Patsy Cline Cause Of Death, Virginia Patterson Hensley (September 8, 1932 – March 5, 1963), known professionally as Patsy Cline, was an American country music singer. Part of the early 1960s Nashville sound, Cline successfully “crossed over” to pop music. She died at age 30 at the height of her career in a private plane crash. She was one of the most influential, successful and acclaimed female vocalists of the 20th century.
Cline was best known for her rich tone, emotionally expressive and bold contralto voice and her role as a country music industry pioneer. Along with Kitty Wells, she helped pave the way for women as headline performers in the genre. Cline was cited as an inspiration by singers in several genres. Books, movies, documentaries, articles and stage plays document her life and career.
Her hits began in 1957 with Donn Hecht’s “Walkin’ After Midnight”, Harlan Howard’s “I Fall to Pieces”, Hank Cochran’s “She’s Got You”, Willie Nelson’s “Crazy” and ended in 1963 with Don Gibson’s “Sweet Dreams”.
Millions of her records have sold since her death. She won awards and accolades, leading some fans to view her as an icon at the level of Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley. Ten years after her death, in 1973, she became the first female solo artist inducted to the Country Music Hall of Fame. In 1999, she was voted number 11 on VH1’s special, The 100 Greatest Women in Rock and Roll, by members and artists of the rock industry. In 2002, country music artists and industry members voted her Number One on CMT’s The 40 Greatest Women of Country Music and ranked 46th in the “100 Greatest Singers of All Time” issue of Rolling Stone magazine. According to her 1973 Country Music Hall of Fame plaque, “Her heritage of timeless recordings is testimony to her artistic capacity.”
Friends Dottie West, June Carter Cash, and Loretta Lynn recalled Cline telling them during 1962-1963 that she felt a sense of impending doom and did not expect to live much longer. Cline, known for her generosity, had begun giving away personal items to friends, writing her will on Delta Air Lines stationery and asking close friends to care for her children should anything happen to her. She told The Jordanaires’ bass singer Ray Walker as she exited the Grand Ole Opry the week before her death: “Honey, I’ve had two bad ones (accidents). The third one will either be a charm or it’ll kill me.”
On March 3, 1963 Cline performed at a benefit at the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall, Kansas City, Kansas for the family of disc jockey “Cactus” Jack Call. He had died in an automobile crash a little over a month earlier. Call was a longtime DJ for KCKN, but had switched to KCMK a week before his death in January 25, 1963 at the age of 39. Also performing on the show were George Jones, George Riddle and The Jones Boys, Billy Walker, Dottie West, Wilma Lee and Stoney Cooper, George McCormick, the Clinch Mountain Boys as well as Cowboy Copas and Hawkshaw Hawkins.
Reports vary as to whether Cline, ill with the flu, gave two or three performances. Some sources say the shows were at 2 p.m. and 5:15 p.m., but other sources say an 8 p.m. show was added due to popular demand. The shows were standing-room only. For the 2 p.m. show, she wore a sky-blue tulle-laden dress, for the 5:15 show a red shocker, and for the closing show at 8 p.m., Cline wore white chiffon and closed the show to a thunderous ovation. Her final song was the last she had recorded the previous month, “I’ll Sail My Ship Alone”.
Cline, who had spent the night at the Town House Motor Hotel, was unable to fly out the day after the concert because Fairfax Airport was fogged in. West asked Patsy to ride in the car with her and husband, Bill, back to Nashville (approximately a 16 hour drive), but Cline refused, saying, “Don’t worry about me, Hoss. When it’s my time to go, it’s my time.” On March 5, she called her mother from the motel and checked out at 12:30 p.m. to go the short distance to the airport to board the Piper PA-24 Comanche plane, aircraft registration number N-7000P. The plane stopped once in Missouri to refuel and subsequently landed at Dyersburg Municipal Airport in Dyersburg, Tennessee at 5 p.m.
Hughes was the pilot, but was not trained in instrument flying. Hawkins had accepted Billy Walker’s offer after Walker left on a commercial flight to take care of a stricken family member. The Dyersburg, Tennessee airfield manager suggested that they stay the night after advising of high winds and inclement weather, and even offered them free rooms and meals, but Hughes responded, “I’ve already come this far. We’ll be there before you know it.” The plane took off at 6:07 p.m. (Hughes’ flight instructor had also trained Jim Reeves, whose plane crashed the following year. Neither pilot was instrument-rated and both attempted using visual flight rules known as VFR-impossible in the driving rain faced by both flights.)
Cline’s flight encountered inclement weather and crashed on the evening of March 5, 1963. Her recovered wristwatch had stopped at approximately 6:20 p.m. The plane wreckage was located approximately 90 miles (140 km) from its Nashville destination in a forest outside Camden, Tennessee. Forensic examinations concluded that everyone aboard had been killed instantaneously from their injuries and did not suffer. Until the wreckage was discovered the following dawn and reported on the radio, friends and family had not given up hope. Endless repetitions of calls such as “Did you hear anything?” “No, did you?” tied up the local telephone exchanges to such a degree that other emergencies occurring over the same period had trouble getting through. The lights at the destination Cornelia Fort Airpark were kept on throughout the night as reports of the missing plane were broadcast on radio and TV.
The grave of Patsy Cline
Early the following morning, Roger Miller and his friend[who?] went searching for survivors: “As fast as I could, I ran through the woods screaming their names-through the brush and the trees, and I came up over this little rise, oh, my God, there they were. It was ghastly. The plane had crashed nose down” Shortly after the bodies were removed, looters scavenged the area. Some of the items which were recovered were eventually donated to The Country Music Hall of Fame. Included in those donations were Cline’s wrist watch, Confederate flag cigarette lighter, studded belt and three pairs of gold lamé slippers. Cline’s fee and attire from that last performance were never recovered.
As per her wishes, Cline was brought home for her memorial service, which thousands attended. She was buried at Shenandoah Memorial Park in her hometown of Winchester, Virginia. Her grave is marked with a bronze plaque, which reads: “Virginia H (Patsy) Cline ‘Death Cannot Kill What Never Dies: Love'”. With the help of Lynn and West, a bell tower was erected at the cemetery in her memory, which plays hymns daily at 6:00 p.m., the hour of her death. Another memorial marks the exact place off Fire Tower Road in Fatty Bottom, Tennessee, where the plane crashed in the still-remote forest outside of Camden.