Thanks so much to those of you who came to Camden, Tennessee, this past weekend to help us commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the terrible plane crash near there that took the lives of Patsy Cline, Cowboy Copas, Hawkshaw Hawkins, and Randy Hughes.
It wasn’t a large crowd, but I counted people from Texas, Arkansas, Tennessee, South Carolina, West Virginia, New Jersey, Wisconsin, and probably a few more places that I missed. The impact of country music’s biggest loss is still felt deeply by true country fans the world over.
We visited the crash site a few hours before our show began, and everyone commented that the eerie, dark clouds hanging low over our heads must have been similar to those hovering over this same wooded area a half-century before. The sky was spitting snow and drizzling rain as we stood alongside the granite marker that serves to remind us of the gruesome tragedy that took place on what is now hallowed ground. Most experts deem the crash to have been at least partially weather related.
The most prolonged applause from my time on stage came when I sang Copas’ “Filipino Baby,” and then acknowledged his picture hanging behind me. The song is dated and probably politically incorrect today, but it still resonates with people. I was pleased to learn that and to feel it first-hand.
My granddaughter, Rae, who wouldn’t even be born until more than thirty years after the tragedy, paid tribute to Patsy by singing “Walkin’ After Midnight,” and our panel discussion earlier in the evening shed new light on many of the people involved and the events that took place. Robert K. Oermann, Brian Mansfield, and Chuck Dauphin, all extremely knowledgeable country music historians, filled in the gaps for the rest of us.
In today’s world, where the latest and greatest is sometimes considered to be the one and only, it’s gratifying to know that the people and events that preceded some of us can still have cause and significance in our lives.
To me, that’s as it should be.
But don’t get me started talking about the other side of that coin. I’m referring to the removal of Minnie Pearl’s name and logo from the cancer center that she founded and supported. Check out a column by Gail Kerr in Sunday’s Tennessean newspaper (www.tennessean.com). While people in Camden paused to remember, others in New York displayed an unconscionable ability to forget.
Shame on them.