Singing star who had a huge hit with the unlikely How Much is That Doggie in the Window?
PATTI Page, who died on New Year's Day aged 85, had a huge hit in the US with How Much Is That Doggie In The Window? and became the biggest-selling female star of the Fifties.
With its mawkish lyrics and barking dog obbligato, How Much Is That Doggie In The Window? seemed unlikely hit material. But American sales exceeded two million in 1953 alone and, confounding the critics, Patti Page's total sales ran to more than 40 million. In the Eighties, in an interview with Smash Hits magazine, the then British prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, declared it to be to be her favourite song of all time.
The 10th of 11 children, Patti Page was born Clara Ann Fowler on November 8, 1927 at Claremore, Oklahoma, the daughter of a railway foreman. Her father's occupation kept the family on the move, and when they finally settled in Tulsa in 1939, Katy (as she was known at home) took an interest in drama at high school, as well as singing.
Intent on following a career in commercial art, she turned down a scholarship to the University of Tulsa and took a job in the art department at a local radio station.
She stumbled on to the air when the anonymous star of a music show called Meet Patti Page, sponsored by a local dairy, the Page company, called in sick. A hastily-arranged audition resulted in Katy Fowler being substituted, and she henceforth assumed the name Patti Page.
A local band manager, Jack Rael, took her on and booked her for some singing dates in Chicago, where she became the regular singer on a morning radio show. She signed her first contract with Mercury in 1948, and using what would now be called "multi-tracking" – in which she harmonised with herself – released a series of modest hits, starting with Confess.
Patti Page catapulted to fame with her first hit, Tennessee Waltz (1950). It was released as the B-side of Boogie Woogie Santa Claus, but proved infinitely more popular with record buyers and radio stations. At the time she was singing thrice-nightly at the Copacabana nightclub in New York, where her act had been largely ignored by the noisy, inattentive crowd. But the success of the gentle, lilting Tennessee Waltz propelled her to national stardom on television when she was booked as a summer stand-in for Perry Como in 1952.
By 1958 she was hosting her own television show, drawing notices approving of her homespun personality, and the following year she was cast in a small singing role in the film Elmer Gantry (1960), starring Burt Lancaster. Two further films followed, Dondi (1961) and Boys' Night Out (1962), but it was not long before she realised that Hollywood was not for her, and thereafter she concentrated on recording and live performances, returning to New York. She continued to have chart hits into the mid-Sixties, her last being in 1968 with a version of Little Green Apples.
A shrewd businesswoman, Patti Page invested in property and, with her manager Jack Rael, was a partner in two music publishing firms.
With her blue eyes and blonde hair, and always immaculately turned out on stage, she was reckoned one of the prettiest singers in showbusiness. The Hollywood arranger Vic Schoen recalled her as "one of the nicest and most accommodating singers I've ever worked with".
Patti Page was married three times. She divorced her first husband, a university student Jack Skiba, within a year of their marriage, in 1949, and in 1956 married, secondly, Charles O'Curran, a choreographer, with whom she adopted two children. The couple divorced in 1972, and in 1990 she married her third husband, Jerry Filiciotto, with whom she ran a maple syrup business in New Hampshire.