New Patsy Cline Exhibit Reveals Personal Side

Country superstar's last letters go on view at Country Music Hall of Fame.

NASHVILLE — Country diva Patsy Cline's thriving postmortem career gets another shot in the arm with the Country Music Hall of Fame's new exhibit, "Love Always, Patsy: Letters From the Jewelry Box."

The core of the display consists of 10 recently discovered hand-written letters from Cline to friend and fan club founder Treva Miller Steinbicker.

"I've never been so homesick, lonesome, tired, disgusted, and worried in all my life," a pregnant Cline wrote to Steinbicker in March 1958. "I've been here [Hawaii] 8 days and still not one piece of mail from home or [her husband] Charles. He sent a telegram to say he had wrote but I still can't understand why I haven't gotten any mail. I've wrote every day to him."

Her letter continues: "I leave here Monday morning and do four shows in California, then go to the Godfrey show if he can use me, for two weeks, then 10 days in Denver and 30 days to 8 weeks in Vegas and then I'm finished. I'm not doing another thing 'til after it's all over in September. I'm beginning to show now. I can't wear western clothes or tight dresses anymore."

The letters, along with several previously unpublished snapshots, are also the basis for the book "Love Always, Patsy" by Cindy Hazen and Mike Freeman, released this spring.

"Always Patsy Cline," a theatrical retrospective of Cline's life (based on earlier Cline letters) starring Mandy Barnett, plays this summer at Nashville's Ryman Auditorium, former home of the Grand Ole Opry.

Prior to the 1985 release of the movie bio "Sweet Dreams," starring Jessica Lange, the most famous physical relic of Cline's life was a Zippo lighter that played "Dixie," found in the wreckage of the plane crash that took her life in March 1963 and exhibited at the Country Music Hall of Fame.

After that movie presented her smoky voice to a new audience, Cline's career took off once again. Re-releases of her recordings have sold millions during the past 15 years — much more than were sold when Cline was alive. There has been a best-selling biography, "Honky Tonk Angel: The Intimate Story of Patsy Cline," which is now being developed into a Broadway musical, and the Ryman show, which opened in 1994, has toured the country.

The film, however, contained many historical inaccuracies, and few of the other overhauls of Cline's life match the directness and simplicity of her voice.

The Hall of Fame exhibit runs through February, and the pieces of Cline's life will continue to coalesce in exhibits at the new Hall of Fame, which opens in downtown Nashville in the spring.

The letters may be the last of the physical artifacts of Cline's life that remain to be found, according to her widower, Charlie Dick. Her music, however, continues to enrich her survivors, and the little Zippo lighter still plays "Dixie."

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