Fifty-five years ago today, a plane carrying one of country’s most famous voices, Patsy Cline, crashed in the woods near Camden, Tennessee, killing all onboard: Cline, Grand Ole Opry members Cowboy Copas and Hawkshaw Hawkins, and pilot Randy Hughes.
Cline was on her way home from Kansas City, Kansas, where she’d played a benefit show – ironically, to raise money for the family of radio DJ “Cactus Jack” Call, who had died in a car crash three months earlier – with help from Copas, Hawkins and other Grand Ole Opry members like George Jones. The group’s commercial flight back to Nashville had been cancelled due to rainy weather, so Cline chartered her own plane, with her manager Randy Hughes piloting. They were just 85 miles away from a Nashville airstrip – Cornelia Fort Airpark in East Nashville – when the plane went down.
One week earlier, Cline had performed on The Glenn Reeves Show. It was her final TV appearance. Looking cool and collected, she sang her own version of Bob Wills’ “San Antonio Rose,” as well as the song that kicked off the most celebrated period of her career, the Number One “I Fall to Pieces.”
Decades later, country-pop has changed drastically, with charging guitars and drum loops taking the place of swooning strings. Cline’s influence, however, remains as potent as ever, heard everywhere from the girl-power punch of Miranda Lambert to the caramelized croon of Dwight Yoakam. And while many have christened other artists like LeAnn Rimes the “next Patsy Cline,” there has yet to be one to truly match her influence and prowess.