About The Artist
Originally Posted: April 2001
Harold Franklin Hawkins was born in December of 1921 in Huntington, West Virginia to parents Alexander and Icie Mae (Graham) Hawkins. His father was a glass worker. Alexander married Icie Mae were married on March 19, 1921 in Huntington. The music world came to know their son as Hawkshaw Hawkins. He grew to be about six feet five inches tall. His nature and height probably had a hand in the fans giving him the nickname of "Eleven and one-half yards of personality".
His musical efforts seem to develop naturally as he grew up. He was part of a family of four. When he was just 13 years old, he got his first guitar, a homemade one, that he got in a trade for five rabbits. Later on, he was working at the printing company where National Hillbilly News magazine was printed (Poster Show Print Co.) in Huntington, WV. Perhaps during a break, he started "...messin' around with an old Strad violin that had been around the place for years." He took it upon himself to buy some strings, resin, a bow. It took him some practice in his spare time, but eventually he could play a recognizable tune called "Cindy."
There was an amateur radio contest in his home town and someone dared Hawkshaw to enter the contest. Rich Kienzle wrote in 1995 that He won the contest sponsored by radio station WSAZ of Huntington, WV, That got him a $15 a week job singing for the station. Another variation of this early contest was in National Hillbilly News May/June 1946. A local theatre was putting on a fiddling contest. The gang at the printing company were teasing Hawkshaw about his fiddling efforts and dared him to enter the contest. After taking a few days of their teasing, Hawkshaw told them, "You guys don't think I have the nerve to enter, do you?" But he did and he won! But it was not because of his fiddle playing, but for his personality on stage. He started getting offers to play with other radio bands. Mr. Kienzle also told readers that Hawkshaw was part of "Hawkshaw and Sherlock" - a guitar-mandolin-vocal-duo; his partner was Clarence Jack.
In a question and answer session as part of a column called "Witness Box" in an old Country Song Roundup, Hawkshaw related that a couple named Radio Dot and Smokey gave him one of his first breaks in the music business when he teamed with them over WSAZ. He also said Jake Taylor had helped out, too but no other details were provided.
A couple years later and he was working as the emcee of a show that aired over COMMIE in Ashland, Kentucky.
Hawkshaw and Sherlock then worked at WL AW in Lawrence, MA for a time. World War II was underway and the two of them found work in the shipyards doing defense jobs.
Like many artists in that era, Hawkshaw's musical career was interrupted by World War II. He entered the Army Engineering Corps in November of 1943. He was first sent to Germany as an engineer. While there, he 'liberated' a blonde double neck guitar in a bombed out Aachen that became his pride and joy. He was stated to have served in the Army about two and a half years as a Sergeant. He served in the European Theatre of Operations (ETO) and in the Pacific. He was also a part of the 197th Engineering Maintenance Company.
During that time, he saw nearly 15 months of combat duty and was a participant in the "Battle of the Bulge", which took place in late 1944 and lasted through 1945. He earned four battle stars. After the war ended in Germany, he was assigned to the Philippines.
According to Mr. Kienzle, while Hawkshaw was stationed in Manila, he landed a show with radio station WTVM. (This is probably an error. It was possibly KZRM which was the first station in Manila to go back on the air after the war and was being used by the U.S. Army. (Per an article on prezi.com) It was written he still had a transcription of his last program he did in the Philippines.
From there, he was sent to Manila in the Philippines. But the salty and humid air in the Philippines caused his guitar to come apart. It was while he was stationed in the Philippines that Hawkshaw enjoyed one of the highlights of his career that was often mentioned in the write-ups in the magazines of that era. He was part of an all-GI show in Manila that aired over radio station WTUM or WUTM (we've seen various radio station names for this stint in the Philippines, the fan club newsletter we have mentions it was WUTM.).
In January of 1946, Hawkshaw was discharged from the military service. It appears that upon going home to resume his music career, he went first to the steel regions of Pennsylvania and hooked up with radio station WKST in New Castle. While he was there, an artists bureau member heard Hawkshaw's singing and sent a recommendation to WWVA in Wheeling, West Virginia, the home of the World's Original Jamboree. He made a guest appearance on that show on July 29, 1946 and in August, he joined the cast of the show. It didn't take long for the fans to discover his popularity. They ran a popularity contest after he had been there only six weeks and he came in second place (one article we read mentioned he came in second to Big Slim)! Later, he won a popularity contest. A fan club newsletter mentions the crowds "...would scream encores as he performed on the Jamboree stage."
