Hansen will bring Patsy Cline tribute to 20th Cowboy Gathering
Salt Lake City-based performer and singer Erica Hansen was in high school when she discovered Patsy Cline.
"I would eject the cassette tape when friends got into the car, because I didn’t want them to think I was a weirdo," Hansen laughed during an interview with The Park Record. "But as soon as I put the tape in, I heard a sound, voice and lyrics that no one heard at that time."
Hansen’s love for Cline’s music grew and she found herself the lead in the theater revue of "Always Patsy Cline" that has been performed at the Grand Theatre.
When Hansen performs at the 20th anniversary of the Heber Valley Western Music and Cowboy Gathering this week, she won’t perform the revue, but will do a Patsy Cline tribute.
"I will tell some anecdotes about Patsy and then we’ll perform some of her awesome music," Hansen explained. "Patsy is a real accessible artist for people, especially those who don’t like Country-Western music because [they think] it’s so twangy or nasally. She doesn’t sing like that and she doesn’t sing about divorces and kids.
"She sings about love-gone wrong, which not only applied to a high schooler, like me when I first discovered her, to those who are in their 60s, 70s or 80s," Hansen said. "She has all of those heart-breaky songs and I was one of those high school students who had crushes on uninterested fellows and thought her music spoke to my soul."
Hansen and Dave Stamey will perform two shows.
The first will be on Friday, Oct. 31, at the Main Stage in the Wasatch High School auditorium, and the second will be Nov. 1 at the VIP Campfire Stage at the high school’s Little Theatre.
"The difference is that the auditorium seats 1,000 people or so and the campfire seats 100, so it’s a much more intimate afternoon," Hansen explained.
The singer got involved with the Western Music and Cowboy Gathering in a roundabout way.
"I went to the festival last year and went to the jam session on one of the final evenings," Hansen remembered. "I eventually got up and sang some Patsy.
"One of the guys there had seen the show we did at the Grande Theatre a few years back and they contacted me to see how they could bring some of the music to the festival," she said. "It’s my understanding that they’ve not done this before, and it’s a perfect audience for the music.
"We’re excited to be a part of it because it’s such a great gathering of musicians, artists and poets from around the region and from across the country," Hansen said. "Whether you like Country-Western art, apparel, music or cowboy poetry, it’s all there and you’re there with your comrades, your aficionados and you can enjoy it all."
Hansen, a classically trained vocalist and musical-theater veteran, said she loves Cline’s range.
"She was able to do some big, belty stuff, but also sang those beautiful low notes, and that’s hard to turn around and do," Hansen explained. "It’s taken me some practice over the years."
The singer also likes that Cline, who died in a plane crash in 1963, appeals to fans of country music, pop music and jazz.
"The music choices she made were smart and vague enough to do that," Hansen said.
Over the years, Hansen has researched Cline’s life.
"She shattered a lot of glass ceilings and established many new standards as a woman in country music," Hansen explained. "She was also one of the first singers to demand money up front, because the booking agents would send the singer on stage and take the money and walk out the back door. She would not be afraid to walk on stage and say, ‘Thanks for coming tonight, but I’m not going to sing because I didn’t get paid.’ And then send the audience home."
Cline’s life was complex.
"I found she had a good life, but it was tumultuous, especially her marriage to Charlie Dick," Hansen said. "She would say that he was the love of her life, but also be quoted as saying ‘his name is Charlie Dick and he is one.’"
Cline also had a playful side.
"She was larger than life. She was pretty confident and would hang out with the crew in the bar across the street from the Grand Ole Opry and be the first to tell a dirty joke," Hansen said. "And that was a little unusual for a female at that time."
Many people only know Cline through her music, and that posed an interesting challenge for Hansen as a singer and performer.
"For me, [since] she’s so loved and so many of her songs are iconic, the challenge lies in attempting to attempt to sing someone’s masterpiece," Hansen said. "When we did the first runaround of ‘Crazy,’ it was so scary. I didn’t know if the audience would buy it, or just even like it."
Ironically, Cline didn’t like many of her hits when she first heard the demos by the songwriters.
"If she would have had her way, she wouldn’t be the star and icon she is today," Hansen said. "It was after fights with management that she would finally agree to record ‘Walking After Midnight,’ ‘I Fall to Pieces’ or ‘Crazy.’
"The record companies heard a different quality of her voice and saw crossover success with the pop charts," Hansen said. "So it’s a good thing her managers won out. I would love to see her in concert in some afterlife somewhere, because I’m sure she put on a hell of a show."
The rewards for presenting a Pasty Cline tribute show are endless, Hansen said.
"People love her music, so it’s such a treat when I start a song to see couples reaching for each other’s hands or to have people come up to me afterwards and tell me that the songs brought back memories," she said. "It’s an honor to take people on a trip down memory lane and her music does that for people."
Heber Valley Western Music and Cowboy Poetry Gathering will celebrate its 20th anniversary from Oct. 29 to Nov. 2 at various venues in Heber. The event will feature music, workshops, poetry, mounted shooter exhibitions and campfire songs. Musicians will include Michael Martin Murphy, Home Free, Erica Hansen, Bar J Wranglers, Suzzy Boggus and the Sweetback Sisters, to name a few. Poets will include Waddie Mitchell, Doris Daley, Andy Nelson, Paul Bliss, Jeff Carson and Jo Lynne Kirkwood. Tickets are available by visiting http://www.hebervalleycowboypoetry.com.
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