Everybody knows that Elvis Presley was the top hit-maker of the 1950s, but who was the top female hit-maker of the decade? Move to the front of the class if you know that it was Patti Page, who died yesterday at age 85. Page had four #1 hits in that decade, including “The Tennessee Waltz,” which was one of the decade’s biggest hits. Page’s other chart-toppers were “All My Love (Bolero),” “I Went To Your Wedding” and the novelty tune “The Doggie In The Window,” which did little to enhance her artistic reputation, but remains one of her best-known songs.
Just last month, Page was announced as one of this year’s recipients of a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. Remarkably, she is the second recipient to have died since the announcements were made on Dec. 10. World music legend Ravi Shankar died the day after the announcements. (Both awards will be made posthumously next month.)
Neil Portnow, President and CEO of the Recording Academy, made note of Page’s death in a statement: “I recently had the privilege of speaking with Ms. Page and informing her that she would be recognized with The Recording Academy Lifetime Achievement Award this upcoming February, and she was grateful and excited to be receiving the honor.”
Page, who was born Clara Ann Fowler in Muskogee, Okla., was one of 11 children.
Page landed her biggest hit in 1950, when she was just 23. "The Tennessee Waltz" spent 13 weeks at #1. It is tied with "Goodnight Irene" by Gordon Jenkins and his Orchestra and the Weavers for the longest run at #1 by any hit in the 1950s. Page's recording of "The Tennessee Waltz" was voted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1998.
Page was nicknamed "The Singin' Rage" in the 1950s, and it's easy to see why. She and Presley are the only artists who topped the pop chart for eight or more weeks with three different songs in that decade. She scored with "The Tennessee Waltz," "I Went To Your Wedding" and "The Doggie In The Window." He scored with "Don't Be Cruel"/"Hound Dog," "All Shook Up" and "Heartbreak Hotel."
All but five of Page’s 24 top 10 hits occurred prior to 1955, but her rock-era hits include two of her biggest and most memorable, 1956’s “Allegheny Moon” and 1957’s “Old Cape Cod.” The latter song was referenced in the Beach Boys’ wistful 1971 ballad “Disney Girls” (which was written by Bruce Johnston): “Patti Page and summer days/On old Cape Cod.”
Page’s top 20 hits spanned three decades. She first reached the top 20 in the summer of 1948 with “Confess.” She made the top 10 for a final time in 1965 with the title song to the movie “Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte” (which starred Bette Davis and Olivia De Havilland). Page sang the song on the Oscars in April 1965.
Page had success with two other movie title songs: 1958’s “Another Time, Another Place” (starring Lana Turner) and 1962’s “The Boys’ Night Out” (starring James Garner).
Page also found success with a few songs from Broadway shows, namely “So In Love” (from Kiss Me, Kate), “Steam Heat” (from The Pajama Game) and “The Sound Of Music” (from the musical of the same name which starred Mary Martin).
Page’s other notable hits included “Say Something Sweet To Your Sweetheart” (a collabo with Vic Damone), “With My Eyes Wide Open I’m Dreaming” (which was credited to Patti Page Quartet), “Mockin’ Bird Hill” and “Cross Over The Bridge.”
The warm tones in Page's voice made her a natural for country music. She reached the top 20 on the country chart with four songs: 1949’s “Money, Marbles And Chalk,” 1950’s “The Tennessee Waltz” (which reached #2 country), 1962’s “Go On Home” and “Hello We’re Lonely,” a 1972 collabo with Tom T. Hall.
Page also starred in a few TV shows: The Patti Page Show (1956, a summer replacement for The Perry Como Show), The Big Record (1957-1958) and The Patti Page Olds Show (1958-1959).
Most of Page’s biggest hits pre-date the 1958 inception of the Grammy Awards, but Page won a Grammy for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Performance for her 1998 album Live At Carnegie Hall—The 50th Anniversary Concert. She was the second female artist to win in that category, following Natalie Cole (whose father, Nat “King” Cole, was a contemporary of Page’s from 1948 until his death in 1965).
So who exactly were the top female hit-makers of the 1950s? According to Joel Whitburn Presents A Century Of Pop Music, the top female hit-makers for that decade were, in order, Page, Kay Starr, Rosemary Clooney, Jo Stafford, Teresa Brewer, Georgia Gibbs, Doris Day and Joni James.