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January 2, 2013

‘Tennessee Waltz’ singer Patti Page dies

Claremore native was 85

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Patti Page, the “Singing Rage” who stumbled across “Tennessee Waltz” and made it one of the best-selling recordings ever, has died. The Claremore native was 85.

Page died on New Year’s Day in Encinitas, Calif., according to publicist Schatzi Hageman.

Page was the top-selling female singer of the 1950s with more than 100 million records sold. Her most enduring songs remain “Tennessee Waltz,” one of two songs the state of Tennessee has officially adopted, and “(How Much Is That) Doggie in the Window.”

“I was a kid from Oklahoma who never wanted to be a singer, but was told I could sing,” she said in a 1999 interview. “And things snowballed.”

Page was born Nov. 8, 1927, as Clara Ann Fowler in Claremore, Okla. The family of three boys and eight girls moved a few years later to nearby Tulsa.

She got her stage name working at radio station KTUL, which had a 15-minute program sponsored by Page Milk Co. The regular Patti Page singer left and was replaced by Page, who took the name with her on the road to stardom.

Page was discovered by Jack Rael, a band leader who was making a stop in Tulsa in 1946 when he heard Page sing on the radio. Rael called KTUL asking where the broadcast originated. When told Page was a local singer, he quickly arranged an interview and abandoned his career to be Page’s manager.

A year later she signed a contract with Mercury Records and began appearing in major nightclubs in the Chicago area.

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