I don’t think it is out of line to say that Patsy Cline is one of the greatest country stars that ever lived. Her clear voice fills the air with emotion and a resonance that still remains through the ages. My husband Keith and I are huge country music fans and stopped to pay tribute at the Patsy Cline Memorial in Camden, Tennessee at I-40 exit 126. This is the site where she lost her life along with Cowboy Copas, Hawkshaw Hankins, and Randy Hughes. That night the plane they were all in crashed at this site on March 5, 1963.
The county music star was returning home from a benefit concert for DJ Jack “Cactus”. The concert had been in Kansas City, Missouri. Her manager Randy Hughes was flying in stormy weather. Approximately 85 miles west of Nashville, which happened to be near Camden, the plane ran into turbulence. The plane crashed and the wreckage was found the next morning. There were no survivors.
Patsy Cline’s life
Born in Virginia on September 8, 1932, her given name was Virginia Patterson Hensley. Her father was a blacksmith and he mother Hilda, according to her biography, “was only 16 years old when she married Samuel, more than 25 years her senior. The couple had three children together before splitting up, with Hilda becoming a seamstress to support her family.”
Patsy Cline taught herself how to play the piano around the age of eight. Singing at an early age, she dropped out of school and started singing early on to help bring in money for her family. She worked at several local jobs like the poultry plant and a local soda shop. Another biography site shared that “On Sundays, she sang with the local church choir, and at age 14, was singing regularly on local radio station WINC.”
In 1952, she started performing with Bill Peer’s group. Marrying Gerald Cline in 1953, she landed a record contract in 1954. Her big break came in 1957 when she appeared on the Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts show winning the competition with “Walkin’ After Midnight”. When the record came out it was an immediate top ten hit.
Pasty Cline divorced Gerald. In the late 1959’s, she married Charles Dick and together they had two children, daughter Julie and son Randy. During the early 60’s, she charted with top hits like “I Fall To Pieces” and “Crazy”. “Sweet Dreams” came out right after her death and went on to be a huge hit.
She was only 30 years old at the time, was survived by her husband, Charlie Dick, and her children. They were only were four and two at the time of her death.
The memorial is in the country outside of Camden. It is very peaceful and lovely. There is a sign explaining “One of Country Music’s Darkest Days” about what happened.
Then there is a winding path with a stone carved with the names of those that perished in the crash. Benches offer a place to sit and reflect. Coins dotted the memorial and there were flowers showing that visitors like us are still coming and paying respect to Patsy Cline and her amazing talent.
Last year we stopped at the George Jones Museum in Nashville. I heard recently through writer Kathleen Walls that there is a Patsy Cline museum as well and I want to find this wonderful stop when in Music City one day!