My Kind of Country

Country music from a fan's point of view since 2008

Tag Archives: Randy Hughes

Classic Rewind: Patsy Cline – ‘I’ve Loved And Lost Again’

Today marks the 50th anniversary of one of country music’s darkest tragedies, when Hawkshaw Hawkins, Cowboy Copas, Randy Hughes, and Patsy Cline were killed in a plane crash near Camden, Tennessee.

Patsy scored her first major hit in 1957 with “Walkin’ After Midnight”. This clip from Tex Ritter’s Ranch Party aired shortly thereafter:

Country Heritage: Hawkshaw Hawkins

In Rock & Roll, February 3, 1959, is known as “The Day The Music Died.” On that date a small plane crash in Iowa claimed the lives of Charles Hardin “Buddy Holly” Holley, J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson and Richard “Richie Valens” Valenzuela. Holly was already a superstar, The Big Bopper was a songwriter with a few hits of his own, and Valens was a rising star, en route to becoming the first Latino Rock & Roll star.

If country music can be said to have a “Day The Music Died,” that date surely is March 5, 1963, when a plane crash claimed the lives of Virgina Hensley (aka Patsy Cline), Lloyd “Cowboy” Copas and Harold Franklin “Hawkshaw” Hawkins.” At the time of the crash Cline had arrived as a major country star with huge pop success on the horizon and Cowboy Copas was a major star in the late 1940s and early 1950s, who had experienced a late career renaissance in 1960 with “Alabam.” The third victim, Hawkshaw Hawkins, was a veteran artist who had been recording for 15 years but was on the verge of a major breakthrough at the age of 41.

Hawkshaw Hawkins was born in 1921, in Huntington, West Virginia.  The nickname ‘Hawkshaw’ dates to his childhood when he successfully helped a friend track down a pair of missing fishing poles. The friend dubbed him Hawkshaw the Detective based on a comic strip. The nickname was to stick with him throughout his life (he was also sometimes called “The Hawk”). At the age of 13, he is alleged to have traded five rabbits for a homemade guitar and taught himself to play it. Within a few years he had become sufficiently proficient with the guitar that he won a talent contest at local radio station WSAZ. Following his win, he began working at the station, eventually moving to WCHS in Charleston by the end of the 1930s.

In 1940 he married Reva Barbour, a 16 year old beauty from Huntington; the marriage lasted until 1958. During 1941, he traveled the United States with a wild west revue, but in late 1942 Hawkins entered the army and served as an engineer, stationed near Paris, Texas where he and friends would sneak out on Friday and Saturday nights to perform at local clubs. Later stationed in Europe, by now attaining the rank of Staff Sergeant, he participated in the Battle of the Bulge, winning four battle stars during his 15 months of combat duty. Afterward he spent time in Manila in the Philippines and had a radio show on WVTM.

Discharged from the military in late 1945, he returned to West Virginia and gained a spot on the WWVA Wheeling Jamboree, where he remained for over eight years. A large man (6’6″) with a deep voice, Hawkins became a popular performer due to his engaging personality. In fact, he became a huge star without becoming a recording star, although his recording career started shortly after joining the Jamboree in 1946. Hawkshaw and Reva adopted a daughter, Susan Marlene, in 1947, but, to the best of my knowledge, had no other children.

Hawkshaw had a few chart hits on King from 1948-51, then disappeared from the charts. The hits were “Pan American” (#9), “Dog House Boogie” (#6), “I Wasted A Nickel” (#15), “I Love You A Thousand Ways” (#8), “I’m Waiting Just For You” (#8) and “Slow Poke” (#7). Although his chart success was small, his records sold well and many were regional hits that did not chart nationally, including his signature song “Sunny Side of The Mountain.”

In 1953 he signed with RCA Victor, and by 1955 Hawkins had become a regular member of the Grand Ole Opry. He made some great recordings while with RCA but scored no hit records. A switch to Columbia in 1959 found “Soldiers Joy” reach #15 but there was no further action on the Billboard charts, although four of his other Columbia singles charted on Cash Box, most notably “Darkness On The Face of The Earth,” which reached #11 on the Cash Box country chart. He married future Country Music Hall of Fame member  Jean Shepard in 1960. In mid-1962, after an absence of nine years, he re-signed with King Records. The first two singles “Silver Threads And Golden Needles” and “Bad News Travels Fast (In Our Town)” received considerable acclaim, although neither charted on Billboard (“Bad New Travels Fast” did crack the Cash Box Top 40). On March 2, 1963, King released a Justin Tubb-penned song, “Lonesome 7-7203,” that they had high hopes would be Hawkins’ breakthrough single, just as “Alabam” had been for Cowboy Copas in 1960.

Unfortunately, that’s the end of the story as on March 5, 1963 Hawkshaw Hawkins died in the crash that took the lives of Patsy Cline, Cowboy Copas and Randy Hughes (pilot, Patsy’s manager, and Copas’ son-in-law). At the time of his death Jean Shepard was pregnant with son Harold “Hawkshaw Jr,” who would be born a few weeks after the crash. The couple also had a son born the year before they named Don Robbin Hawkins after Don Gibson and Marty Robbins.

