Darlene Caudle came decked out: tight black jeans, a beaded, polyester Western shirt and a rhinestone-studded star affixed to her bolo tie. Her black hair was crunched up with mousse to give it some extra volume underneath the cowboy hat. She wore red lipstick.
The 45-year-old registered nurse from Boonville, N.C., was smokin' -- and plenty determined to kick some rear. She was among some dozen gals yesterday auditioning for the shot to sing at today's Patsy Cline Celebration & Dedication at the Warrenton Horse Show grounds in Fauquier County. It was here, in the 1950s at the National Country Music championships, where Cline famously belted out ditties from the roof of a concrete booth.
For Caudle, who keeps a shrine in her bedroom that includes Cline's albums, stamps with the singer's image and pine cones and rocks from her elementary school, this was sacred ground. She drove 5 1/2 hours, even took a day off work.
"It's like those credit card commercials: 'Three-hundred dollars for a hotel, $50 for gas, yadda yadda on somethin' else.' Just the chance to sing up there is priceless," Caudle said in her pronounced southern accent, glancing toward the nondescript white and green secretary's stand. "But even if I don't win, I'll climb up there anyway. Like it or lump it -- that's what Patsy would have done."
The audition to sing a "Patsy," as her hits are known, was a passionate reminder of the country-blues singer's roots -- and devotees -- in Northern Virginia, the Shenandoah Valley and beyond.
Cline, best known for the jukebox favorite "Crazy," was born in 1932 in Winchester, Va., about 60 miles west of the Capital Beltway. She once lived in Loudoun County -- attending elementary and high school there -- and performed in Fauquier County at Lake Whippoorwill and Rockwood Hall restaurant, where she was reportedly deft at fending off the joint's roughnecks. Cline, who would have celebrated her 70th birthday last month, was killed in a plane crash in 1963.
A 1950s car show, live country bands and more Patsy Cline sing-athons are on tap during today's festival at the Warrenton Horse Show, the 103-year-old sporting facility in Fauquier County where some of the state's top hunter jumpers compete annually.
The dedication ceremony, to be sure, will not be without the requisite pomp: About 50 white doves will be released into the skies before the winner of the audition sings "Crazy," as part of the dedication of the booth on which Cline sang.
The booth, a little bigger than a highway tollbooth, is where the riders complete their entry forms before competing. Cline got on the roof to let her voice reach out to the crowds. A golden memorial plaque has been placed on the booth.
"I grew up listening to Cline on Warrenton's 'Big K' radio station," said Alletta Beebe-Smith, 52, a day-care teacher in Upperville who won yesterday's audition and will sing today. "This was just amazing, especially to perform in front of all these other Patsy Cline fans."
For many of the contestants, it was another reunion on the circuit of Cline festivals and karaokes across the country. Husbands -- all of whom have heard their fair share of "Blue Moon of Kentucky" performances from the shower -- sat on hay bales hooting for their wives.
For the three judges, bless their souls, it was a day of anticipated, nonstop renditions of "Crazy," which was written by Willie Nelson.
"Is the beer tent open yet?" judge Snowden Clarke, a professional horseman asked before the first singer arrived. "We're going to go crazy."
Donna Rector came, in part, because it was personal. Her daddy, Leon Rector, played bass for Cline at this very location for the National Country Music Championships.
Teresa Silver, a stay-at-home mom from Fredericksburg, said she starting singing Cline songs because she considers her a role model.
"Patsy didn't take anything from anyone," Silver said. "And I'm a very in-your-face kind of woman. I offend a lot of people. I don't mince words, and I take a lot of flack. Well, so did Patsy."