded the opportunity to finally make it and work at the house, giving tours of my childhood icon’s home. I felt as if all the love I had for Patsy and her music had come full circle…until it got even better.
While working at the house in July, I was given information on how to join the Always Patsy Cline Fan Organization, managed by Patsy’s own daughter, Julie, who is now 56 years old.
I filled out the information and sent it in, and liked the Facebook Page for the fan club. It wasn’t very long before I received a private message from Julie herself inviting me to the Patsy Cline Music Festival, to be held Labor Day weekend in Winchester to celebrate Patsy’s life, legacy, and her birthday, (which is September 8).
Of course, I respectfully accepted, not knowing at the time, that it would be even bigger than I dreamed.
I traveled to Winchester again, not knowing really what to expect, but knowing I would have a fabulous time.
The first night, the fan club had a dinner. I was on cloud nine, being in a room full of people like me. Patsy’s daughter was in attendance. She got up and made an announcement that she had Patsy’s Platinum Album, (her Greatest Hits), from MCA records there t that would be raffled off after dinner that night. I found the person selling them and purchased four tickets, selling for $5 each.
I knew I wouldn’t win, but just seeing it in person was an honor. There were people buying hundreds of dollars’ worth of chances.
The moment came to draw the winner, and Julie brought her granddaughter, Chloe (Patsy’s great-granddaughter), who is 6-years-old, to draw the winner.
They called off the numbers, 630223, and I screamed! I had won!!! I was overwhelmed with emotion. I didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry, so I did both!
The remainder of the weekend was a blur of excitement. We had a block party at the house, a memorial service at her gravesite, and I met lots of Patsy’s family and friends.
Sunday, I worked at the house giving tours, before heading home. It was a magnificent weekend, full of memories I will cherish the rest of my life!
The moral of my story…chase your dreams! Life is so short. Patsy only lived 30 years, yet left a legacy we are still celebrating 51 years later.
Live life to the fullest, each and every day. You never know when it will be your last…I try to instill this in my students, as I teach high school at the Russell Area Technology Center, located on the campus of Russell High School.
For more information on visits to the house, go to www.celebratingPatsyCline.org. To become a member of the fan club, simply “Like” the Always Patsy Cline Fan Club Organization on Facebook.
All of the details on how to join are there on the page.