Love Always

Love Always Patsy: Patsy Cline's Letters to a Friend

Edited By Cindy Hazen & Mike Freeman 

Reviewed by Kenny Brechner

   

     In a perfect world everyone would love Patsy Cline. While the world's imperfections manifest themselves in an alarmingly regular manner, we can, perhaps, take heart from the fact most people who are old enough to think clearly do love Patsy Cline.

    Nothing makes the singer's soulful qualities stand out more than observing the mean spirited pleasure someone takes in saying, "I don't like Patsy Cline." One senses right away that the dislike is a matter of pride, and that the person is really saying, "I truly am a heartless, empty husk."

    While people may wonder what a given actor or musician is like as a person, everyone knows that the line between personal and artistic expression in Patsy Cline is virtually non-existent. One is absolutely sure that she was the same compelling person in life that she was as a performer.

    For this reason one feels that to have her recordings is to possess a great deal of her personal life as well. It is therefore with an interested, but not a desperate, countenance that we turn our attention to a newly published book, Love Always, Patsy: Patsy Cline's Letters to a Friend.

    The book reprints a series of letters that Patsy sent Treva Miller Steinbicker. Steinbicker, a young and passionate fan, had approached Cline in 1955, offering to start a Patsy Cline Fan Club.

    In January of 1956 Cline wrote to Steinbicker that "I've got to get a club president right away, because everyone keeps asking me can they join my fan club." Steinbicker leapt at the role and from that point on Cline wrote Steinbicker a letter roughly every month or so.

   The letters themselves are a delight to read, filled with the openness, charm, warmth, and immediacy one would expect. This immediacy is reinforced by the inclusion of photostats of the original letters alongside typewritten transcriptions.

    The Preface, on the other hand, is an unfortunate affair, making silly claims that Steinbicker was Patsy's "close friend and confidante." We learn further that "From the introductory first letter throughout the correspondence, we see Patsy's and Treva's friendship deepen."

    This is not at all the case. In fact the early letters are far more intimate than the later ones, which become more and more like itineraries. There is no question that Cline was fond of Steinbicker, nor is there any reason to doubt Cline's widower, Charlie Dick, when he states that "when Treva was killed (in an auto accident) Patsy was real upset."

    Nonetheless, the central personal emotion Cline expresses towards Steinbicker is appreciation for her fan club work. The warmth and intimacy expressed in the letters is something integral to Cline's personality rather than personal to Steinbicker.

    And that is the strength of these letters. They are engaging and informative without being embarrassingly intimate and personal. Though the participation of Cline's widower undoubtedly led to the editorial whitewashing of her second marriage, the letters themselves are a very worthwhile addition to Patsy Cline's legacy.