Born Eleanor Johnston on January 8, 1940, in Peoria, IL; married Lee Stoller; children: three. Addresses: Contact---Cristy Lane, P.O. Box 654, Madison, TN 37116. Website--Cristy Lane Official Website: http://www.cristylane.net.
In 1980 Cristy Lane put a new spin on country music, topping the charts with a new style of song. The inspirational hit "One Day at a Time" brought a sense of sweet gospel goodness to a genre that is traditionally fraught with songs of heartache and moonshine. In the 1980s she joined a host of prominent country performers in supporting the growth of the resort town of Branson, Missouri, helping to turn that locale into a haven for country music revivals. From the early days of her career, Lane worked closely with her husband, Lee Stoller, a capable entrepreneur who served as her manager and publicist. The couple pioneered the concepts of television marketing and internet promotions, single-handedly boosting sales of Lane's records to multiple platinum levels.
Born Eleanor Johnston on January 8, 1940, in Peoria, Illinois, Cristy Lane was the eighth of 12 siblings. She was raised in a stark east side neighborhood near the industrial area of the town's South Main Street. Living as she did against a backdrop of poverty, she developed an unusually shy personality and spoke with a lisp. She was a not a likely candidate for future fame, in particular not for success as a recording star.
While still in her teens Lane married Lee Stoller. Within five years they had three children: Kevin, Tammy, and Cindy. A former U.S. Marine, Stoller had been recently discharged and was selling kitchenware for a living when the two met at a skating rink. He, like Lane, was acquainted with poverty from childhood.
Husband Liked Her Singing
In spite of her shyness, Lane possessed a beautiful voice and had been a member of her school choir. As Stoller became aware of her natural talent, he encouraged her to sing; being a natural entrepreneur, he took charge of her career from the outset. By 1968 Lane was performing limited engagements at local nightclubs, and that year she landed a guest spot on the National Barn Dance on WLS Radio. For her national debut she took the stage name of Cristy Lane, naming herself after her favorite disc jockey, the late Chris Lane (Alexander) from Peoria. The radio spot failed to ignite her career, and in 1969 Stoller attempted to negotiate with the congressionally chartered United Service Organization (USO) for Lane to appear in a tour of the war theater in Vietnam. Stoller's bid with the USO failed, but he arranged independently for Lane to entertain U.S. servicemen through engagements that he booked at officers' clubs and similar venues for a fee of $500 for each performance. In all, Lane performed in 120 shows during the 90-day tour. Reports vary as to the actual size of her audiences, but she entertained over 100,000 troops, with some estimates as high as 300,000.
It was difficult for the naturally shy Lane to entertain in remote jungle locations, in the midst of an armed conflict. On more than one occasion she found herself in serious jeopardy and in one traumatic episode a helicopter in which she was riding crashed into a combat zone. Suffering from injuries, exhaustion, and stress, Lane became seriously ill, both mentally and physically. By 1970 she had attempted suicide on two separate occasions. In addition to the physical toll taken, the tour left her financially distressed, as the venture realized a net loss of $12,000, leaving Lane and her husband with little recourse but to mortgage their property.
Career Took Form
During those early years, Lane distinguished herself for her resilience as much as for her vocal talent. After returning to the United States, she and Stoller invested in two Peoria nightclubs, temporarily promoting Lane's career as the featured headliner at the clubs until 1972, when they sold both clubs and moved to Nashville.
Against the backdrop of the home of the Grand Ole Opry, her career gained momentum. She signed with Capitol Records briefly before recording for her husband's private studio, LS Records, in the late 1970s. In 1977 she released a debut single, "Trying to Forget about You." This track hit the charts, as did a follow-up release, "Sweet Deceiver." The following year she released a single track, "Let Me Down Easy," which was picked as the background on a national news story about a balloon festival. That small exposure brought sufficient notoriety to catapult the song into the top ten. It peaked at number seven, as did "Penny Arcade," released in 1979.
At the Academy of Country Music awards ceremony in 1979, Lane was named New Vocalist of the Year. Invited to perform at the awards presentation that year, she gave a rendition of her hit single "I Just Can't Stay Married to You." Once again, the national exposure from her performance contributed to a boost in record sales, and the song soared to number five on the charts. A contract with United Artists (UA) ensued.
Lane released a debut album, One Day at a Time, in 1978. It featured a dozen gospel tunes, including "Amazing Grace," "Everything Is Beautiful," and "Just a Closer Walk with Thee." It was with considerable reluctance---and only at the urging of Lane and Stoller---that UA released the album's title song as a single track in 1979. An unlikely hit, it topped the country and pop charts in 1980 and became Lane's signature song, as its message of self-help brought a new facet of optimism to traditional tale-of-woe country song repertoires. "Simple Little Words," released that same year, settled into a slot in the top ten, and "Come to My Love" made the top 20. Finally, "Sweet Sexy Eyes" peaked at number eight, after which Lane fell into relative obscurity, with a top 20 hit in 1981 and two minor hits in 1982 and 1983, respectively.
Partly to blame for Lane's career decline in the early 1980s was Stoller's conviction in 1982 on bribery charges. Although Lane had logged more than ten hit singles by 1985, her professional life came to a temporary halt during her husband's incarceration. To the couple's good fortune, Stoller spent his time in a minimum security prison, serving only eight months of a three-year sentence before being released; and to Stoller's credit, he used his time in prison to collaborate with Pete Chaney in writing Lane's biography.
