In August of 1961, a couple of months after being thrown through a windshield after a car accident with her brother, Patsy Cline recorded a song that would become the most played song on juke boxes around the country for years to come. And that’s where I fell in love with this song years ago, 25 years after it was recorded, hearing it over and over on a juke box in The Old Worthen in Lowell, Massachusetts. With senses refined by pitchers of cheap beer, the pack of us would conspire to plug quarters into the juke box to play “My Way” and “Mercedes Benz” and “Tainted Love” and especially this Patsy Cline hit, the sultry and mournful “Crazy“. This song has been playing on constant rotation in my brain ever since.
In Nashville a couple of weeks ago, (which seems like a million years ago now) my daughter and I made our way upstairs from the Johnny Cash Museum to the Patsy Cline Museum for a visit with the timeless Patsy Cline. We’re coming up on 59 years since she recorded this Willy Nelson song in Nashville, scarred and still on crutches from her car accident. The magic in this song comes from Owen Bradley’s arrangement, bringing in a mix of musicians who gave it that special sound and propel the careers of many of those involved with the recording. A-Team session players were brought in to bring the song it’s richness and soul. Floyd Cramer’s “lonesome cowboy” piano style dominates, with Bob Moore’s acoustic bass driving the song. Harold Bradley’s six-string guitar punches through and the rich harmonies of the Jordanaires lay the foundation for Patsy Cline to soar over the sonic landscape. The song was recorded on 3-track, rare at the time, with Patsy nailing down her vocals after the rest of the musicians completed their work.
As you work your way around the Patsy Cline Museum, you can hear Crazy playing on repeat from a juke box, which seems about right to me given my own beginnings with this classic. Behind the song was a very driven, very talented young lady who would push aside her injuries from that car accident and create many of the songs that were staples of her catalog. She would die way too young in a plane crash on March 3, 1963, less than two years after recording Crazy, at the age of 30. People talk about the day the music died being when Buddy Holly died in a plane crash in 1959, the crash that killed Patsy Cline was just as devastating for Nashville. Her music lives on, timeless in many ways. Personally, I can’t hear Crazy and not think about it playing on a juke box in an old bar many years ago. I suppose that’s just how it’s supposed to feel.