But that wasn't all that happened as a result of his return to performing after his military service. An unnamed fellow came around to see Hawkshaw and asked if he was interested in recording some records? Hawkshaw was somewhat taken aback and at the time, felt he wasn't good enough (sounds like a modest person?) and didn't take the offer seriously. But as word got to his friends, his mind changed and they urged him to take up the guy on the offer.
A bit bashful, he signed on a five-year deal on the dotted line with King Record Company in Cincinnati. Folks were thinking it wouldn't be long before his recordings would be topping the charts.
Hawkshaw's reaction as quoted in a 1946 article: "Well, I guess all entertainers get a break, sooner or later, and I guess this is my chance. I'm certainly going to take it." His first records were due to hit the market around July 1946.
But Mr. Kienzle notes that Syd Nathan of King Records may have made a mistake thinking that Hawkshaw could become their label's "Ernest Tubb" and indeed, recorded several of his songs. But while the records were good, they did not catch on. Mr. Kienzle also notes it may have prevented Hawkshaw from "...establishing a sound and style of his own."
We get an idea of the audience reaction to Hawkshaw's appearances on the WWVA Original Jamboree show from some quotes attributed to Curly Miller, in a Hillbilly News article of 1947. Curly was the emcee of the show back then and they wrote that towards the end of the show, Curly would step up to the microphone and introduce the man the fans called "Eleven yards of personality and song." But it seems that before Curly could even get to say his name, his voice was drowned out by "..the screaming and thunderous applause of the frenzied audience".
Curly had worked as master of ceremonies at several of the top shows of the time, the WIBC Jamboree in Indiana, the WLS National Barn Dance, the Hayloft Frolic, the Noon Day Merry-Go-Round and others before coming to the WWVA show. Curly said,
"But I have never seen or heard any other entertainer given such a tremendous applause and welcome ovation."
The article goes on to try and explain this popularity, attributing it to "His top recordings, his pleasing voice, his vibrant personality, his all-around good humor". They also said he was just Hawkshaw Hawkins, "…no airs, no strut, no sham."
Hawkshaw worked for some time with the Big Slim show as they teamed up on personal appearances before Big Slim left the station.
In July of 1948, Hawkshaw left WWVA (his replacement they said was Tennessee Morgan) and in August joined WFIL in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where it was reported he would also do television spots in addition to working on the radio. While at WFIL, he appeared on the Saturday night show, the Hayloft Hoedown which was televised and broadcast over the ABC network. But perhaps his West Virginia roots were too strong, for in November 1948, he returned to WWVA.
The fan club newsletter reported that they staged a special welcome Jamboree for his return. They said thousands came to the theatre, lining up early in the day to make sure they got the best seats. They wrote, "No star had a greater ovation than hawk as he stepped before the footlights of the famous Jamboree stage that night."
In one interesting mention we found, it notes that Hawkshaw was going to take a show on tour in the Northwest for 60 days "…at a guaranteed $100,000 dollars."
He began to appear on WWVA in fall of 1946. He had been in the army where he had a 15-minute program every day for the Armed Forces network.
Billboard reported that Hawkshaw had signed a five-year contract with the King record label of Cincinnati, OH in July 1946. His first recording with King was released on July 26, 1946. At the time he was on the Hayloft Frolics show that aired over WKST in New Castle, PA. Other stars on the show included Curly and Hallie Miller; Jimmie Hutchinson; Marion Martin; Froggie Cortez; Pete Cortex; Margie Krepp; Jackie Krepp; Jane and Jill; Pete Chefo; Sunflower; Slim Applejack; Smokey and Art Haggerty. He severed his ties with the station at the same time he signed with King.
