Patti Page dies at 85, sang 'Tennessee Waltz,' 'How Much Is That Doggie in the Window?'
Singer Patti Page, whose smooth alto voice made hits of "How Much Is That Doggie in the Window?", "Tennessee Waltz" and "Old Cape Cod," has died at 85, her manager confirmed to NBC News. She had a seven-decade musical career and sold more than 100 million records. Though some of her hits were considered novelty songs, she continued to perform into the 2000s, and briefly dabbled in television.
Page died at the Seacrest Village nursing home in Encinitas, Calif. on Jan. 1.
The Grammy Awards will honor Page, along with other artists -- including Carole King and the late Ravi Shankar -- with lifetime achievement awards at the ceremony Feb. 10.
Born Clara Ann Fowler in Oklahoma, she was the second of 11 children and told the New York Times she remembered living without electricity. She began singing on local radio as a teenager and was given her stage name because a sponsor of that show was the Page Milk Company.
The biggest hit of her career, "Tennessee Waltz," about an old friend who steals the singer's lover while dancing, was No.1 for nine weeks in 1950 and 1951 and is one of seven official state songs for Tennessee.
"How Much Is That Doggie In the Window?" was No.1 for eight weeks in 1953. In 2009, Page recorded a version using the same tune and different lyrics, called "Do You See That Doggie in the Shelter?" and gave the rights to the song to the Humane Society of the United States.
"The original song asks the question: 'How much is that doggie in the window?' " Page told the Humane Society. "Today, the answer is 'too much.' And I don't just mean the price tag on the puppies in pet stores. The real cost is in the suffering of the mother dogs back at the puppy mill. That's where most pet store puppies come from. And that kind of cruelty is too high a price to pay."
She also sang the theme to the 1964 Bette Davis thriller "Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte," which reached No. 8 on the charts.
Page's other hits included "Old Cape Cod," "With My Eyes Open Wide, I'm Dreaming" and "I Went to Your Wedding." Her friends included Rosemary Clooney and Elvis Presley, and she attended the "Ed Sullivan Show" on the famed 1964 night when the Beatles were introduced to America. (Page thought they were "cute kids," The New York Times reported.)
She also had numerous television specials and series, including "The Patti Page Show," which ran for just one season in 1955-1956, and "The Patti Page Oldsmobile Show" in 1958-1959.
"What I like about singing is that, for me, it's a substitute for the psychiatrist's couch," Page told The New York Times in 2003. "I can tell it all in song: pathos, gladness, love, joy, unhappiness. Each song, you're telling a story and acting."
Her music was sometimes criticized for its simplicity, but Page knew what the audiences of the 1950s wanted.
"My music was called plastic, antiseptic, placid," she told The Times. "It was only five or so years after the war, a different time. A simpler time. The music was simpler, too."
She was married three times and had a son and a daughter.
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