By Tom Fink
CLAREMORE — Grammy award winner, musical icon, and Claremore native Patti Page has passed away in Encinitas, Calif., at the age of 85.
Claremore Convention and Visitor’s Bureau Director Tanya Andrews said Page died in her sleep on New Year’s Day.
“A colleague of mine contacted me about her passing in her sleep on New Year’s Day,” Andrews said. “We know she’d been having some health issues for a while — the same which prevented her from coming to Claremore last year when we premiered ‘Flipside,’ the musical story of her life, here in Claremore. We’re all saddened to hear of her passing.”
Page, born Clara Ann Fowler, was inducted in 1997 into the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame in Muskogee, one among four of the organization’s first class of inductees. Jim Blair, vice president of the OMHOF board of directors, said the class included Page, Woody Guthrie, Claude Williams and Merle Haggard, now the lone surviving member of that first class of inductees.
“I was extremely happy to have her in our first class,” Blair said Wednesday after learning about Page’s death. “She was still doing shows last year, and the Grammy Foundation is planning to recognize her for her lifetime achievements.”
Blair said Page launched her music career as a featured singer during a regular program on KTUL, a Tulsa radio station. The program was sponsored by the Page Milk Co., from which she took her moniker. Blair said she was actually the second “Patti Page” to represent the company, but “she assumed that role, kept it and went on” to become one of the “most successful female artists of all time.”
“Obviously, her legacy will live on through her songs, the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame and now the Grammy’s,” Blair said.
Page rose to become one of the country’s best known female artists in the late 1940s and 1950s with songs such as “Tennessee Waltz,” “I Went to Your Wedding,” and “(How Much is That) Doggie in the Window.”
When rock ‘n’ roll music became popular during the second half of the 1950s, traditional pop music was becoming less popular, but Page was one of few traditional pop music singers who was able to sustain her success.
She continuing to have major hits into the mid-1960s with “Old Cape Cod,” “Allegheny Moon,” “A Poor Man’s Roses (Or a Rich Man’s Gold),” and “Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte.”
In 2010, Page was among those paid tribute with her inclusion on the inaugural Claremore Wall of Fame at the J.M. Davis Arms & Historical Museum in Claremore, being honored alongside such notables as J.M. Davis, Lynn Riggs, Stuart Roosa, Helen Walton and others.
Page had been scheduled to be honored with a Lifetime Achievement Grammy Award in 2013, but may instead receive it posthumously.
Funeral arrangements are being made.
Muskogee Phoenix Staff Writer D.E. Smoot contributed to this report.
Tom Fink writes for the Claremore Daily Progress.