Cristy Lane (born Eleanor Johnston on January 8, 1940 in Peoria, Illinois) is a Country music and Gospel music singer. She is best known for her Country hit "One Day at a Time", which rose to #1 on the Hot Country Songs chart in 1980.
Lane came from a family of twelve where she was the eighth child and was known to be very timid and also spoke with a slight speech impediment. In 1959 she married Lee Stoller and by 1964 the couple had three children. Despite her timidness, Lane had a strong musical talent and had been a member of her school choir. Lee quickly became aware of her singing talent and urged her to sing. Lee, being a natural entrepreneur, 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, Chris Lane (Alexander) from Peoria. The radio, however, failed to start 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. The natural dangers of singing in a war zone found Cristy in serious jeopardy on more than one occasion 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.
Upon returning to the United States, Cristy and Lee 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.
The move to Nashville proved to be a boon to her musical career. 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 single charted, as well as a follow-up release, "Sweet Deceiver." That fall, 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. She also released her debut album, "Cristy Lane Is The Name" that year.
"Let Me Down Easy" peaked at number seven, as did "Penny Arcade," released in 1978. She also had a hit with the Christmas song "Shake Me, I Rattle" in early 1978.
At the Academy of Country Music awards ceremony in 1979, Lane was named New Vocalist of the Year and was 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 an album for her new label called "Simple Little Words" from which the title track made the Top 10 in 1979. Two other Top 20 hits followed with "Come To My Love" and "Slippin' Up, Slippin' Around". But it was her next album in 1980 "Ask Me To Dance" in which she had her biggest hit with "One Day At A Time" written by Marijohn Wilkin and Kris Kristofferson. The song was first recorded by Marilyn Sellars in 1974 and was a Top 20 country and Top 40 pop hit that year. But it was Cristy's version that broke her through even though United Artists was against the single being released at first. The song went to number 1 on the country charts in the summer of 1980. Her husband decided to capitalize on the success of "One Day At A Time" with a biography written by Lee himself about Cristy and her life as well as an album with the title track plus several gospel tunes, including "Amazing Grace", "Everything Is Beautiful" and "Just a Closer Walk With Thee". Lee and Cristy decided to sell the album with the book through advertisements on television and mail order. The results were gigantic. Within weeks, the album was selling millions of copies and not just in the United States, but in countries like England, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Africa, China, and Japan. In all, Cristy received over 50 gold and platinum awards for her album.
Cristy's country career was still going strong after the release of "One Day At A Time" but her chart success was beginning to fade quite a bit. "Sweet Sexy Eyes" became her last Top 10 in 1980. United Artists Records soon became Liberty Records and in 1981 she had a Top 20 hit with a version of ABBA's "I Have A Dream". Her last major hit came with "Lies On Your Lips" in 1982 and the rest of her hits became minor hits. Her last chart appearances came with 1987's "He Got The Whole World In His Hands" and "I Wanta Wake Up With You"
Partly to blame for Lane's career decline in the early 1980s was Stoller's conviction in 1982 on bribery charges. During this time, Lane's professional life was halted. 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; Cleveland; Erie, PA, 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' "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, TN, 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.