Billboard reported that on October 12 1946 one of the most popular teams on WWVA were broken up. Big Slim had to leave for the East. But before doing so, he was awarded first prize in the station's popularity contest that was held in September. Hawkshaw Hawkins, who was Big Slim's partner, finished second. Toby Stroud and his Blue Mountain Boys finished third. Big Slim was due to operate the Circle K Ranch near Norristown, PA and was to broadcast over WDAS in Philadelphia as well. Slim had released two Canadian movies, "The Last Of The Mustangs" and "The Calgary Stampede."
In a bit of promotional flair, WWVA reported to Billboard that Hawkshaw would be known as the West Virginia Playboy on the station. He was on daily 12:00 pm to 1:00pm The General Store show at the time along with Big Slim.
Billboard reported in July of 1948 that "Tennessee Morgan" aka George Morgan had signed on with WWVA and was replacing Hawkshaw Hawkins. In August of 1948, Hawkshaw had hooked up with WFIL in Philadelphia. He was to also do television/video work in addition to radio broadcasts.
By the end of 1948, Billboard reported that Hawkshaw had left WFIL and was once again working with Big Slim and his group at WWVA.
Around September of 1950, Hawkshaw had formed a new band. In one article, it notes that Hawkshaw's band was called the "West Virginia Night Hawks."
The band at that time included Billy Grammer who would later also become noted musician himself and later a member of the Opry in his own right. Billy Grammer played the "boogie guitar" in Hawkshaw's band back then. Sammy Barnhart played bass.
The band also include a couple of guys known as Mel and Stan were known as the "Kentucky Twins" and another unidentified person played "Fireball", who was the comedian of the troupe.
In a WWVA Family Album of 1950, it lists the members of his band as Red Watkins, guitar, Glenn Ferguson, fiddle, Herman "Jiggs" Lemley and Buddy Nelson, bass fiddle.
This stint at WWVA lasted until February 2, 1952 when he left to go on an extended tour of Canada and states such as Massachusetts, Vermont, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Indiana, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Michigan and Ohio.
After that extended tour, he returned to WWVA on September 18, 1952 to appear twice a night on the Original Jamboree as well as a studio show at 1:45am.
The newsletter also included a section that spoke to some of the artists on WWVA at the same time as Hawkshaw. One was Mervin Shiner:
"Mervin Shiner is the newest addition to the friendly voice. Merv's latest Coral waxings "Hearbreaking Waltz" backed with River of Silver. He is proving quite popular with the WWVA fans."and Dusty Owens:
"Dusty Owens is pretty happy these days with his shiny new Columbia records contract. His first release on that label will be his own tune "It That's The Life You Want To Live" backed with "Hello Operator." Dusty is a grand singer and we know he'll go a long way in his career. (How could a guy miss with that wonderful voice?)"or Buzz and Jack, The Bayou Boys:
"Buzz and Jack, the Bayou Boys have left us since last journal and we miss them. Too, it seems Cowboy Phil and Eva Burke have gone as we never hear them anymore.
He stayed this time until June of 1954. He went west to Missouri to work with the cast that was being put together by the Ozark Jubilee airing over KWTO in Springfield, Missouri that was led by Red Foley.
Hawkshaw's popularity continued while there and in fact was one of the original cast members that were also a part of the first television broadcasts of the show.
The Golden Spurs Fan Club newsletter from around the fall of 1953, mentions Hawk's affinity for animals. Hawk mentioned in a note to his fans that he had just bought two more coon dogs.
He wrote, "...when I'm not working I'm in the woods with my two dogs. The dogs names are Sounder and Lizzie. Sounder is the best of the two and Lizzie is a "good'n".
First, there was his pet, Cricket. The fan club president, Monna Massey wrote: "Hawk's little pomeranian dog, Cricket, is growing like a bad weed! Just as onery as ever if not more so. And should hear the little "dickens" bark for her food! Just say, "Cricket, are you hungry?" and she yaps like mad! Sure is a sweet little dog!"
The fan Club newsletter we have included a section called "Lines From The Poet's Pen." Monna wrote one called "It's Hawk."
"His eyes are part of Heaven's blue,
In July of 1954, Hawkshaw had started a daily radio show over KWTO. And later that same month, on July 17, the first performance of the Ozark Jubilee took place at the Jewell Theater in Springfield. Other members of that inaugural cast included Tommy Sosebee, Slim Wilson and Porter Wagoner. Later on, the show loaned him to Nashville's Grand Ole Opry and before you know it, the Opry made him a member.