Immediately upon his release, Stoller sought a publisher for the manuscript, although he met with little success. Undaunted, the couple re-mortgaged their property in order to secure funding to self-publish and promote the book. Beginning with printed ads in supermarket tabloids, they expanded their sales promotion to include women's magazines. Television advertisements appeared in Houston, Texas; Cleveland, Ohio; Erie, Pennsylvania, and Nashville. The couple touted the book in tandem with Lane's many hit recordings, offering special deals on combination packages. Revenues increased, with advertising-to-sales returns reported as high as ten to one.
Moving to Branson, Missouri, in the late 1980s, Lane opened the Cristy Lane Theatre and revived her career, using the establishment as a showcase for her talent. She also appeared at the Hershey Park Amphitheater in Pennsylvania in 1989. Additionally that year she was enlisted to record Bill Withers's "Lean on Me," in a group performance with Michael Jackson, Terri Gibbs, Tom T. Hall, and more than a dozen other notables, for Willie Nelson's Farm Aid benefit.
Advertisements for the sale of Lane's biography and records remained a staple of television and magazines, and her star glowed warmly over Branson into the mid-1990s. At around that time she rented out her theater, continuing with limited performances at other locations around town. Tragically, in 1995 she was incapacitated after a debilitating fall from the stage of a theater where she was performing, putting a damper on her performance career.
Lane and her family moved to Madison, Tennessee, in the late 1990s, where they continued to run the family mail order business. In August of 1999, Definition LTD announced a three-way marketing program, including a copy of the Lane biography as a premium along with a concert video and a copy of the hit album One Day at a Time.
In 2003 Lane received public recognition from the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) for her courageous work in entertaining the troops during the Vietnam conflict. On August 30 she was named to the VFW Hall of Fame during the group's national convention in San Antonio, Texas. Her ten hit albums have continued to sell through established outlets into the 2000s.
by G. Cooksey
Cristy Lane's Career
Performed at local nightclubs, 1968; adopted stage name of Cristy Lane, late 1960s; sang on WLS National Barn Dance, 1968; three-month tour, Vietnam, 1969; sang in Peoria nightclubs, 1970-72; signed with Capitol Records; recorded with LS Records; debut single, "Trying to Forget about You," charted, 1977; debut album, One Day at a Time, released on CEMA, 1978; performed at awards presentation, Academy of Country Music, 1979; signed with United Artists, 1979; number one hit single, "One Day at a Time," 1980; published and promoted biography and recordings through television and magazine marketing, 1983--; owned, operated, and performed at Cristy Lane Theatre, late 1980s-1990s; performed at Hershey Park Amphitheater, Pennsylvania, 1989; and for Willie Nelson Farm Aid benefit, 1989.
Cristy Lane's Awards
Academy of Country Music, New Vocalist of the Year, 1979; Veterans of Foreign Wars, Hall of Fame, 2003.
- Selected discography
- "Trying to Forget about You," LS, 1977.
- "Sweet Deceiver," LS, 1977.
- "Let Me Down Easy," LS, 1978.
- "Penny Arcade," LS, 1979.
- "I Just Can't Stay Married To You," LS, 1979.
- "Simple Little Words," 1979.
- "Slippin' Up, Slippin' Around," 1979.
- "One Day At A Time," 1979.
- "Come To My Love," 1980.
- "Sweet Sexy Eyes," 1980.
- "I Have A Dream," 1981.
- "Fragile--Handle With Care," 1982.
- "Footprints In The Sand," 1983.
- One Day at a Time CEMA , 1978.
- Love Lies LS, 1979.
- Simple Little Words United Artists, 1979.
- Ask Me to Dance United Artists, 1980.
- Fragile--Handle with Care Liberty, 1981.
- I Have a Dream Liberty, 1981.
- Amazing Grace EMI America, 1982.
- Christmas with Cristy EMI America, 1983.
- Footprints in the Sand Liberty, 1983.
- Here's to Us Liberty, 1983.
- Amazing Grace, Vol. 2 Arrival/K-Tel, 1986.
- Christy Lane Salutes the Gi's of Vietnam LS, 1986.
- Christmas Gold Arrival, 1987.
- Golden Hymns of Christmas Arrival, 1987.
- White Christmas Arrival, 1987.
- All in His Hands Heartwarming, 1989.
- I Believe CEMA, 1992.
- How Great Thou Art Riversong, 1994.
- You Light Up My Life Benson, 1994.
- Cristy Lane Hollywood, 1994.
- Christmas Unison, 1997.
- Footprints Arrival, 1999.
- Footprints in the Sand, Vols. 1 & 2 LS, 2003.
- One Day At A Time, Vol. 1 & 2: 22 All Time Favorites LS, 2003.
- 30 Christmas Classics Chordant, 2003.
- Chicago Tribune, February 24, 1985, p. 17; September 5, 1985, p. 8.E.
- Denver Post, June 20, 1993, p. 1T.
- Houston Chronicle, March 10, 1985, p. 10.
- Orange County Register, April 30, 1989, p. A2.
- Orlando Sentinel, September 29, 1985, p. 12.
- Patriot-News (Harrisburg, PA), July 21, 1989, p. 7; July 27, 1989, p. C1.
- PR Newswire, August 4, 1999, p. 1.
- Springfield Business Journal, August 12, 1996, p. 17.
- St. Louis Post-Dispatch, May 30, 1996, p. 45.
- Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA), May 11, 1997, p. 1.
- "Cristy Lane," All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com/ (September 19, 2004).
- "Veterans name Cristy Lane to VFW Hall of Fame," Pace, http://www.ipspress.com/Pace/Old%20Covers/PaceSep03.html (September 19, 2004).