Picnics with singin’ rage, Patti Page

Published 9:58 pm Tuesday, August 9, 2016

By Frank Roberts

Like most disc jockeys in the 1950s, I introduced most Patti Page recordings with, “here’s the singin’ rage, Patti Page.”

Some copywriter earned his shekels with that phrase.

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Back in 1991, Page performed at Chrysler Hall in Norfolk and at the Pavilion Convention Center in Virginia Beach, both with the Virginia Symphony Pops Orchestra.

She proved that age does not necessarily hurt a voice. In fact, her sweet voice sounded even sweeter than when we had first crossed paths, many years earlier. Before she went onstage at the Pavilion, I spent some time with her, reliving the old days.

She was — in both eras — a lady of great charm, and that was one of the reasons for her longevity in the fickle music business.

Page enjoyed talking about her career and the people she had known — Crosby, Sinatra and Hope to mention an impressive few. In the ’90s sherecalled playing the prestigious Paramount Theater in New York, where I saw her when I was a kid.

We recalled one show there when she was paired with Frankie Laine.

In the ’50s I was working in Rome, N.Y., doing a morning show on WKAL. Those were my Page play days. A few miles away, in Utica, a guy named Dick Clark was also spinning records.

Before our “re-meet” in the ’90s, the last time I had the opportunity to meet Page was in 1955, somewhere on the Jersey shore.

When she was setting the charts afire, she would have picnics for DJs in the New York-New Jersey area — wonderful daylong affairs that gave us the opportunity to meet her and other music stars of those days.

I remember a few: The Crew Cuts, who had a big hit with “Sh-Boom”; Mitch Miller, of “Sing-Along” fame; and a lovely young singer who called herself Robin Hood and who soon faded.

I still have some picnic pics, which feature, among other things, fellow deejays from the general area. And, I have a pic of Patti posing prettily. In one shot, I’m posing with four other jocks; in another Patti is pictured with another deejay.

Some of the pictures appeared in Hit Parader Magazine, a very popular mag that printed the words to pop songs, along with stories of the stars. In a later edition, I wrote a column about my DJ efforts.

I saved a copy of that magazine for many years, until the year it took a swim in my flooded basement. I still have the photos and copies of a newspaper article about the picnic.

My ’90s visit with Miss P. led me to recall a somewhat similar gathering sponsored by Perry Como in a San Antonio restaurant, another gathering place for DJs.

The singer was as laid back and friendly as he always appeared on television. At this time I was working at KWBU in Corpus Christi. About 95 per cent of the jocks showed up in suit and tie.

I had the Corpus casual look, including a semi-loud sport shirt. Another Corpus DJ and I looked out of place. That soon changed. Como came wandering in, also dressed casually.

Later, when all of us had the opportunity to visit him one-on-one, we complimented one another on our good, common sense.

When you meet people like Como and Page, you leave whistling a tune or singing an unforgettable lyric. The scene was so very different than today’s music scene, if you can call some of it music.

“I was dancing with my darling to the ‘Tennessee Waltz…’”

God, how I miss those days.

During a 60-year career spanning newspapers, radio and television, Frank Roberts has been there and done that. Today, he’s doing it in retirement from North Carolina, but he continues to keep an eye set on Suffolk and an ear cocked on country music. Email him at froberts73@embarqmail.com.