It seems that while on the Ozark Jubilee, a couple of Opry stars, Hank Snow and Ernest Tubb had heard him and talked to Jack Stapp who was the director of WSM and the Grand Ole Opry then. Let's see how Hawkshaw described his invitation to join the Opry in a magazine article (he joined the Opry in June of 1955):
"I was sitting in my house when the phone rang. I answered it and a voice said, 'This is Hank.' Hank Snow, you mean, I said. 'Yes', you have a job at WSM anytime you want it.' Well, I just couldn't believe it but I called Mr. Stapp and he told me to report in two weeks for the Opry." Later, Hawkshaw noted, " It's taken me 17 years to get to the Grand Ole Opry and I hope it takes 17 years more for them to get rid of me."
His fame continued to spread. He was being heard on a radio network show called "Saturday Night Country Style" that was broadcast each week from the famous live jamboree / Opry type shows back then from places such as Richmond, Louisville, Wheeling, Knoxville, Shreveport, Dallas and Nashville.
Hawkshaw himself was a bit of a talented musician, playing several instruments, though most fans associate him playing the guitar. He could also play the five-string banjo, mandolin, violin, bass and harmonica, too.
During its heyday, Hawkshaw's Fan Club, "Golden Spurs" was one of the biggest in the industry.
Hawkshaw enjoyed other aspects of life besides music and was fond of outdoor sports, such as fishing, baseball, swimming, coon-hunting and horseback riding. They said he later started 'collecting' tropical fish if that's the way to describe it and also had a Pomeranian dog named Cricket.
In fact, he was quite the horseman and had several horses. He learned to use a bullwhip when he met Kit Carson while at a radio station in Lawrence, Massachusetts and continued to use it in his shows. His abilities with the horses should help us understand the natural teaming of Big Slim who was also a horseman while they were at WWVA. In a side note, Hank Snow was also a part of Big Slim's show for a short time. Hawkshaw at one time had two trained horse, one named "Chief" who was said to be able to do 25 tricks. Another horse was "Tomahawk" - a combination of the names Hawkshaw and Tom, for Tom Kelly, his manager.
On January 1, 1953, Hawkshaw Hawkins was part of the entertainment for a concert in Canton, OH. This was a concert that Hank Williams was also to appear, but he died in the early morning at an Oak Hill, WV hospital. The promoter, A. V. Bamford, called Hank's mother who request the show go on without Hank. Cliff Rogers a DJ wwith WHKK opened both shows with the death announcement; the ensemble of entertainers sang "I Saw The Light," a tune Hank had written in 1948. Other entertainers besides Hawkshaw were Homer and Jethro; Autry Inman; Red Taylor; the Webb Sisters; and Jack and Daniel. A total of 4,444 people attended the shows. With Hank's death, his manager, Clyde Perdue, was taking over management of Hawkshaw Hawkins who was going back to WWVA. Perdue was moving his headquarters from Greenville, TL to Wheeling, WV.
On May 1, 1953, he signed with the RCA Victor label. Then he moved to Columbia before returning to the King label. Perhaps his most requested song at one time was Filipino Baby, for they wrote, "…what Hawkshaw can't do with that song, no one can."
He also wrote many tunes during his career, such as:
Hawkshaw Hawkins was quite fond of horses and had one that was part of his show when he worked with Big Slim. He kept the horse(s) as part of his act for several years. Around 1953, he won a horse race at Wheeling (WV) Downs that earned a $12,000 purse for charity.
Columbia ran a full page ad to promote Hawkshaw's recording of "Soldier's Joy." It must have paid off. On August 3, 1959, it entered the Hot 100 Chart at number 93. It climbed to number 87 the following week. Listening to the tune, this author finds the up tempo beat and the instrumentation reminds one of Johnny Horton's song that was also on the charts. It was not uncommon to see a country singer break the Hot 100. That same week of August 3, Johnny Horton's "Battle of New Orleans" was No. 4; Stonewall Jackson's "Waterloo" was No. 7, the Browns' "Three Bells" was at No. 32; Carl Smith's "Ten Thousand Drums" was at No. 43; Eddy Arnold's "Tennessee Stud" was No. 67; Johnny Cash's "Katy Too" was No. 69; a young Conway Twitty's recording of "Mona Lisa" was No. 71; Mitchell Torok's "Caribbean" was No. 73; Marvin Rainwater's tune "Half-Breed" was No. 85; Johnny Cash was also No. 95 with "I Got Stripes" and, George Jones held down the No. 98 spot with "Who Shot Sam."
