Country music legend Patsy Cline has been gone for five decades, but the music never stops.
Kelley Zinge is helping make sure of that.
Zinge is bringing her tribute show, Purely Patsy, to the Vilar Performing Arts Center tonight.
Zinge lives in Littleton and is a successful cabaret, jazz and blues performer with a voice as big as the Rockies. She recently became a Nashville recording artist for Grammy Award-winning producer Doc Holiday, recording “Mr. Right or Mr. Right Now?”
She has performed her Purely Patsy show around the country with the approval of the Patsy Cline estate.
“I didn’t like country music when I was growing up, but when I was a kid riding around in my grandpa’s truck having some adventure with him, I always listened to her on his 8 track tapes,” Zinge said.
Fast forward to college and she was doing summer theater.
“I snuck out and went to the Okobogi Bar and Grill across the street to sing,” she said, adding that it was usually Patsy Cline tunes.
The theater company’s version of adult supervision caught her doing it. They grounded her to the theater lot and made her wear a sign that said, “Don’t talk to this person,” which she didn’t take well because she was 22 years old. So they sweetened the pot. They told her if she behaved herself she could come back the next summer and sing all the Patsy Cline she wanted.
And that’s what she did. That was 20 years ago. Today’s show will feature her Patsy band, The Nashville Sound.
“It never gets old. The music is timeless and the guys I have playing with me are so good that it distracts me,” Zinge said. “I’m playing off them as I’m pretending to be her.”
‘Enjoy every moment’
When Zinge’s not doing this she teaches theater and movement to grades kindergarten through eighth in a Denver charter school. It’s her first year as a full-time teacher, and so far she’s learned one thing above all others.
“Teachers deserve every bit of time off they get,” she said.
When she’s not teaching, raising kids and being Patsy Cline, she’s fronting Kelley’s Red Shoes for her jazz, blues and cabaret shows.
“I love her music. She put her whole heart into it,” Zinge said. “Even though I’m singing in my voice, I really try to do what she did, which is enjoy every moment of the song.”
Patsy Cline skyrocketed to stardom in 1961 and 1962, but she played her last show in 1963 just before a plane crash in Tennessee took her.
Zinge brings her music back to life with Purely Patsy. The show traces Cline’s life, and Zinge nails the legendary singer-songwriter dead solid perfect.
“It starts out with her as a young teenager and follows her from hometown to honky-tonk to the Grand Ole Opry, Las Vegas and Carnegie Hall,” Zinge said.
Zinge belts out Cline’s hits, including “Walkin’ After Midnight” and “I Fall to Pieces,” in her own voice. Her band has that classic country sound down perfectly, from the tinkling piano to the steel guitar.
Zinge’s found her big-as-the-Rockies voice at the tender age of 10 and has not stopped singing. Listen closely and you’ll hear a little Elvis Presley, Ray Charles, Etta James, Nina Simone and gospel singer Mahalia Jackson, a healthy dose of Patsy Cline and a bunch of Zinge herself.
All about Patsy Cline
Country music fans still make pilgrimages to Winchester, Va., Patsy Cline’s hometown to pay tribute.
Patsy Cline (Virginia Patterson Hensley) was born in the Shenandoah Valley in Winchester, Va., Sept. 8, 1932. Legend has it she was entertaining her neighbors as early as age 3.
Cline’s big break came when she won an Arthur Godfrey Talent program in 1957 with “Walkin’ After Midnight.” From there, the singer pursued a recording career appearing at the mecca of country music, the Grand Ole Opry, in 1958. National awards (in 1961 and 1962) followed, but one year later, in 1963, it was all over. Country music lost arguably one of the greatest female vocalists of all time to a plane crash in Tennessee.
In 1973, Cline was elected posthumously to the Country Music Hall of Fame. Other enduring tributes include a bell tower erected in her memory at the Shenandoah Memorial Park, where Cline is interred and two highways named in her honor: the Patsy Cline Memorial Highway, Route 522, and Patsy Cline Boulevard in Winchester.