Vicksburg native Ellis Nassour in town to share Patsy Cline biography|[06/08/08]

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 8, 2008

Vicksburg native Ellis Nassour will be in town this week to share the updated third edition of his book “Honky Tonk Angel: The Intimate Story of Patsy Cline.”

Nassour, who lives in New York City, will lecture Friday night at the Southern Cultural Heritage Center, where he will be accompanied by Vicksburg local and Patsy Cline-style singer Marie Adona. On Saturday, he will sign copies of his book at Lorelei Books on Washington Street.

The book features interviews with people who knew Cline well, including her mother and second husband.

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“I consider the book to be an oral history from all these people who knew Patsy,” Nassour said. “You have to be careful though (about firsthand sources); my main ideal as the biographer was to be objective. Patsy certainly wasn’t perfect.”

Cline emerged on the country music scene in the late 1950s. She died in March 1963 in a plane crash in Tennessee. She was 30 years old. Her hits include “Walkin’ After Midnight,” “Sweet Dreams” and “Crazy.”

Cline befriended fellow country music star Loretta Lynn. Nassour met Lynn in 1977, when he was vice president of artist relations for MCA Music. It was then that he became interested in Cline. Lynn introduced Nassour to Charlie Dick, Cline’s second husband, and the biography got under way. Though he first published the book in 1981, Nassour has added new pictures and a new afterword to the third edition.

If you goFriday12:30 p.m. – Ellis Nassour on WLBT’s “Midday Mississippi,” local cable Channel 3

7 p.m. – Lecture; performance by Marie Adona; Southern Cultural Heritage Center, 1302 Adams St.SaturdayNoon – Book-signing at Lorelei Books, 1103 Washington St. For more information, visit grew up in Vicksburg and attended St. Aloysius High School and the University of Mississippi. His father, Ellis, owned a grocery store, and his mother, Mamie, worked for Charles’ Department Store. His Mississippi background prompted colleagues at MCA to assume he had an interest in country music, but “I didn’t,” he said.

“As much as I hated hillbilly music, I grew to love Loretta” and later Patsy, said Nassour.

The book has been transformed into a musical. After over 10 years of development, “Patsy…Honky Tonk Angel” will debut in July in Cline’s hometown of Winchester, Va. The musical is the effort of Nassour and composer George Leonard.

“I learned how to write songs and how to use music to tell a story,” said Nassour. “I think when you try to turn something into a musical it sort of cries out to you where a song should be.”

Nassour is working on another book – one about the Hollywood women who have appeared in MGM musicals – and has a Mississippi musical in the works.

“I hope I can develop a musical about Mississippi, and sort of about Vicksburg. There must be something in the Mississippi water for writers. Look at all our great writers,” he said, citing literary greats such as William Faulkner.