On the personal side, Hawkshaw married Reva Barbour from Huntington, WV in 1940. While the exact date is not known, if the year is correct, the couple married at a very young age. She was 15; he was 18. They adopted a daughter, Marlene, who is now a Country Gospel singer/songwriter, author and speaker. At some point after 1950, they were divorced.
Hawkshaw married again, this time to Jean Shepard, country music singer who was also a part of the Grand Ole Opry.
The marriage of Hawkshaw Hawkins and Jean Shepard was quite a thing back on November 26, 1960. Country Song Roundup featured it on their cover and wrote up the details and provided some photos. They were appearing as part of a Grand Ole Opry show at the Forum Auditorium in Wichita, Kansas.
A picture of the married duo included a caption that told readers Hawk had met Jean in 1954 when he joined Red Foley's show (probably the Ozark Jubilee) in 1954 and "...we have been making the shows together since then."
And it was quite a show to say the least - sharing the stage that day were Tex Ritter, Hank Morton, Carl Perkins, The Plainsmen Quartet, The LeGarde Twins from Australia, Moon Mullican, Gary Van and his Western Starlighters. The article reports that a crowd of 4,000 folks attended this gala event. Admission prices was $2.00 for adults; $1.50 general admission; $1.00 balcony and $.50 for an unreserved child.
Their wedding took place after the show. When the curtain closed after the last song and after a brief interlude, organ music filled the auditorium.
Easman Napier with the Plainsmen Quartet sang a couple of tunes, "True Love" and "Her Hand In Mine" to set the mood for the ceremony.
Then Jean appeared dressed in her bridal gown. The procession took them through the audience to the stage, with an arbor of Chrysanthemums. The owner of the local radio station KSIR, Nick Sanders, was the emcee of the ceremony, letting the audience know what was occurring.
After the ceremony, Jean told the audience that those wanting a souvenir, could come to the stage and take a piece of the floral decorations.
Needless to say, fans took her up on this offer. The audience even got to sample the wedding cake, though there wasn't enough for everyone, but the article said nearly a 1,000 people got to taste it. After the wedding, the couple would make their home in Nashville.
We are fortunate enough to have come across an old fan club newsletter or two in our collection. One, The Hawk's Nest, contained a first person account of the marriage of Hawkshaw and Jean. Below is Ann Kaehn's account.
While Hawkshaw never ran for political office, he was part of a group of entertainers that drew the "...greatest crows in the history of Tennessee politics from June 23 through August 1 to hear Gov. Clement speak and hear his "sidemen" pick and sing. The "sidemen" included: Eddie Hill; Eddy Arnold; Carl Smith; Porter Wagoner; ray Price; Carl Perkins, Jimmy Newman; Webb Pierce; Hawkshaw Hawkins and Jean Shepard; Bill Anderson; the Louvin Brothers; the Slater Sisters; Ferlin Husky; Smiley and Kitty Wilson; George Morgan; Red Sovine; Grandpa Jones; Hank Snow; Johnny and Jack and Kitty Wells; Bill Phillips; Ernest Tubb; the Wilburn Brothers; Cowboy Copas; Stonewall Jackson; Roy Druskyy; Faron Young and Roy Acuff. Jim Denny's Artist Bureau arranged for the talent, along with Acuff-Rose Artists Bureau, Hubert Long, Hal Smith and the Wil-Helm Agency.
We have an issue of "The Hawk's Nest" - said to be the official Hawkshaw Hawkins fan club. The president was . This issue appears to be just after his marriage to Jean. Hawkshaw told his fans:
"I suppose you know I got married last Nov. 26th in Wichita, Kansas, I married Jean Shepard and I'm very happy and I'll after you meet her, you will like her as much as I do. We have a seven room house, three acres of ground, eleven dogs, ten bird dogs and Cricket, Jean's Pomeranian, the two horses, and a Canary bird that sings louder than Jean and I put together. Oh yes, 30 white chickens just to keep me busy when I have a few minutes that I could lay down.
