Welcome back. I was on the lookout for an interesting place to hang my hat last Friday night and I had the good fortune to catch the opening night of an exhibit that just fit the bill. The Claremore, Oklahoma Museum of History was my first stop for the opening night of a display about the life of Clara Ann Fowler. Clara was born on November 8, 1927 in Claremore where her dad worked on the railroad and her mom picked cotton. She was the youngest of eight and like many in that era her parents often struggled to make ends meet. While she was growing up the family lived in many small towns in northeast Oklahoma including Foraker, Hardy and Avant, frequently in houses without electric or indoor plumbing. By the time Clara was in high school they had landed in Tulsa.
When Al Clauser and his Oklahoma Outlaws band heard eighteen year old Clara sing at a school function they booked her to sing with them on their fifteen minute program on Radio KTUL in Tulsa. The program was sponsored by the Page Milk Company and before long Clara Fowler became known as “Patti Page.”
From 1947-1950 Patti recorded a series of semi-successful songs and then in 1950 she had her first million selling records with “With My Eyes Wide Open I’m Dreaming.” 1950 was also the year Patti released her version of “The Tennessee Waltz” and a major star was born.
In the later 1950s Patti appeared on many TV variety shows including Ed Sullivan, The Dean Martin Show and Steve Allen. Then in 1952 she had her own series, The Scott Music Hall on NBC. She went on to star in different series on ABC and CBS as well, making her the first person to have shows on all three major networks.
The 1960s brought more hit records, starring roles in movies and numerous television appearances as Patti became one of the most recorded performers in the U.S. In the ‘70s she recorded additional albums and made guest appearances with the country’s leading symphony orchestras which were broadcast live.
Patti toured the country doing live shows throughout the eighties and nineties and in 2005 she headlines a series of performances in Branson, MO. Then in September 2012 without any fanfare she announced on her website that she was retiring because of health problems. On January 1, 2013 Clara Ann Fowler died at the age of 85 but the recordings and filmed performances of Patti Page will live on forever.
I’ve just scratched the surface of all the information that is in the exhibit so if you want to learn more, in my opinion a trip to Claremore and their museum is well worth the effort.
After the opening, a special reception was held at the Will Rogers Memorial where Bob Blackburn, Executive Director of the Oklahoma Historical Society, spoke about Patti Page’s legacy. Listening to Patti’s younger sister Peggy speak was a special treat and there were several other family members in attendance as well. It was a wonderful night as the family took questions from the guests about Patti that seemed to bring her back to life.
Another highlight of the evening was a performance by singing star Darla Z who sang several of Patti’s hits. Darla has opened for Wayne Newton in Las Vegas and is currently working on a screen play for a movie.
Will Rogers, Patti Page and Claremore all made for quite an exciting Friday evening.
Saturday night brought more tornadoes and heavy rain to the Oklahoma City area as 400 close friends of a man who is fortunately still with us gathered at the National Western Cowboy Hall of Fame for a surprise 75th birthday celebration. I was happy to be a part of this great occasion. My friends this is still a story in the making as there will soon be a life size bronze statue of this man on his favorite horse erected on the Chisholm Trail west of Oklahoma City.
I’ll be bringing you more on the history of the Chisholm Trail and just who this man is and where the bronze will be placed soon. Till then I’ll see ya down the road……………