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Women write Patsy Cline book

March 10, 2006|by MARLO BARNHART

HANCOCK - Charlotte Brannon Bartles says she has known since she was a little girl that the late music legend Patsy Cline was her half sister. But it wasn't until last year that she decided the time had come to write a book about that relationship and her memories.

The result is "Patsy Cline: Our Father's Other Daughter," which she co-wrote with Linda Sowers and published in the fall of 2005.

"It was Charlotte who decided there should be a book," Sowers said.

Already acquaintances, the two women ran into each other at a church function in Hancock early last year and began chatting about the prospect of writing a book.

A Hancock resident at one time, Sowers said she had been aware since she was a little girl that Chester "Chet" Brannon was Cline's biological father. "I'd always known the connection and had heard people talking about it," Sowers said.

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A singer too, Sowers said she has read other biographies of Cline and couldn't understand why Chet Brannon wasn't mentioned.

Bartles said she once found a library book - with notes handwritten in it - that did say Chet Brannon was Cline's father.

"Then Linda and I went to the Handley Library in Winchester (Va.) and there was a manuscript. There were pictures in the archives and one of them was me," Bartles said.

That manuscript talked about Cline visiting her father, Chet Brannon.

Bartles and Sowers met in the late 1980s when Sowers was singing in Chambersburg, Pa. The draw for both was a love of country music.

While Sowers was still working, she had little time for much singing or writing but now that she is retired, there is time at last, she said.

Bartles, 71, was born in Winchester, Va., but moved to Hancock with her parents at an early age. While in Winchester, Chet Brannon belonged to the same circle of friends as Cline's mother, then Hilda Patterson, according to the book.

At one time, Chet Brannon was dating both his future wife - Bartles' mother - and Patterson, who later married Sam Hensley, Bartles said. Patsy Cline was born six days after that wedding, according to the book.

Cline, who would have been 73 had she lived, was killed in a plane crash in 1963.

"I first met Patsy when I was 22," Bartles said.

From time to time, she said, Cline would come over to the Brannon house to visit the man she called "Pop" Brannon.

Bartles not only remembered Cline performing at a carnival in Hancock but also a touching story about the singer's devotion to her fans.

"Patsy had heard that some people had walked six miles to hear her sing so we drove them home after the concert," Bartles said.

Once Cline's car broke down while she was on a visit and Bartles said their father arranged to have a friend drive her to her home to Winchester.

Disabled all her life, Sowers said she has always loved to write but this is her first book. With Bartles' notes, the two women changed the focus from vignettes to a 92-page book.

"Charlotte would come to my house and I would dig details out of her," Sowers said. She met some of the relatives and even went to a Brannon family reunion.

The book is available at Borders on Pleasant Valley Road in Winchester, Va., and by calling I Universe at 800-288-4677.

A museum is opening in Winchester, Va., this year and Sowers said she hopes the book will be sold there, too.

"Charlotte and I met the organizers last fall," Sowers said.

The legend of Patsy Cline lives on, partly through the devotion of the members of the Always Patsy Cline fan club in Winchester, Va.

Sowers said that even though a Hollywood-style movie made on the life of Patsy Cline took poetic license, people jumped at the chance to hear the singer again.

"People sat through all the credits just to hear her voice," Sowers said.

Patsy Cline was born Sept. 8, 1932, in Winchester.

She pursued a recording career, appearing at the Grand Ole Opry in 1958, and receiving national awards in 1961 and 1962.

Cline was elected posthumously to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1973.

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