On December 13, 1961, Hawkshaw and Jean welcome a son, Don Robin Hawkins. He was named for Don Gibson and Marty Robbins.
During a tour with the King label, he recorded a tune that Justin Tubb (son of Ernest Tubb) wrote called "Lonesome 7-7203" in 1962.
Hawkshaw did not live to see it reach number one on the charts. It was his only recording that reached the top of the charts. It was "...bubbling under the Hot 100..." chart for several weeks as well, peaking at No. 108 on the May 11, 1963 chart. In Billboard's 16th Annual Country Music Disc Jockey Poll, the tune was voted No. 4 in the Favorite Country Single Category. The top three tunes were Still (Bill Anderson); Act Naturally (Buck Owens); and Don't Let Me Cross Over (Carl Butler).
On Sunday March 3, 1963, there was to be a benefit concert for popular disc jockey Cactus Jack Call at the Kansas City Kansas Memorial Building. Cactus Jack had died in an automobile crash in early 1963. He had worked at KCKN in Kansas City as well as KANS. He had just started work at KCMK-FM a week prior to the accident. He died on Friday, January 25, 1963 at the age of 35 from brain complications after he had been unconscious for more than 36 hours from injuries suffered when his car collided with a truck on the day prior. He was a native of Trenton, MO. The accident occurred at Sterling Avenue and U.S. 40 in Independence.
An article promoting the concert noted that was paying tribute Cactus Jack "...did much to popularize their type of music." When word spread of his fatal accident, they put together a benefit concert for Jack's wife, Anna Belle Call and their two sons, Donald Wesley and Danny Albert. The performers were waiving their normal concert fees and only being reimbursed for expenses. Roy Acuff was coming out of retirement to perform on the show.
The show included many stars of the Grand Ole Opry: Roy Acuff; George Jones; Ralph Emery; Billy Walker; Cowboy Copas; Hawshaw Hawkins; Wilma Lee and Stoney Cooper; Dottie West; Georgie Riddle and the Jones Boys; George McCormick and the Clinch Mountain Clan; and, Patsy Cline. There was three shows, 2:00pm, 5:15pm and 8:15pm.
On March 5, 1963, a plane piloted by Randy Hughes was carrying Hawkshaw Hawkins, Patsy Cline and Cowboy Copas left Kansas City, KS for Nasvhille via Dyersburg. The weather was stormy that evening. The plane stopped in Dyersburg, TN and left there around 6:07 pm. But the plane was more than several hours overdue in Nashville and the control tower at Nashville's Berry Field reported that a communications search failed to locate it. A search was undertaken. The plane ha crashed about four miles west of Camden, TN, about 80 miles east of Dyersburg. Randy Hughes was the son-in-law of Cowboy Copas.
A search in the morning of March 6 found the wreck of the $25,000 Piper Commanche plane. No survivors were found at the scene which was in the woods, about five miles west of the Tennessee River in Benton, County.
The entertainers had participated in a benefit performance for the late "Cactus Jack" Call, a Kansas City disc jockey who was illed in a car crash.
News reports indicated that John Latham, the manager at radio station WFWO in Camden, TN was one of the first on the scene. It was stated the plane "came straight down and clipped one tree top before it hit the ground. It came down at a real sharp angle." The crash was found in a heavily wooded area, about 440 yeards off a gravel road.
A big hole in the ground was seen where the plane crashed; there was apparently no sign of fire.
The plane had stopped in Dyersburg Airport for fuel the night before. The airport manager, Bill Braese, said the plane took off for Nashville at 6:07pm; he said he warned them not to travel due to the adverse weather.
Weather reports that night showed there was turbulent weather in the Camden area at the time of the crash; visibility was said to be "extremely poor." The storm was part of a squall line that moved across parts of Tennessee and Alabama, bringing heavy rain as well.
Newspaper photos from the crash scene show a guitar strap with Hawkshaw Hawkins' name on it and a single cowboy boot.
