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Winter Waltz

Christmas music has played an important role in Patti Page's career. In 1951 she became a superstar when, instead of playing her Christmas novelty single, "Boogie Woogie Santa Claus," radio stations played its B-side, "Tennessee Waltz." That song was a smash that went on to become her musical trademark.

Fifty-one years later, crossover-queen Patti is back with a new holiday offering, Sweet Sounds Of Christmas, on her own record label, C.A.F. Records. This time her fans picked the songs.

"I've gotten a lot of mail through the years from fans who are still out there," explains Patti. "Their children have grown up listening to my records, including a Christmas album I did over 35 years ago. They've transferred the album to CD to try to preserve it, but you can only do so much."

So Patti went back in the studio with songwriter and producer Jon Vezner, who was at the helm of her 2001 album Brand New Tennessee Waltz. "I got letters about two songs that I recorded before," notes Patti, "'Little Donkey' and 'I Wanna Go Skating With Willie.' So I recorded these two requests for the new album. The other songs are ones I felt were traditional, and songs I always sing when I do shows at Christmastime."

The recording process was quick and painless - all due to Patti's years of experience in the studio. "Things were recorded differently back then," recalls Patti of the early days. "You were in the studio with the musicians. It was unheard of to go back in and redo something. If it came out bad, it came out bad."

"The Singing Rage," as she's known, believes she surprised Vezner and the other musicians with her one- or two-take efficiency. "Maybe they got to go home earlier," she jokes.

Christmas in Patti's house was always a happy time. "My favorite Christmas memories are when I was growing up with my seven sisters and three brothers," she admits. "It was a very special time. It was the time that families always spent together. And it's very special to us now with all of our children and grandchildren. We try to have them with us."

Patti and her husband, Jerry, have two of their granddaughters with them full-time. "They're full of life and very happy," she assures. "The only thing that's hard for Jerry and I with starting over again with another parenting job is that nowadays the stairs are a little harder to handle," she adds, laughing.

"Other than that, they keep us very young. They're now 7 and 9. But they were 2 and 4 when they came to live with us. It's been a great, rewarding experience."

And so has her durable career. Patti charted 20 country singles and scores of pop hits, including the 1956 smash "Allegheny Moon," between 1948 and 1982. She confesses she doesn't know why her music is still in demand. "If I knew, I could give a lot of people pointers and they could go on forever," she says. "But I don't know that there's any formula. It amazes me that my records are still out there, selling.

"I could only wish that for all of the young artists of today."

-- Wendy Newcomer