Date Posted: 2008-08-01
I Don’t’ Want To Set The World On Fire
2007 is an important year for Patti Page, marking both her 80th birthday and her 60th year as a recording star, with a performing career that is still going strong today. Scoring 111 Billboard chart hits spanning five decades from the 40’s to the 80’s, virtually without interruption, and over 100 million sales, she is arguably the biggest-selling female vocalist of the past century--remembered primarily for her waltzes, novelty songs and multiple-voice harmonies.
What, one may ask, is she doing on Audiophile Records, joining the likes of Mabel Mercer, Teddi King, Lee Wiley and Maxine Sullivan? The answer, quite simply, is that she is taking her rightful place as one of America’s peerless interpreters of popular song.
The recordings contained on this new release were made in 1949 for the Lang-Worth Transcription radio service and never intended for sale to the general public. Patti was backed on all selections by a small jazz quartet led by saxophonist-turned-pianist Lou Stein, and unlike her more commercial Mercury recordings, which were aimed at generating “hits,” she was given free reign to express herself artistically as a vocalist backed by simple (though swinging) head arrangements. The result is a Patti Page that most people have never heard before.
Her story has been told many times—born Clara Ann Fowler in the small town of Claremore, Oklahoma, daughter of a traveling railroad man and a mother who picked cotton to help feed their 11 children, she walked to school barefoot, sang in church and on radio with her sisters, and while studying art in high school, landed a job at local radio station KTUL in Tulsa, working in the art department. She was soon singing for them as well, doing pop songs as “Ann Foster”, country and western-swing as “Ann Fowler” and finally taking over the “Meet Patti Page” show, sponsored by the Page Milk Company, replacing a previous girl who had left to pursue greener pastures.
When Patti finally left, she had created such an impact that she was told she could keep the name and she made her network radio debut on Don McNeil’s “Breakfast Club” in 1947, emanating from Chicago, where the newly-formed Mercury Records was looking for a female vocalist to join its roster headed by Frankie Laine and Vic Damone. Several singles were released, but nothing clicked until she tried overdubbing her own voice to perform a duet on the song “Confess,” which became her first chart hit in 1948. She appeared at a local club with the Benny Goodman Sextet and later that same year made her New York cabaret debut at Barney Josephson’s legendary Café Society.
Mercury had rushed her through a series of quick sessions in preparation for the recording ban called by the musicians’ union, all aimed for the singles market, and it was shortly after this time that she was able to do the classic standards that this compilation draws from. They range from warm ballads like “Blue Moon,” “If I Had You,” “When Did You Leave Heaven?,” “I Can’t Get Started” and “Harbor Lights” to such swingers as “This Can’t Be Love,” “It’s Been So Long,” “The Glory of Love,” “All of Me,” “Exactly Like You” and the old chestnut “Varsity Drag,” which had recently been revived in the movie musical “Good News.” Ironically, the album concludes with “I Don’t Want To Set The World on Fire”—but that’s exactly what Patti Page was about to do.
In 1950 alone, she scored no less than five major hits—three of which sold over a million copies each with two going to No. 1 (“Tennessee Waltz” and “All My Love”), earning her the appropriate nickname “The Singing Rage.” Hit after hit followed—“Changing Partners,” “I Went To Your Wedding,” “You Belong To Me,” “Mockin’ Bird Hill,” “Cross Over The Bridge,” “Allegheny Moon,” “Old Cape Cod” and yes, “The Doggie in the Window.”
But there were also many great albums—“Manhattan Tower,” “Patti Page in the Land of Hi-Fi,” “East Side/West Side” and “The Waltz Queen”—her own weekly TV show on all three networks, and acting appearances in such films as the classic “Elmer Gantry” and the comical “Boys’ Night Out”. She conquered the legitimate stage in “Annie Get Your Gun” and held on to her pop career in the 60’s with hits like “Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte,” “Little Green Apples” and “Gentle On My Mind,” sustaining her recording career in the country market for two more decades, and becoming one of the first recipients of the coveted Pioneer Award from the Academy of Country Music.
Patti celebrated her 50th anniversary as a recording star by making her first-ever appearance at New York’s Carnegie Hall, and the resulting “live” album made that night earned her the 1999 Grammy Award for “Best Traditional Pop Performance,” a true testament to her artistry.
Likewise, the Lang-Worth performances in this new Audiophile collection take you back to the beginning of it all—sparkling spontaneous performances with no gimmicks, no overdubbing and no doggies. Just pure, lush singing by one of the great vocal stylists of all time.