“Lonesome 7-7203” did everything King Records and Hawkins had hoped it would do, flying to #1 on both Billboard and Cashbox for four weeks. Unfortunately, King did not have much unreleased material in the vaults and so there were no further chart singles for Hawkshaw Hawkins.

Discography

Vinyl

Relatively few Hawkshaw Hawkins albums were issued during his lifetime; most of his recorded output before 1963 was in the form of 45 rpm and 78 rpm singles. In 1958 and 1959, King finally issued a pair of albums collecting old singles, Volume 1 (1958) and Volume 2 (1959). After Hawkins re-signed with King in 1962, the label released All New (1962), which included “Lonesome 7-7203,” the third single to be released from the album. After his death, King, RCA and Columbia emptied their vaults, releasing whatever material they had.

CD

Hawkshaw Hawkins received the usual neglect during the digital era, although King issued a few budget-line CDs with 10 songs, and threw his material on various anthologies with other artists. Finally in 1991, Bear Family released a comprehensive, three-disc overview of his RCA and Columbia Records called Hawk that sells for around $80.

If $80 is too rich for your budget, Collectibles has issued a set titled Country Gentleman: Hawkshaw Hawkins Sings that collects two old RCA Camden albums. Also, Bear Family has finally relented and started issuing smaller sets. Car Hoppin’ Mama, part of their “Gonna Shake This Shack” series has 16 older King tracks and 17 RCA tracks.

Other than that there isn’t much except for the miscellaneous Gusto/King/Starday/Federal/TeeVee/Cindy Lou/Nashville reissues that generally contain 9-12 tracks and overlap each other considerably–and are variously in and out of print. The Collectibles and Bear Family set are highly recommended. The other sets are variable in terms of digital remastering but worth picking up if you can find them cheaply enough.

If you don’t mind high quality CD-R recordings the British Archive of Country Music, an obsessive bunch who carry much otherwise unavailable country / roots music from the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, have two Hawkshaw Hawkins recordings available. Their product can obtained from their website – look around a little – you’ll be astounded at what can be obtained from them.

Hawkshaw’s widow, Jean Shepard, eventually remarried and continues to perform, mostly at the Grand Old Opry, although at 78 years old she is not as active as once was the case. Sometimes she performs with her son Hawkshaw Hawkins, Jr., who strongly resembles his father facially, although he is about six inches shorter. He’s a fine singer and has recorded several CDs which you may be able to find at the Ernest Tubb record shop.

Sweet Dreams – Motion Picture and Soundtrack Review

The Story of Legendary Country Singer Patsy ClineAnd I’m crazy for loving you.’ The closing line of her signature song sums up the main focus of the 1985 biopic “Sweet Dreams” based on Patsy Cline’s life from 1956 through 1963. Hollywood loves to explore the life stories behind great talents, usually offering a particular interpretation of what makes the artist tick. Screenwriter Robert Getchell, producer Bernard Schwartz and director Karel Reisz portray Patsy’s relationship with her second husband, Charlie Dick, as being a core element of what fueled her passion as an artist.

The film begins when Patsy (played by Jessica Lange who received an Oscar nomination for her performance) is married to her first husband, Gerald Cline, pictured as a guy who’s more interested in his own hobbies than in Patsy or her musical talent and career. In an early scene, the rigging on his model ship, for example, is more exciting to him than how Patsy’s performance had gone at a particular club that night.

On the other hand, a man she met at the club couldn’t take his eyes off of her. That man turns out to be Charlie Dick (Ed Harris) who gives her all the attention she’s been starved for, including attention for her music, and who has a passionate personality to match her own. It isn’t long before Patsy leaves Gerald.

As Patsy and Charlie fall head over heels, Patsy shares her dream of becoming a singer, making enough money to have the house she’d always wanted, having kids and then being able to retire to raise them. They are sweet dreams. Charlie proposes and they get married. They’re both crazy in love and off to set the world on fire.

However, where there’s fire, there’s beauty and power, and the danger of getting burned. The film depicts their marriage as both passionate and rocky, with flair ups due to their strong wills, and Charlie’s drinking, philandering and temper. In the midst of the tumultuous episodes, they share the joys of two children together and Patsy’s career successes – Charlie serving as one of her biggest fans.

Read more of this post

Spotlight Artist: Patsy Cline (September 8, 1932 – March 5, 1963) – Part 3

After a successful run in Las Vegas, Patsy Cline returned to Nashville and Owen Bradley’s recording studio for what would be her last sessions. In February 1963 she recorded twelve new tracks, including a cover of Don Gibson’s “Sweet Dreams” and the Bob Wills classic “Faded Love”. She was unusually emotional and wept throughout the session; the emotion can be heard on both of these tracks. Bradley assumed that she’d had an argument with her husband, and when Charlie stopped by to see how things were going, he was quickly ushered out of the studio before Patsy saw him, so as not to break the mood.

