MARCH 5 AIR CRASH CLAIM LIVES OF FOUR PROMINENT C&W STARS
NASHVILLE — The air crash deaths of four country country music personalities, including three nationally known “Grand ‘Ole Opry” stars, stunned the industry and thousands of country music fans throughout the nation last week.
Killed Tuesday evening, March 5, near Camden, Tennessee, in the single-engine plane were Decca Records’ Patsy Cline; Starday’s mainstay, Cowboy Copas; King Records’ artist Hawkshaw Hawkins, and Randy Hughes, talent manager and personal manager to Miss Cline.
Telegrams, cables, phone calls and flowers poured into the city from all parts of the country and overseas as the fatal news broke on the wire services Wednesday morning, March 6.
Irony played its role in the tragedy, as the victims were returning from Kansas City, Missouri, where they had played a benefit performance for the widow of Cactus Jack Call, a country deejay who was killed recently in an automobile accident.
The plane had stopped in Dyersburg, Tennessee, to refuel. It departed Dyersburg about 6 p.m. on the last hop to Nashville. The Dyersburg airport manager, Bill Braese, said Hughes had given his name as pilot of the craft but no flight plan was filed.
The weather in the area at the time of the accident was termed “extremely turbulent.” Cab investigators were at the scene of the crash Wednesday and Thursday to make a detailed probe of the wreckage in an effort to learn the smashup. It is expected to take several days, if not weeks, to complete the studies, one of the investigators reported.
Many persons in the mid-Tennessee area went to the Camden area Tuesday night to join the search after learning of its late status over WSM radio. Of those joining the search, many were “Opry” and music industry personalities.
The plane apparently struck a large tree before hitting the ground. Parts of the aircraft was located hanging in the tree and a three foot hole marked the spot where the main part of the fuselage struck the ground. After the wreckage was located, more than two hundred cars lined the highway near the scene of the accident.
On Wednesday (March 6) the Tennessee House of Representatives, now in session, stood in silent tribute to the victims. Governor Clement voiced a comment typical of the many which poured into the city:
“With the deaths of Patsy Cline, Cowboy Copas, Hawkshaw Hawkins and Randy Hughes, the entertainment world suffers a great professional loss.
“They were typical of the serious-minded, hard working professional people dedicated to country music artistry.
“I counted them among close friends and extend my deep and sincere sympathy to their families.”
Ott Devine, “Grand ‘Ole Opry” manager, said: “WSM and the ‘Grand ‘Ole Opray’ are stunned and deeply saddened. We have lost great talent as well as the closet personal relationship. This tragic happening has brought sorrow throughout the entire music industry, as well as to many of thousand faithful friends and admirers.
Said also John H. DeWitt in a statement: “They were great entertainers in the finest tradition of the ‘Opray,’ and (they were) great personages in their own right. The loss is one which will be felt throughout the music industry , and particularly by their many friends at WSM.”
Patsy Cline has several million-seller records, including, “I Fall To Pieces” and “Walking After Midnight.” Her current hit is “Leaving On Your Mind.” Cline got her start on the Arthur Godfrey “Talent Scouts” in the mid-1950s and joined the “Opry” in 1960.
Decca’s local promotions chief, Owen Bradley, said: “There was no better female vocalist than Patsy Cline.” She just recently cut an album, “Faded Love,’ Bradley said. “I don’t know when, if ever, if it will be released.”
Off stage, Patsy Cline is Mrs. Charles Dick. She is survived by her husband and their two small children.
Several years ago, Patsy was in an automobile accident in Madison, near Nashville. In that accident one person was killed, while Patsy sustain facial and head injuries which left her in critical condition for several weeks.
Copas was a 17-year veteran with the “Opry.” The soft-spoken native of Oklahoma has had numerous hit platters. Some of the big ones include “Filipino Baby” and “Signed, Sealed And Delivered.” Most recently his biggest record has been a revised version of “Alabam.” Copas is survived by his widow, Lucy, and their three children.
Hawkins interests centered on his wife, “Opry” star Jean Shepard, and their son, Donnie Robbin; country music and Tennessee walking horses. His big records include “Slow Poke,” “Soldier’s Joy” and “Bad News Travels Fast.” Hawkins maintained a stable of horses and was in the process of getting them ready for the spring and summer shows.
Hughes, although not an “Opry” star, was widely known and respected in the profession. He was the son-in-law of Copas, and his wife, the former Cathy Copas, also was an entertainer. Cathy and a seven-year-old survive. Randy was considered an accomplished musician. He played back-up music for recording made locally and for all of Patsy Cline’s sessions.
Funeral services for Patsy were held Saturday, March 9, in her home town of Winchester, Virginia. Services for the other three victims were held Friday, March 8, in Nashville. END
(Information and news source: Billboard; March 16, 1963).