Billy Walker also planned to be on the plane, but had to take a commercial flight back to Nashville as the plane flown by Hughes could only hold four people. Jean Shepard told reporters that her husband, Hawkshaw, had called her from Kansas City to let her know he was flying back with Hughes. She said he also called her from Dyersburg. Mrs. Hughes said her husband had called her from the Dyersburg Airport to let know "I'll be home soon."
The plane was not immediately found. It was a few thousand yards from U.S. Hwy 70. Pieces of the aircraft were found in an area about 30 square yards in a heavily wooded area. It was reported that very few trees were damaged; an indication the plane "had plunged almost directly downward."
The search had started the night the plane crashed. The Tennessee Highway Patrol and the CAA initally focused their search efforts in the Camden area. Four persons had told Sheriff Loye Furr they saw a plane circling, then heard a crash. The search lasted all night. The overnight search did not find the plane, but it turns out some of the search efforts were within 30 yards of the air craft. When dawn came, the Civil Air Patrol was ready to do an aerial search, but before the plane took off, Bill McClain, a Civil Defense worker had spotted it from a fire tower.
After the crash, radio station WSM changed its programming. Commercials were cancelled. Requests were also rejected. The station began playing nothing but hymns and songs recorded by Patsy Cline, Hawkshaw Hawkins and Cowboy Copas. When the news of Jack Anglin's death came, the station added his music to the mix.
Anglin's car had plunged off a 12 to 15 foot embankment about 100 feet west of Old Due West Avenue and crashed into a tree. The county medical examiner, Dr. W. J. Core, ruled his death was caused by a fractured skull. Reports indicated that the car traveled about 30 feet off the embankment before hitting the tree. He was apparently "breathing a little bit." when officers arrived on the scene.
Reports indicated that Jack planned to attend the prayer services for Patsy Cline at the time of his accident. He was married to Louise Wright, sister of Johnnie Wright. In addition to his widow, he was survived by a son Terry Anglin of Madison. He was to be on Saturday at 3:00pm. Active pallbearers were to be Pete (Oswald) Kirby; Howdy Forrester; Shot Jackson; Johnny Sibert; Joe Zinkan and Jimmy Newman. Honorary pallbearers were to be Ott Devine; Ken Marvin; Ike Inman; Paul Wandell; Bill Phillips; Carl Smith; Jim Reeves; Roy Acuff andmembers of the Grand Ole Opry. He was to be buried at Forest Lawn Cemetery.
Red O'Donnell wrote in The Nashville Tennesseean, quoting an unnamed veteran of the Opry:
"It is a wonder more of us aren't killed. We rack up so much mileage in the air and on the road. It was inevitable that the law of averages would catch up with some of us. It is unfortunate."
Funerals for three of the Grand Ole Opry performers were held on Saturday, March 9, 1963. News reports stated that an estimated 2,500 persons attended the funeral services at the Phillips-Robinson Funeral Home for Cowboy Copas and his son-in-law, Randy Hughes. At Forest Lawn Memorial Garden, about 300 floral tributes decked the caskets and were arranged around the gravesides.
The Cowboy Copas grave had a five foot flower guitar surrounded by many other floral arrangements. Another guitar was at the head of the grave for Randy Hughes.
Friday afternoon, another estimated 2,500 persons attended the servics at the funeral home for Hawkshaw Hawkins. There was a lyre, horse and horseshoe adorned his grave.
There were arrangements of gladioli, asters and chrysanthemums bordering the three graves. Floral tributes came from around the world—from fans, friends and fellow artists. The tributes ranged from giant, elaborate arrangements to simple wreaths and bouquets.
News reports stated that funeral home attendants estimated nearly 450 cars in the funeral procession for Cowboy Copas and Randy Hughes.
Funeral services for Patsy Cline were held on Thursday. She was to be buried in her home town of Winchester, VA on Sunday.
Honorary pallbearers for Patsy Cline were Arthur Godfrey, Jimmy Dean, Roy Acuff, Ernest Tubb, members of the Grand Ole Opry staff, members of the Decca Records staff, Ott Devine and the staff of WSM, the radio station of the Grand Ole Opry. She was to be buried in Shenandoah Memorial Park. Her husband Charlie Dick died in 2015 and their graves are next to each other.
