On This Date: Patsy Cline Recorded “Crazy” In 1961 And Changed Willie Nelson’s Career Forever

Willie Nelson Patsy Cline country music
Michael Ochs Archives / Stringer

Is there an all-around, better country song that exists than “Crazy”?

You’d be hard-pressed to point to a more classic, meaningful song within the genre of country music other than that one, and it was famously recorded on this date in 1961 by the great Patsy Cline.

Of course, it was originally written by Willie Nelson, but shot to the #2 spot on the country charts in 1962 when Patsy released her iconic version as a single.

And it’s probably one of the most famous country standards of all-time… I mean, who doesn’t know and love that song?

Willie actually wrote it in less than an hour (originally titled “Stupid”), but in his 1988 book Willie: An Autobiography, he admitted that it was it was hard to find artists interested in recording it due to its use of several chords, instead of the standard three used for country music compositions at the time.

Patsy’s husband, Charlie Dick, who was a record promotor for Starday Records at the time, had previously brought her Willie’s song “Night Life,” but she hated it and told him not to bring her anymore Willie Nelson songs, because she didn’t want to sing about the vulnerability of topics like love and loss.

Can you even imagine saying something like that? Talk about “crazy…”

But in a 2010 interview with Mass Live, Willie told the whole story about how Charlie ended up getting Patsy to record what would ultimately become her signature song:

“I first met her one night back there in Tootsies Bar, drinking a little beer and her husband Charlie Dick was there and we were talking, listening to some songs that I’d just brought up from Texas.

I had Tootsie put a couple of 45s on her jukebox. One of them had ‘Crazy’ and ‘Night Life.’ And Charlie Dick just really loved ‘Crazy’ and wanted to play it for Patsy.”

I guess Patsy left the famous Nashville bar much earlier than her husband and Willie did, because Charlie wanted her to record it so bad that, eventually, he drove Willie to their house and got his wife out of bed to listen to it.

Though Willie admits they were probably too drunk to be doing all of that in the middle of the night, and probably also thought Charlie had a death wish going and waking his wife up like that, it worked out favorably for all of them in the end:

“We went over to his house and he wanted me to go in and meet Patsy and I wouldn’t do it. I said ‘No it’s late and we’re drinking, I don’t want to wake her up.’

He said ‘Aw she’ll be fine.’ I didn’t go in. He went in and then she came out and got me and made me go in.”

She welcomed him with open arms, making everybody coffee as Willie taught her how to sing the song she was eager to record, and they went on to become great friends, even touring together some at the time:

“She was a wonderful person, fixed us coffee, was just a great gal. I got to know her real well, we toured some together and she was just great.”

He went on to add that he believes she’s the greatest country female vocalist of all time, and knows that no one will ever sing his stunning song quite the way she did:

“Well, she was the greatest female vocalist maybe all around ever, but for sure, for country, that I ever heard. There’s this joke.

After Patsy Cline did ‘Crazy’ and everyone else has tried it, and this joke is really not meant to hurt anybody else’s feelings but when they say ‘How many girl singers does it take to sing ‘Crazy’ and they answered ‘All of them.’

But as Patsy Cline nailed it, who else since then, it’s like Ray Charles singing ‘Georgia.’ I had enough nerve to cover him but I never thought I did as good a job on it as he did.”

I’m convinced that all the great country classic we love so much have a wild story like this behind them.

Patsy cutting the song and making it a hit (to say the least) also changed the trajectory of Willie’s career forever, as he was a struggling songwriter at the time who couldn’t get anyone to record his music.

I’ll spare you another “crazy” pun here…

He actually wrote “Night Life” and “Funny How Time Slips Away” in the same week as “Crazy,” which is a neat little fun fact I love.

Though the industry, and the world, has clearly changed a lot since the 1960’s, it’s so cool to hear things like this about mega stars like Willie and his early days trying to make it in country music.

And actually, Patsy recorded the song just two months after being involved in a bad car accident with her brother on June 14th, 1961. Her family was in town to see Patsy’s new home, and the two of them had been out shopping for material so her mother could make them some clothes.

On the way home another car struck them head on, sending Patsy flying into the windshield. She was majorly injured, suffering a dislocated hip, broken ribs and wrist, and bad gash on her face, but riders in the other car took the brunt of the collision, with two of the three sadly passing away at the hospital.

Patsy’s own injuries were considered life threatening and she was rushed into life saving surgery. She survived, but needed to spend a month in the hospital recovering. But like she was known to do, Patsy toughed it out and returned to performing just six weeks later.

The single was produced the legendary Owen Bradley, who was the one who initially had the idea to slow it down some and give it that iconic, almost haunting and perfect production.

And let’s be really honest… Patsy would’ve been crazy not to record it, and I think she was well-aware of that fact herself:

Willie also recorded his own version of “Crazy” for his 1962 debut album, …And Then I Wrote:


A beer bottle on a dock



A beer bottle on a dock