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Patsy Cline Museum: 10 Must-See Items

New Nashville museum includes her home stereo console and the watch she was wearing in the plane crash that took her life

Patsy Cline

The Patsy Cline Museum is now open in downtown Nashville.

GAB Archive/Getty

Nashville, already home to some of the country’s finest musical museums and attractions, has a brand new one: the Patsy Cline Museum. Housed above the downtown space where the Johnny Cash Museum, opened in 2013 by Cline museum founder Bill Miller, is already attracting crowds, the April 7th grand opening gave visitors a glimpse into the unconventional life and career of the late pop-country songstress.

With just three studio albums to her credit, and two Number One country singles in her lifetime, Patsy Cline was nevertheless marked for even greater stardom before her life – and the lives of fellow Opry stars Hawkshaw Hawkins and Cowboy Copas – ended in tragedy when she was killed in a plane crash near Camden, Tennessee on March 5th, 1963. She was 30 years old. But, due in part to the singer’s pure pop-country voice and commanding presence, her legacy has endured and influenced generations of performers.

Here are the 10 coolest, can’t-miss items on display at the Patsy Cline Museum, now open on 3rd Avenue in downtown Nashville.

Patsy Cline Museum

Courtesy of PLA Media

The Key to New York City

In November 1961, five months after a near-fatal car accident, Cline joined Opry stars Jim Reeves, Grandpa Jones, Minnie Pearl, Bill Monroe, Marty Robbins and Faron Young to perform at New York‘s Carnegie Hall. New York Mayor Robert F. Wagner presented her with the key to the city. Of special note that night was the attendance of Princess Monassia, the sister of the king of Persia. According to Patsy’s account during a TV appearance three days later, the princess raved about her performance above all others that night, telling the head of the musicians’ union in New York, “The most tremendous thing as far as I’m concerned on the show was the girl – that Cline girl.”

Patsy Cline Museum

Courtesy of PLA Media

The Las Vegas Collection

From November 23rd to December 28th, 1962, Cline headlined a show at the Mint Casino’s Merri-Mint Theater in Las Vegas, appearing with Tompall Glaser and the Glaser Brothers. Cline reportedly suffered from homesickness and struggled with the hot, dry climate, having an especially hard time being away from her family at Christmas. A deck of cards, a shot glass, dice, a book of matches and a bottle opener from the casino commemorate her historic engagement at the venue, as well as an outfit she wore onstage, replete with sequins and faux pearls in a floral design. 

Patsy Cline Museum

Courtesy of PLA Media

The Drugstore Booth

As a teenager, Ginny Hensley (Cline’s birth name) made about $12 a week working in Gaunt’s Drugstore and soda fountain, around the corner from where she lived on Kent Street in Winchester, Virginia. The museum includes a wooden booth and vintage lime-green Hamilton Beach milkshake maker, with the Gaunt’s sign hanging above it. Nearby are the suede, fringed vest and skirt she wore during early singing engagements around her hometown. It is the earliest of Cline’s outfits known to exist. Of special note are the rhinestones, applied to the outfit by the singer herself.

Patsy Cline Museum

Courtesy of PLA Media

Patsy’s Dining Room

In spite of her status as an in-demand entertainer, Cline was also a devoted wife and mother, and the inclusion of her vintage Filter Queen vacuum cleaner – and the $25 check she wrote to pay for it – is one of the more oddly poignant reminders of that. There’s also a check to Nashville’s B.F. Myers furniture store for $100, a deposit for the furnishings of her “dream home” on Nella Drive in the town of Goodlettsville, north of Nashville, which she and husband Charlie Dick purchased in May 1962. The home was later owned by country singer Wilma Burgess. The couple’s late-Fifties style dining room, including numerous miniature figurines, silverware and dishes is also recreated to dramatic effect.

Patsy Cline Museum

Courtesy of PLA Media

The Vintage Rec Room

Presented in painstaking and gloriously kitschy detail is the couple’s classic rec room, where they hosted friends or just spent time alone together. The room includes a hi-fi console, reel-to-reel tape player, record player and classic vinyl LPs, and a floor model black-and-white television showing classic Patsy Cline performances. Lining the wood-paneled walls are a selection of Cline’s professional awards and some of their favorite albums, and in the corner sits a classic Norge refrigerator. The red leatherette-padded bar with “Patsy & Charlie” embossed on the front is one of the room’s most striking and evocative items.

Patsy Cline Museum

Courtesy of PLA Media

Prized Jewels

In addition to Patsy’s engraved silver wedding band, commemorating her marriage to Charlie Dick on September 15th, 1957, there’s also an ID bracelet that was a gift from Cline to her husband. It opens to reveal pictures of Patsy. Cline’s Oriental black lacquer jewelry box is on display, with several baubles inside, representing her love of costume jewelry, which she collected extensively. A cowboy-boot-shaped cigarette lighter, complete with silver stirrup, an alabaster smoking set and a large pocket-watch-shaped clock are among the many other personal items the singer had collected.

Patsy Cline Museum

Courtesy of PLA Media

Jukebox Heroine

While Cline’s 1962 hit, the Willie Nelson-penned “Crazy” stalled at Number Two on the country charts, it has gone on in the last 55 years to become the Number One jukebox hit of all-time. Patsy also has the 17th most popular jukebox tune of all-time with “I Fall to Pieces,” and is the only other act, besides the Beatles, to have two songs in the Top 20. A multi-colored classic AMI jukebox on display underscores this remarkable achievement.

Patsy Cline Museum

Courtesy of PLA Media

Patsy’s Expansive Letters

Cline was an avid letter-writer and corresponded not only with family, but with fans who then became like family to her. In the beautifully penned letters, some of which stretched to 10 pages, she would recount the sometimes difficult days on the road, and ask all about the goings-on in the lives of the people with whom she was corresponding. Many of those letters are now on display, written on whatever stationery the singer had available at the time. There are also interactive screens that allow visitors to flip through the pages and read them in their entirety.

Patsy Cline Museum

Courtesy of PLA Media

The Plane Crash

While some of the items recovered at the site of the 1963 plane crash have previously been on display at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, such as Cline’s Confederate flag lighter, the items in this collection are among the most poignant to be found anywhere, including the silver Elgin wristwatch that Patsy was wearing at the time of the crash. The watch was a gift from her husband. Also recovered was the 1963 pocket diary kept by Randy Hughes, Cline’s manager who was piloting the plane and was also killed. It contained a record of all of the singer’s tour dates and the amounts she was paid for them. Her final concert, in Kansas City, is not included in the diary, however, as it was a benefit show. A floral handkerchief worn by Patsy’s mother, Hilda Hensley, at her funeral and memorial service is also included, along with a telegram from Colonel Tom Parker, Elvis Presley’s manager, expressing his, his wife’s and Presley’s condolences to Cline’s family and remembering her as “one of the great artists of our time with a bright future.” 

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