Patti Page, who died last week at 85, had one of the indelible voices of her times, the mid-1950s. Her singing was as well-groomed as her appearance; the tension in her voice was between its poise and the swooning emotions underneath. She was the vocal approximation of the lead characters in the Douglas Sirk-directed melodramas that were so popular in that era. Nonetheless, most Bostonians and vacationers on Cape Cod probably have forgotten how Page’s recording of the song “Old Cape Cod” turned a beloved local summer spot into an international symbol of beauty and tranquility. The song made even “salty air” and “sand dunes” sound lushly romantic.
As it sold millions of vinyl copies in the spring and summer of 1957, “Old Cape Cod” shared space on the record shelves with hits from a brand-new artist, Elvis Presley, whose rock-and-roll style soon became the rage and pushed Page over to the country charts. She continued performing, however, and retained many nostalgic fans. She also began visiting Cape Cod, which she hadn’t seen when she recorded the song, and offered her personal endorsement of its charms. Today’s back-ups along Route 6 are in some small way her legacy.