You may have noticed on my Tour schedule that on Friday night March 1st I am scheduled to appear at the Community Center in Camden, Tennessee.
Camden is a small town probably not more than 100 miles west of Nashville that was thrust into the national spotlight fifty years ago when the small plane carrying country stars Patsy Cline, Hawkshaw Hawkins, and Cowboy Copas crashed in a wooded area a few miles outside the city limits. All three singers, plus the plane’s pilot and Patsy’s manger, Randy Hughes, were killed.
The people of Camden and Benton County are banding together this year to commemorate that tragedy with a weekend of music and memories titled “Gone But Not Forgotten.” I have been invited to take part in a panel discussion on Friday night with others who remember our friends and all that they contributed to our music and to our lives. Following the panel discussion, my acoustical group and I will give a concert.
I don’t know why it has taken fifty years for a ceremony honoring these people to take place in Camden, nor do I know why it took me almost fifty years to actually visit the site of the crash myself. I finally went there on a Sunday afternoon last fall when I was driving back to Nashville from a show in Huntingdon, Tennessee. It was both an eerie and a comforting feeling to stand in the spot where four of my friends had perished. The setting itself is serene, the horror of what happened there is beyond comprehension.
I remember the morning following the crash as though it were yesterday. Patsy Crutchfield, wife of songwriter/record producer, Jerry Crutchfield, woke me up a little after seven o’clock and told me that, “Hawkshaw Hawkins was killed in a plane crash last night.” There was no mention of anyone else. “Turn on WSM radio,” she urged. “They are talking about it right now.” It wasn’t until I heard announcers T. Tommy Cutrer and Grant Turner trying to keep their composure as they shared the awful news with their listeners that I fully understood the full scope of what had taken place.
I remember going to the memorial services later in the week, and sitting directly in front of Kitty Wells and her husband, Johnnie Wright. The sadness of the occasion was only multiplied after the service when someone came up to Johnnie and told him that his longtime singing partner, Jack Anglin, had been killed in a car wreck on his way to the funeral home.
If you’d like more information concerning the “Gone But Not Forgotten” weekend in Camden, contact Terry Hudson at 731-441-2214 or visit the web site at http://gonebutnotforgotten2013.eventbrite.com
It was a week in country music history that we’d all like to forget, but one that we should never stop remembering.