Patsy Cline was already a country music superstar and looking for a piece to widen a string of hits. Cline chose a song as a follow-up to her previous big hit “I Fall to Pieces”. “Crazy”, having its complex melody, perfectly suit Cline’s vocal talent. They released the follow-up late 1961 and it immediately became another success for Patsy. “Crazy” spent 21 weeks on the chart and eventually became one of her signature tunes. Cline’s version is No. 85 on Rolling Stone’s list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
In an interview with Sirius XM satellite radio, Willie Nelson said that he was in a bar called Tootsie’s and put his own song “Crazy” in the jukebox. Patsy Cline’s husband heard it and wanted to get it to Patsy. Both were drunk then and Willie was hesitant. To cut the story short, she recorded it a few weeks later. Husband Willie shared in another interview that the song was originally called “Stupid”. This matches with the live performance with Johnny Cash where he breaks a guitar string and ends up playing “Crazy” with Johnny’s guitar. After, he says it was originally called “Stupid” and sings a little bit of it.
Nelson, a struggling songwriter at that time, was a regular at Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge on Nashville’s Music Row. One evening at the bar, Nelson met Cline’s husband, Charlie Dick, and pitched the song to him. Dick took the track home and played it for Cline. At first, she hated it and remarked that she “couldn’t sing like that”. However, producer Owen Bradley loved it. He arranged it into a ballad in which Patsy recorded later (based on Ellis Nassour’s biography Patsy Cline).
On Loretta Lynn’s album I Remember Patsy, she recorded that Cline struggled to reach the high notes as she was still recovering from a car accident where she nearly died. A week later, she came back and recorded the lead vocal just once.
In the same interview, Lynn can clearly recall how Cline performed it at the Grand Ole Opry. Though she was on crutches, she received three standing ovations.
“Crazy” and a Collection of her Beautiful Face
Barbara Mandrell remembers Cline introducing the song in one of her concerts saying, “All my recent hits have come true in my life. I had a hit out called ‘Tra-La-La Triangle’ and people thought about me and Gerald and Charlie. I had another hit out called ‘I Fall to Pieces’ and I was in a car wreck. Now, I’m really worried because I have a new hit single out and it’s called ‘Crazy’.”
Willie Nelson stated on the 1993 documentary Remembering Patsy that Cline’s version of “Crazy” was his favorite song because it “was a lot of magic”.