Only a small slice of the world was listening the day a big-boned girl named Clara Anne Fowler stepped up to sing on Tulsa's KTUL. The program was a hillbilly affair sponsored by the Page Milk Co. Its sales-conscious title: "Meet Patti Page."
The U.S. at large has yet to hear of the Page Milk Co., but since those dairyish days four years ago, only the deaf and the dead have escaped hearing the big, plain, healthy voice of "Patti Page." Three of her records, Tennessee Waltz, Would 1 Love You and Mockin' Bird Hill, are among the top eleven on the hit parade; since its release last fall, her Tennessee Waltz has sold some 2,300,000 copiesa feat which has won her a gold medal with a diamond in it from grateful Mercury Records.
Whoops & Whistles. Last week Patti was proving her drawing power in the nation's capital. When the master of ceremonies introduced her ("the singing rage, Miss Patti Page"), Washington's big Capitol Theater rocked with wolf cries, whistles and cheers. In the wings, pretty, 23-year-old Patti, radiant in an orchid-colored strapless gown, sidetracked her gum back in her jaw, took a deep breath, switched on a neon smile and glided onstage.
She acknowledged the whoops and whistles with modestly fluttering eyelashes. Then she stepped up to the mike, opened her mouth and cut loose:
Weeee-th my eyes wide open, I'm dreaming . . .
As usual, that was all it took to get Patti's audience in her lap. Part of the act: "I always try to smile at a woman in the audience, if I can see one."
Don't Rush. Back in Oklahoma, mother & father Fowler still have their fingers crossed about their tenth child's sudden national fame. So has Patti: "Sometimes when people stare at me, I can't believe it's true." In her KTUL days, she also sang a bit in a Tulsa nightclub. But she regarded her singing jobs as merely an earning spell between high school and marriage. She began to build as a singer when a fast-moving, pressagent-manager type named Jack Rael took her over. He signed her as a songbird with Jimmy Joy's band, got her a recording contract.
At the top of the heap, Patti is a modest girl who travels with one of her seven sisters. She shrewdly believes in taking it easy. Now she only releases four records a year: "If you don't rush things, it gives the distributors and [disc] jockeys time to work one up before another comes along. In this business, you can get awfully hurt if you are too ambitious."