Miss Patti Page is coming home.
One of the most renowned recording artists of all time is returning to Claremore, the place of her birth.
“I was only eight months old when my parents moved due to my father’s job with the railroad, but I have always considered Claremore as my home town,” said the charming Miss Page this past week during a telephone interview from her Southern California home.
Born in a small house on what was then the east side of Claremore, she entered this world as Clara Ann Fowler. She would be one of eight girls and three boys in the Fowler family.
“I was never told different, so I guess I was born at home. My family was too poor for Mother to go to any hospital to have us,” said Miss Page with a smile in her voice; a voice that has sold over 100 million records.
A week-long list of activities is scheduled during Miss Page’s returning visit. The highlight will be an April 29, performance at the Robson Performing Arts Center.
“I am looking forward to coming back to Claremore,” said Miss Page, “I will probably have as many relatives as fans in the audience Thursday night. (Of my siblings) only my sisters Ruby and Peggy remain, but there are a bunch of nephews and nieces.”
How did she Clara Ann Fowler become Patti Page?
“We were living in west Tulsa,” she recalled, “and about the time I completed the ninth grade, Mother called us girls together and told us we each needed to find jobs. The family needed the money. I decided I would go to Page Milk Company to get an application for what any job was available. They had a daily 15-minute program on Radio Station KTUL, but I wasn’t even thinking about that.
“While I was waiting in the office the radio show’s program director saw me. He had heard me sing at a school program and thought I was there for a tryout. After explaining I was only getting an application, he said to go ahead and fill out the application and wait until he returned. He was going to round up a couple of musicians and arrange a quick taping.
“The song I sang was ‘Frankie and Johnnie’. A few days later the director called my mother and asked her if I could come to work as the singer on the radio show.
“You realize I wasn’t the first ‘Patti Page’. In fact, there were two before I arrived. The Page Company used the name for their program. The girl on the show at the time was getting ready to leave. That allowed me to step in. I did it the next three years while I attended high school at Daniel Webster and then one more year.
“When I left my sister Peggy replaced me and the name was changed to Peggy Page. The company officials said it was all right with them if I continued as Patti Page. Later in New York I went to court and made it my legal name.”
It was in 1946 and while performing on radio that her career took a key turn. Jack Rael, a saxophone player and manager for the “Jimmy Joy Band” came to Tulsa for a one-night show. He heard her singing on the show and liked her voice. He asked her to join the band as a vocalist.
Miss Page, still a teenager, started touring with the band throughout the country. The band broke up during a stop in Chicago, but she then joined a group led by popular orchestra leader Benny Goodman.
During the phone conversation Miss Page was asked if it was hard being away from her family for the first time.
“Yes, it was lonely on the road at first and I know they all worried about me. That was especially true with my older sister Hazel. I guess she thought I was out partying and carrying on each night. She wrote and told me if I didn’t behave like we were raised, she would get on a bus, come get me and bring me home.
“There was no need to worry about that. Jack became my manager when our first group disbanded. He wouldn’t have let me act like that even if I had wanted. We had a great relationship as manager and performer. We were together for 50 wonderful years.”
It was a good partnership. With his guidance and her incredible voice, 15 Golden Record hits followed alone with a continually list of chart busters. Without doubt, Miss Page became one of the best known female artists in traditional pop music.
“Jack and I always discussed what numbers we wanted to record,” she added, “Sometimes I found something I liked, but most of the time he was the one. Regardless, we always talked it over.”
How did “Tennessee Waltz” come into the picture? Recorded in 1950, it skyrocketed to the top of Billboard Magazine’s charts. Not only did the haunting sad story of lost love spend 13 weeks atop the record sales, but it also became her best selling single ever.
“To tell the truth my success with that song was a fluke,” Miss Page said, “We were in New York around the start of November to record a song for the holidays called ‘Boogie Woogie Christmas’. We needed a song for the flip side.
“Somebody went to Jack and asked if he thought I might be interested in doing a rhythm and blues version of ‘Tennessee Waltz.’ The song’s co-author Pee Wee King had recorded a version that was quickly climbing on the country charts. I wasn’t an R&B singer. That wasn’t my style.
“Since we still needed something so we decided to go ahead and do it as pop. It became my top seller.”
It sold 15 million records and still represents the biggest commercial success for using the overdubbing technique. This means a song is recorded with the singer recording it in two or more voice ranges. It was also the last song to sell one million copies of sheet music.
Another Patti Page signature song is “(How Much Is That) Doggie in the Window.”
“At first I was going to just include ‘Doggie’ in a children’s album, but everyone involved like it and we decided to release it also as a single,” she said.
When asked to name her personal favorite songs she has delighted her fans with during her career, Miss Page listed two without hesitation.
“I believe ‘Old Cape Cod’ may be my most favorite,” she replied, “The words are so beautiful and they describe the location perfectly. Of course ‘Tennessee Waltz’ is also at the top of the list. My father loved it and cried each time he heard me sing the song. Because of him it is my sentimental favorite. Then, I also like all the old standards.”
While on the subject of recording songs, Miss Page was asked if she ever turned down ones she later regretted.
“Yes, there were songs we, for whatever reason, passed on. Looking back maybe the biggest one was “Moon River.”
During her stay in Claremore she is scheduled to take time out to do more recording.
“Plans call for me record for a tribute album to Dottie Rambo, the famed Gospel song writer and singer,” she said, “there will be several recording artists taking part in the project.”
In talking about her approaching trip back home, Miss Page sounded like she was excited about the return.
“I am certainly looking forward to coming to Claremore and seeing my hometown fans and my relatives. I appreciate all of them. have always loved to say I am from Oklahoma. When I was starting out it seemed like I was one of the few entertainers from the state. Today I think near most of them have Oklahoma ties. I take pride in being an Oklahoman.”
It was certainly that Oklahoma spirit coming over the phone during our 20-minute visit. From her very first words Miss Page made her morning caller feel like an old friend. It was time to bring the visit to an end.
After thanking her for taking time to grant the one-on-one interview, saying our good-byes, and hanging up the phone, I couldn’t help myself. I went straight to the record cabinet.
The rest of the morning I listened to Patti Page records.
It was a special start of the day.
(A huge” Thank You” goes out to Michael Glynn for his aid scheduling the telephone conversation with Miss Page. He is her current manager and will also be coming to Claremore this week.)