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Flashback: Patsy Cline’s Final Studio Sessions Yield Sad ‘Sweet Dreams’

Cline cut the classic Don Gibson heartbreaker 55 years ago today, on February 5th, 1963, just two days before her last-ever recording session

In 1956, songwriter Don Gibson made his chart debut with a single for MGM Records that he had written called “Sweet Dreams” – sometimes credited as “Sweet Dreams (of You”). The hopelessly forlorn tune about holding on to a lost love was well-suited to Gibson’s reputation as the “Sad Poet,” also known for such compositions as “I Can’t Stop Loving You” and “Oh, Lonesome Me.”

A Top Ten record for Gibson, “Sweet Dreams” also became a Number Two hit that year for Faron Young. But it is, of course, a song so closely identified with Patsy Cline that it would serve as the title of the 1985 biopic starring Oscar-nominated Jessica Lange as the singer with the bold, yet tear-filled voice.

After Christmas 1962, at a historic gig at the Mint casino in downtown Las Vegas, the first woman in country music to headline a show there, Cline returned to Nashville exhausted from the road and trying to reconnect with her husband, Charlie Dick, and their two small children. Between engagements, on February 4th, 1963, she decamped to Music City’s Columbia recording studios for four days days of recording, compiling material for what was to be an album titled Faded Love, set for release in late March. Cline’s previous LP, 1962’s Sentimentally Yours, was only her third full album, but it featured her second chart-topping country hit, “She’s Got You,” and hopes for this new project were high.

During the first evening’s sessions, Cline was joined in the studio by producer Owen Bradley, background vocalists the Jordanaires, guitarists including Grady Martin and Cline’s manager, Randy Hughes, piano player Floyd Cramer, and, among the others, a total of 10 violinists. During the initial session, they cut “Faded Love,” “Love Letters in the Sand” and “Someday You’ll Want Me to Want You.” The following night, on February 5th, 55 years ago today, the string section was put to full use, creating the cascading opening notes that distinguish “Sweet Dreams” as one of the most lushly orchestrated pop-country hits of all time. Also recorded that night were Cline’s jazzy take on Bill Monroe’s “Blue Moon of Kentucky” and a dreamy, romantic version of the Irving Berlin tune “Always.”

The following two nights, Cline would also cut the songs “Does Your Heart Beat for Me,” “Bill Bailey, Won’t You Please Come Home,” “He Called Me Baby,” “Crazy Arms,” “You Took Him Off My Hands” and “I’ll Sail My Ship Alone,” which would be her last-ever recording. Exactly one month later, Cline, was killed in a plane crash near Camden, Tennessee, along with singers Cowboy Copas and Hawkshaw Hawkins, and Hughes, who was piloting the plane. Cline was 30 years old.

Patsy Cline’s legacy is celebrated through other songs she recorded, such as “Walkin’ After Midnight” and “Crazy,” but “Sweet Dreams” stands as arguably her greatest vocal achievement and an inspiration to generations of other singers including Emmylou Harris, who took her version to Number One in 1976; Reba McEntire, who had a Top 20 entry with hers in 1979; Trisha Yearwood, who sang it the night she became a Grand Ole Opry member in 1999; and, most recently, Cam, who also performed it on the Opry in 2015, putting a positive, heartfelt spin on what remains one of the saddest of country songs. 

In This Article: Patsy Cline

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