The new Patsy Cline Museum is a family project that took a worldwide effort.
For Julie Fudge, her father’s passing in 2015 set in motion something that would make a unique impact not only on the downtown Nashville area, but in the hearts of country music fans all over the world.
Fudge is the daughter of the legendary Patsy Cline, one of the most iconic figures in country music’s history. Alongside others who offered up their hearts and time, Fudge has spent the last two years curating the just-opened Patsy Cline Museum on Third Avenue. The first conversations about the museum started when Charlie Dick—Julie Fudge’s father and Patsy Cline’s husband—passed away. Bill Miller, owner of the Johnny Cash Museum and Nudie’s Honky Tonk in the heart of downtown Nashville, reached out to Fudge with the idea, and it wasn’t long before the museum started to take shape.
“Once we started bringing things in to display, it all came together,” Julie Fudge said, adding that many of the items in the museum came from her father’s home. Bill Miller and his wife, Shannon, worked tirelessly to prepare the upper level of the Johnny Cash Museum that now houses the Patsy Cline museum. This included taking on a major renovation and preparing to open a new business, all while curating pieces of memorabilia and important display items to tell the story of Cline’s life and career.
“The things in the museum were scattered all over the world, in the hands of collectors,” Julie Fudge said, “and I hope these collectors will see that their pieces are truly being honored by being here.” After two years of work, the Patsy Cline Museum finally opened its doors on April 7, 2017.
The opening was, of course, a wonderful moment in history for Julie Fudge and the rest of Patsy Cline’s remaining family members, but the journey to that moment didn’t come without a roller coaster of emotions. Fudge said one of the most difficult parts of the process was sifting through her late father’s possessions and finding reminders of him. “It was definitely bittersweet because everything reminded us of dad. We heard him all the time,” she said of the process. Fudge was young when her mother died, and was raised by her father and grandmother, Hilda Hensley.
Hilda Hensley was an important part of Patsy Cline’s life—and her children’s lives. Hensley made some of Cline’s earliest stage costumes and dresses—outfits that became Cline’s signature and were nearly as distinct as her voice. “She made clothes for me too when I was a kid… but mine had fewer rhinestones,” Fudge said with a laugh as she stood next to some of Hensley’s creations—now beautifully staged and sparkling in the display lighting.
Even though she was only four years old when a plane crash took Patsy Cline’s life, Julie Fudge does have memories of her famous mom. “I’m fortunate to have my memories bolstered by people who knew her and were there,” she said, “That’s a blessing not everyone gets.”
Now that many of the reminders of her childhood are all in one place, Julie Fudge is certain that Nashville is the perfect place to house them all together, all while honoring her mother’s life and musical legacy. “Bill and Shannon have done a wonderful job. This is archival quality,” she said as she pointed to the host of displays around her in the museum. “It’s such a blessing to be able to see things here—the way they should be.”