January 21, 1957, was a huge night in the life of 24-year-old, Virginia-born country musician Patsy Cline. That was the night when she was asked to perform on CBS’s highly regarded variety show, Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts. At the time, it was TV’s leading showcase for new artists.
Not even Elvis Presley was able to secure a berth on Talent Scouts. Buddy Holly also didn’t make the cut. However, Rosemary Clooney, Tony Bennett, and Connie Francis had all been invited to Godfrey’s show, which would pave their way to the top.
This actually wasn’t Cline’s very first television performance, as she had already made appearances on Town & Country Time and ABC’s short-lived Grand Old Opry. However, it was her first opportunity to do her act on a top 20 national (rather than regional) show that was directed at a broad audience, and not just C&W fans.
Cline made the best of this chance. She performed a sultry and self-possessed version of the 1954 song called “Walkin’ After Midnight,” which she had hesitantly recorded to please her label.
A video of that Talent Scouts episode recently showed up on a Facebook account called Heppest Of The Hep, which focuses on sharing classic live music shows from the 1950s and 1960s. To this day, almost 60 years later, these performances still bring back treasured memories.
The backup band isn’t too bad either. It showcased the guitar genius of Hank Garland, along with pianist Owen Bradley and second guitarist Grady Martin. Cline might not have been absolutely certain about “Midnight” when it was initially given to her, but the song fits her extremely well. No one else could pull off its unquestionable yearning.
The performance on Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts worked well for Cline’s career. The intense audience response to the show persuaded Decca to hasten the release of “Walkin’ After Midnight” as a single in February 1957. It turned into a smash hit on the country and pop charts, and ultimately sold a million copies.
Surprisingly, host Godfrey’s career was going in the other direction. A number of shock firings had ruined his folksy, adorable image. All of his prime-time series, including Talent Scouts and Arthur Godfrey And His Friends, disappeared off the air by the end of the decade.