Virginia Patterson Hensley was born on September 8, 1932, in Winchester, Virginia where she was nicknamed “Ginny.” Her family moved around frequently for her father to find work, including Elkton, Staunton, and Norfolk.
At age 13, she was hospitalized with rheumatic fever, which affected her singing voice but inspired her to seek a career in music. Her first performances were at the WINC radio station in Winchester. Cline’s father left the family so she had to drop out of high school to get a job.
But that didn’t stop her. At age 15, she wrote a letter to the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville asking for an audition. After a chance meeting with gospel singer Wally Fowler in her hometown, she was granted an audition.
It didn’t result in membership and she returned to Virginia. In the 1950s she began touring with Bill Peer’s Melody Boys and Girls and married husband Gerald Cline. She took on the stage name that she became forever known for.
She was signed to her first record deal in 1954 but she was given only a small portion of royalties. Cline released her first album a few years later, including the hit “Walkin’ After Midnight.” Over the next few years, she divorced, remarried, and had her first child as well as a devastating car accident. The 1960s were the peak of her career, marked with many appearances at the Opry and other hits like “Crazy.”
Sadly she died in a plane crash on March 5, 1963, at age 30 after a performance. She was one of the first country music artists to cross over into mainstream music and one of the most successful female country artists of all time.
Patsy Cline House Museum, Winchester, Virginia
The Patsy Cline House was the family’s home from 1948 to 1953 in a working-class neighborhood of Winchester after her father left. Her mother was working as a seamstress and Patsy worked at the soda fountain at Gaunt’s Drug Store after dropping out of Handley High School. The two-story house with a tin roof and front porch was where Cline returned over the years after her mother purchased it.
The home and neighborhood changed little over the years and the house reopened as a museum in 2011. It’s open for guided tours daily that last 45 minutes. Admission is $8.
Patsy Cline Museum, Nashville, Tennessee
Located above the Johnny Cash Museum in downtown Nashville, the Patsy Cline Museum features items from her life including furnishings from her various homes, recordings, and memorable costumes. It was created in collaboration with her family members.
The Patsy Cline Museum is open daily from 9 am to 7 pm. Admission is $18.95 but combination tickets are available and AAA discounts are offered. Get your Patsy Cline Museum Admission Pass before you go.
Tootsie’s, Nashville, Tennessee
Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge is a legendary honky-tonk on Broadway in Nashville. It opened in 1960 and was a popular after-hours spot following shows at the neighboring Ryman Auditorium. The purple-painted building has three stages responsible for countless careers, starting with the bluegrass and hillbilly music acts originally booked there.
Patsy Cline was among the early artists to perform there, followed by Hank Williams, Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, and more recently, Billy Ray Cyrus, Taylor Swift, and Jason Aldean. Visit the Country Music Hall of Fame across the street, where she is also honored as the first female inductee. You can book your tickets in advance.
Crash Site Memorial, Camden, Tennessee
Located in the town of Camden, west of Nashville, is a small memorial etched on a boulder to remember the life of Patsy Cline. It was here that she perished in a plane crash alongside fellow country artists Cowboy Copas, Hawkshaw Hawkins, and Randy Hughes. There’s not much to see at the location but is a place for quiet reflection if you’re passing through. Atlas Obscura has more information and directions.
Grave, Winchester, Virginia
Following her death, she was returned to her hometown of Winchester and buried at Shenandoah Memorial Park under her husband’s name. He is now buried alongside her after his death in 2015. Fans continue to visit the site and leave pennies on the plot. Her fans also erected a memorial bell tower nearby.
Patsy Cline House, Nashville, Tennessee
Megafans can also spend the night at a home she once owned, now available on VRBO. It’s been decorated with the style of when she lived there and entertained fellow artists like Loretta Lynn and Johnny Cash.