In 1996, LeAnn Rimes burst out of nowhere with her debut single “Blue,” which immediately captured the attention of country fans across America. It wasn’t just the fact that her rich, powerful vocals were remarkably similar to Patsy Cline’s — it was the fact that Rimes was only 13 years old. Like Tanya Tucker and Brenda Lee before her, she had a hit with her debut single and was barely a teenager at the time. It was quite an auspicious way to begin a career. Born in Jackson, Mississippi, but raised in Garland, Texas, Rimes (born August 28, 1982) began singing as a child, performing at local talent contests. At the age of 11, she released her first album on an independent label called Nor Va Jak. That same year, Bill Mack, a Dallas disc jockey and record promoter, met Rimes and, impressed by her talents, he took her under his wing and began cultivating a plan to break her into the mainstream. The cornerstone of Mack’s plan was a song called “Blue,” which he had written in the ’60s. Mack claimed that he had written the tune for Cline, but she had died before she was able to record the song.
Throughout 1995, Rimes’ career continued to gain momentum, as she performed more than 100 concerts and appeared on television shows across Texas. After Mack arranged a recording contract for Rimes with Curb Records, the label sent out a press release with the single of “Blue” that claimed the DJ had been waiting over 30 years to find the right vocalist to sing it. The story was an exaggeration: “Blue” had been recorded by no less than three different artists, including Bill Mack and Kenny Roberts, who both released versions on Starday in the ’60s, and in 1993, Kathryn Pitt released the record as a single in her native Australia. Nevertheless, the story was repeated throughout the country and mainstream music press, adding to the growing myth that Rimes was the successor to Cline’s tradition. “Blue” and its accompanying album of the same name became major hits in the summer of 1996.
Blue debuted at number three on the pop charts, selling over 123,000 copies within its first week of release — one of the largest figures to date in the history of the SoundScan tracking system. Rimes was nominated for the Country Music Association Horizon award and the CMA Best Country Singer, becoming the youngest singer in the history of the CMA awards to receive a nomination; she won neither award. After two quickie 1997 releases — Unchained Melody: The Early Years and You Light Up My Life: Inspirational Songs — she issued her second proper LP, Sittin’ on Top of the World, in 1998. Her self-titled third album followed a year later, and I Need You appeared in early 2001. The next year, Rimes emerged with a sexy flair for the pop-oriented Twisted Angel, but returned to contemporary country in 2005 with This Woman. Her 2006 effort, Whatever We Wanna, found her going back to pop and was released exclusively in Europe. In 2007, she kicked off the Evan Almighty soundtrack with the gospel rave-up “Ready for a Miracle,” appeared on Hal Ketchum’s single “In Front of the Alamo,” and began promoting her next album, Family, with the single “Nothing Better to Do.”
Take a step back and check out Rimes’ hit “Blue” with the official music video below:
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Patsy Cline was a celebrated country singer best known for her crossover hits, including "Crazy" and "Walking After Midnight."