patsy cline three cigarettes in an ashtray

The Story Behind Patsy Cline’s “Three Cigarettes in an Ashtray”

Patsy Cline

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patsy cline three cigarettes in an ashtray

Patsy Cline, one of the most iconic country music singers of all time, captivated audiences with her soulful voice and emotional performances. Among her repertoire of hits, “Three Cigarettes in an Ashtray” holds a special place. Released in 1957, this poignant song tells a tale of lost love and heartache. In this article, we delve into the background, recording, and reception of “Three Cigarettes in an Ashtray.”

The Genesis of “Three Cigarettes in an Ashtray”

Patsy Cline’s journey to stardom began in 1954 when she signed with Four Star Records. Over the years, she recorded various genres, including traditional country, pop, and Rockabilly. Despite her talent, it wasn’t until 1957 that Cline experienced her breakthrough with the hit single “Walkin’ After Midnight.” This success prompted her record company to explore a more pop-oriented sound for her subsequent releases.

Among the songs chosen for Cline’s new direction was “Three Cigarettes in an Ashtray.” The song, written by Eddie Miller and W.S. Stevenson (a pen name for Four Star executive Bill McCall), struck a chord with its heartfelt lyrics and melancholic melody. Unlike her previous sessions, Cline worked with producer Paul Cohen and recorded the track at Decca Records Studio in New York City on April 25, 1957.

Recording and Release

Accompanied by the harmonious backing vocals of the Anita Kerr Singers, Cline recorded six tracks during the April 1957 session. Alongside “Three Cigarettes in an Ashtray,” she also recorded songs like “Don’t Ever Leave Me Again,” “Fingerprints,” and “Try Again.” The recording session showcased Cline’s versatility as an artist as she seamlessly transitioned between different musical styles.

“Three Cigarettes in an Ashtray” was released as a single on August 12, 1957, with “A Stranger in My Arms” as the B-side. Despite promotion efforts, the single failed to gain traction with disc jockeys and the record-buying public. However, the song did receive positive reviews from critics, who recognized its emotional depth and Cline’s powerful interpretation.

The Emotional Impact of “Three Cigarettes in an Ashtray”

“Three Cigarettes in an Ashtray” tells a heart-wrenching story of love lost. The lyrics paint a vivid picture of a couple in a small cafĂ©, their love slowly unraveling as a stranger enters the scene. With the simple imagery of three cigarettes in an ashtray, the song captures the bitter reality of a broken relationship.

Cline’s soulful delivery and expressive vocals bring the lyrics to life, evoking raw emotions in listeners. Her ability to convey pain and longing through her singing is what made her an unforgettable artist. Despite its commercial underperformance, the song’s impact resonated with fans and critics alike.

Critical Reception and Legacy

While “Three Cigarettes in an Ashtray” may not have achieved commercial success, it remains a significant part of Patsy Cline’s discography. AllMusic’s Stephen Thomas Erlewine praised the song, highlighting its inclusion in various compilations of Cline’s work. He described it as essential listening for discerning fans, acknowledging the song’s emotional weight.

Over the years, “Three Cigarettes in an Ashtray” has been covered by several artists, demonstrating its enduring appeal. Canadian singer k.d. lang notably recorded a version of the song for her 1987 album, “Angel with a Lariat.” Mark Deming of AllMusic described lang’s rendition as a poignant finale to her album.


Patsy Cline’s “Three Cigarettes in an Ashtray” stands as a testament to the enduring power of heartfelt storytelling through music. Released in 1957, this emotionally charged song captures the pain of lost love with its poignant lyrics and Cline’s powerful vocals. While not a commercial success, the song’s impact and critical acclaim have solidified its place in country music history. As fans continue to discover and connect with this timeless ballad, its legacy lives on. patsy cline three cigarettes in an ashtray

Additional Information:

  • Patsy Cline’s rendition of “Three Cigarettes in an Ashtray” is often considered a quintessential example of the Nashville Sound, a subgenre that emerged in the 1950s and blended country with pop elements.
  • The song’s theme of heartbreak and longing resonated with audiences, reflecting the universal experience of lost love.
  • Patsy Cline’s tragic death in a plane crash in 1963 at the age of 30 cut short her promising career, but her legacy as a country music icon endures.
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