Window on the West
When Patsy Cline gave her last concert at Memorial Hall in Kansas City, Kan., in 1963, local resident Don Jolley was there. Cline died in a plane crash on the way home from that concert.
The Patsy Cline story is back in the news again because a 50th anniversary tribute concert has been scheduled for 1 p.m. March 3, at the George Meyn Center, Wyandotte County Park, Bonner Springs. It is a benefit for the children of PACES, serving emotional and behavioral needs. The concert will be similar to the 1963 Cline concert.
“I was very young, about 13,” Jolley remembered. He had gone to the benefit concert with his parents, who were country music fans. He grew up on country music and still likes it – classic country, not country’s new sounds, he added.
“I vaguely remember Patsy, when she came out on stage,” Jolley said. “And Cowboy Copas came out and sat on a stool.”
Cline wore a stunning white chiffon dress at the last show; one of the last photos of her was taken by Mildred Keith, Jolley noted. She sang numbers including “Leavin’ on Your Mind,” “Heartaches” and “Sweet Dreams.” And reports at the time indicated she had a touch of the flu that day. She reportedly gave three concerts, and they were well attended.
It was another tragedy that had brought Cline to Kansas City, Kan. She and other country music performers from the Grand Ole Opry had come to Kansas City, Kan., for a benefit concert for a radio disc jockey, Cactus Jack Call, who had died in a recent car crash and left a family, Jolley said. One of Jack’s sons was probably the last person to get a kiss from Patsy before she left the concert, he remarked.
Patsy’s trip home was delayed a day by fog in Kansas City, Kan. Leaving on a private plane on Tuesday, the plane landed in Dyersburg, Tenn., around 5 p.m. Then the pilot decided to continue in bad weather, but he did not make it to Nashville. The plane crashed near Camden, Tenn.
Musician Hawkshaw Hawkins was on the private plane, having given his ticket for a commercial flight earlier to Billy Walker, originally scheduled for the private plane. Walker had a family emergency and had to leave earlier.
Others who were killed in the plane crash, besides Cline and Hawkins, were Cowboy Copas and pilot Randy Hughes. Other Grand Ole Opry stars in the March 3 show were not on the plane.
Jolley noted that Copas and Hawkins were perhaps more famous at the time of the plane crash than was Patsy Cline. Cline’s hits had already topped the charts, but the other two musicians had been with the Grand Ole Opry longer, he said.
“This has been known as the darkest day in the history of the Grand Ole Opry,” Jolley said.
The string of tragedies was not over yet, though, as another country music singer, Jack Anglin, was killed in a car accident on his way to Patsy’s memorial service.
An excellent group of musicians will recreate Cline’s last concert in the benefit show March 3 at the Meyn Center. Chasity Jones will perform Cline’s songs, and also participating will be Fred Uzzell, Jim Winters and Kevin Jones. Tickets are $15 in advance, or $20 at the door. For more ticket information, call 913-638-8589 or email Melissa Bynum at Bynum_m@wmhci.org.
Jolley said he became aware of an effort to hold a 50th anniversary Patsy Cline concert about four years ago, promoted in a big way as a moneymaker, but he wanted the tribute concert to be a benefit for a group of kids.
“That’s what Patsy was doing when she came to town,” Jolley said.