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Watch This Rare Footage of Patsy Cline’s First National TV Appearance

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Patsy Cline began her career performing in nightclubs, and eventually worked her way up to the Grand Ole Opry, and then country superstardom. 

After she spent several years performing on local radio stations, Cline garnered a decent-sized following. She has successfully caught the attention of fellow country singer Jimmy Dean, who made her a regular on his radio show Town and Country Jamboree.

But January 21, 1957, is perhaps the biggest night in the life of the Virginia-born country singer. This was actually the night she was invited to perform on CBS’ highly rated variety series: Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts.

Arthur Godfrey was a significant figure in American radio and television in the 1940s and 1950s, running as host over several different programs in both mediums simultaneously. And Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts was his most popular program, a talent competition that featured rising young, amateur entertainers making their national television debut.

Though this actually wasn’t Cline’s first-ever television performance as she already delivered her first televised performance on ABC’s short-lived Grand Ole Opry. Ernest Tubb and Little Jimmy Dickens introduced Cline, who was wearing one of her signature western-themed outfits. Tubb even had a lot of great things to say about Cline before she performed, saying, “I think you should give the folks a sample of your fine singing I’ve been talking so much about.”

How Her National TV Appearance Worked Wonders For Her Career

However, her appearance in Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts was her first opportunity to do her act on a top twenty national (not just regional) show aimed at a general audience. Of course, Cline made the most out of this opportunity, singing a sultry and self-possessed rendition “Walkin’ After Midnight.” 

She instantly wowed the studio audience with her performance. Due to the excessive amount of audience applause, it caused a technical difficulty and froze the show’s applause meter. But thanks to that enormous amount of applause, Cline won first place in the show that night.

And not only that, her performance on Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts worked wonders for Cline’s career. The strong audience reaction to the show even prompted Decca Records to rush release “Walkin’ After Midnight” as a single in 1957.

The song became a smash hit for Cline. It became her first major hit single reaching No. 2 on the Billboard country music chart while No. 12 on its pop chart, strongly hinting at Cline’s crossover potential. Although the song was Cline’s only hit until 1961, the single version sold over one million copies and is often included on lists of the all-time greatest songs in country music.

“I go out walkin’ after midnight, out in the moonlight. Just like we used to do, I’m always walkin’. After midnight, searchin’ for you (wa-wa-walking, wa-wa-walking). I walk for miles along the highway. Well, that’s just my way of sayin’ I love you, I’m always walkin’. After midnight, searchin’ for you (wa-wa-walking, wa-wa-walking),” the song begins.

But did you know Cline was never fond of “Walkin’ After Midnight”? She only recorded it after making a compromise with her label. The agreement was that Cline would record it as long as she could also record “A Poor Man’s Roses (Or a Rich Man’s Gold),” a song she preferred. Well, we’re glad they’ve agreed.

Even today, over six decades years later, Patsy Cline’s TV debut is still mesmerizing. You can see it for yourself in the video below.

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