A fourth member of the Opry, Jack Anglin (one half of the Johnnie and Jack duo), died in an automobile accident while driving to the services for Patsy Cline. His funeral was held on Saturday, March 9, 1963 at the Madison Funeral Home. He was also buried at the Forest Lawn Memorial Gardens in Goodlettsville.
Jean Shepard had announced that week she was expecting their second child. Harold (Hawkshaw) Hawkins Jr. was born on April 8, 1963.
On Saturday, March 9, 1963, the Grand Ole Opry went on the air as it always does. The fans stood for a moment of silent tribute to the fallen performers followed by a hymn. Then, as one might say, the show went on.
The memorial pages found on the Find-A-Grave website:
The stars were eulogized in editorials. One in Memphis, TN wrote "Fate Picks And Sings A Sorrowful Tune:"
"...The Grand Ole Opry has been a national institution broadcast from station WSM in Nashville for 37 years. Over-sentimental and corny tho some of the shows may be considered by some, they hae a way of getting to the hearts of the people—and the artistry of the performers is not to be belittled. They deliver what is expected of them and more. It is not Grand Opera—but it is truly "grand ole opry."
Stars and fans alike were stunned at the loss of the performers and offered their comments.
Back then, the only major country music publications were not published as regularly as they are today nor were there many being published. Norm Silver, Editor of Country Song Roundup wrote an editorial "In Memoriam." He noted that at the Grand Ole Opry show that Saturday night, Opry Manager Ott Devine told the audience, "They never walked on this stage without a smile, and they would want us to keep smiling now." He further wrote:
"Outwardly there were smiles, but backstage there were tears. Minnie Pearl made an effort to control herself and motioned to Roy Acuff on the stage. He announced her and wpiing her eyes she dashed out to greet the audience with her famed "How-deeeeee! I'm so proud to be here!" There were jokes and laughter, but the sadness in the air was felt by all and the loss will be long be remembered."
Surivors of Cowboy Copas included his widow, Mrs. Lucille Markins Copas; a daughter, Mrs. Kathy Copas Hughes, two sons, Gary Copas, 19 and Michael Copas, 12; a grandchild; two brothers, Roy Copas and Marion Copas of Indiana; and two sisters, Mrs. Mldred Rothwell and Mrs. Alma Wolffe, both of Ohio.
Randy Hughes survivors include his widow, Mrs. Kathy Copas Hughes; his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Ramsey Raleigh Hughes, Murfreesboro; and a son, Larry Dale Hughes.
Hawkshaw Hawkins survivors included his widow Jean Shepard Hawkins, a son, Don Robbin Hawkins; an adopted daughter, Marlene, of Hyattsville, MD; three sisters, Mrs. Lou Berry, Mrs. Paul Davis and Mrs. Betty Lawhorn, all of Huntington, WV. Honorary pallbearers for Mr. Hawkins included all members of the Grand Ole Oopry; Hap Peebles, Bob Mathis, Ken Nelson, Eddie Roscoe, Tommy Watson, Johnny Johnson, Gov. Frank Clement, John E. White, Les Williams, Vito Pelleteri, Ott Devine, Jim Denny, Lucky Modeller and Hubert Long. Active pallbearers listed were Harlan Howard, Ralph Emery, Stan Star Sr., Smiley Wilson, Eddie Millet and Carl Smith.
The coffins for all four were to be sealed. An 11x14 photo of each was to be displayed.
The Nashville Tennessean wrote this editorial on March 7, 1963:
"The stories of the plane crash tha ttook the lives of four top performers on the Grand Ole Opry are filled with tragic ironies.
We'll leave you with this greeting that he was known for,
"May the Lord Take a Likin' To Ya!"
West Virginia Nighthawks members:
Credits & Sources
Related Web Links
Sound Sample(YouTube Video Format)
Appearance History This Month
Get The Music
|Printer Friendly Version|
Yes, Hillbilly Music. You may perhaps wonder why. You may even snicker. But trust us, soon your feet will start tappin' and before you know it, you'll be comin' back for more...Hillbilly Music.
It's about the people, the music, the history.
Copyright © 2000—2023 Hillbilly-Music.com