‘I Fall to Pieces’ by Patsy Cline: Story Behind the Song

by Matthew Wilson

Patsy Cline may have scored one of her greatest hits with “I Fall to Pieces” in 1961. But the tune threatened to fall to pieces on the way to the airwaves.

In the late 1950s, Cline desperately needed another hit. The singer dazzled audiences with the early single “Walking After Midnight” in 1957. But none of her follow up music blew up the charts in the same way. In fact, she had only managed to make the charts once more with “A Poor Man’s Roses.” That song was nowhere as successful. Cline was in danger of becoming a one-hit-wonder.

That’s when her producer Owen Bradley introduced her to a tune by Hank Cochran and Harland Howard.

Hank Cochran Wrote of Personal Experiences

At that point, Cochran and Howard couldn’t be different financially-wise. Cochran lived on the edge of poverty, making less than $10 a week. He was also searching for that one song to make his big break in the industry. Meanwhile, Howard had written several big hits at that time.

Together, they worked on one of Cochran’s song ideas. Howard didn’t think the tune would be successful. But his wife saw potential in the tune and cut a demo for the song. Initially, the demo failed to catch any producers’ attention. But Bradley realized the song could be a hit.

Initially, he envisioned Brenda Lee singing the song. But the singer passed on the tune because it was too country. Cue, Patsy Cline’s intro into this story.

Patsy Cline Refused to Record the Song

Bradley knew that Patsy Cline needed a hit. But she still took a lot of convincing. While she agreed to record the song, Cline changed her mind and refused to do it. It took executive intervention at the label to change her mind. While recording the tune, Bradly slowed down the song and put the focus on Cline’s voice.

But the song still faced a battle afterward. The record label was hesitant about releasing the song because of Cline’s past failures to launch. They agreed to release the song if it got 5,000 advance orders. But the regional distributor covered the 5,000 after hearing Cline sing a live rendition.

Upon release, the song failed to capture attention on radio stations. The publisher hired a promoter to push the song by promoting it as both a departure for Cline and Cline as the next big pop singer. In April 1961, the song debuted on Billboard’s charts. But it took another 19 weeks for it to reach No. 1.

The song cemented Cline as a national sensation.