“Leavin’ On Your Mind” had been released about a month before Patsy’s final recording sessions, in January 1963. It was the last single released during her lifetime. It reached #8 on the country chart, but unlike most of her previous hits, it was not a crossover success, stalling at #83 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Patsy Cline died on March 5, 1963 when the Piper Comanche aircraft carrying her back to Nashville from a charity concert in Kansas City, Missouri crashed amidst deteriorating weather conditions near Camden, Tennessee. Also on board were Grand Ole Opry stars Cowboy Copas and Hawkshaw Hawkins, and Patsy’s manager Randy Hughes, who had piloted the plane. There were no survivors. Patsy was interred near her home in Virginia, at the Shenandoah Memorial Park.

Decca continued to release Patsy’s singles and albums in the years following her death. “Sweet Dreams”, her first posthumous release, was a #5 country hit, and despite having been recorded previously by both Faron Young and Don Gibson, it is Patsy’s interpretation that is considered the definitive version. The follow-up single “Faded Love” reached #7 on the charts and was her last solo Top 10 hit. After that, her singles charted lower, if they charted at all. She returned to the Top 5 one final time in 1981, when RCA Records released an electronic duet of Patsy and Jim Reeves singing “Have You Ever Been Lonely (Have You Ever Been Blue)”.

In 1967, Decca released Patsy Cline’s Greatest Hits, which eventually sold more than 10 million copies. It held the record as the best-selling country album of all-time by a female artist, until the 1990s when it was overtaken by Shania Twain’s The Woman In Me. In 1973, Patsy became the first female solo artist to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. Her name began to fade from the public consciousness, but was brought back to the forefront in 1980 when she was portrayed on the silver screen by actress Beverly D’Angelo in the Loretta Lynn bio-film Coal Miner’s Daughter. Five years later, Hollywood told its version of the Patsy Cline story in the film Sweet Dreams, starring Jessica Lange and Ed Harris.

Although her recording career lasted a mere eight years, Patsy Cline cast a long shadow over the country music landscape. Virtually every female country vocalist who has emerged since her death has named Patsy as an influence. Her songs have been covered by such artists as Loretta Lynn, Emmylou Harris, Reba McEntire, LeAnn Rimes and Sara Evans. Her Greatest Hits still holds the record for the longest run on the Billboard Country Albums chart for an album by a female artist, and she remains a best-selling artist for MCA, the successor company to Decca Records. We hope that you’ll enjoy our coverage as we look back at Patsy’s life and career throughout the month of January.

Spotlight Artist: Patsy Cline (September 8, 1932 – March 5, 1963) – Part 2

Patsy Cline finally found her breakthrough hit, “I Fall to Pieces” in the summer of 1961. She had given birth to a son that January and for once things were looking up. Unfortunately, her happiness was quickly overshadowed when she was seriously injured in a near-fatal head-on automobile accident in June of that year. While she was recuperating in the hospital, “I Fall To Pieces” continued to climb the charts. One Saturday evening on the Opry, an up-and-coming singer named Loretta Lynn sang the song and dedicated to Patsy. Patsy, who was listening to the broadcast, was so touched that she asked her husband Charlie to bring Loretta to the hospital so she could meet her and thank her. The two women became close and remained good friends for the remainder of Patsy’s life.

Patsy returned to the recording studio in August 1961 and quickly got into another battle with Owen Bradley over her next single. Faron Young had recently had a smash hit with “Hello, Walls”, a tune written by a 27-year-old songwriter named Willie Nelson. Patsy was interested in recording another Nelson song, “Funny How Time Slips Away”, but it had been put on hold for Billy Walker. Patsy tried to sweet-talk Walker into giving up the song, but he proved resistant to her charms. Instead, he gave her another Nelson composition called “Crazy” as a consolation prize. Patsy hated it, but Bradley was convinced that it would be a big hit. Willie Nelson’s demo recording had been in a honky-tonk style. Bradley re-worked it as a torch song, with a more sophisticated arrangement, and finally persuaded Patsy to record it. She was still not fully recovered from her injuries and had difficulty hitting all of the notes. After four hours of trying, Bradley persuaded her to give up. He recorded the basic tracks and had her come back a week later to overdub her vocal track, and she nailed the song in one take. Despite her initial apprehension about recording the song, Owen Bradley was once again proven right. “Crazy” reached #2 on the Billboard country chart in October of 1961, and by December it had reached #9 on the pop chart. Today, it is the song for which Patsy is best remembered. In 1997 it was named the #1 jukebox song of all time.

Patsy ended 1961 on a high note. In November, she traveled to New York with some of her fellow Opry stars to play to a sold-out house at Carnegie Hall, and then went back into the recording studio in December. Among the songs she cut at those sessions was Hank Cochran’s “She’s Got You”. Unlike her other big hits — “Walkin’ After Midnight”, “I Fall to Pieces” and “Crazy” — Patsy immediately loved “She’s Got You”. It became her second and final #1 country hit in May 1962. It also reached #14 on the Billboard Hot 100. Later in 1962 she became the first female country star to headline a show in Las Vegas, when the Mint Casino engaged her for a 35-day run. She had been nervous about playing Vegas, but her fears proved to be unfounded; she was a hit with both critics and audiences alike. Not sure that Patsy would want to return to Las Vegas, her manager Randy Hughes decided to let her return to Nashville to rest for a few months before telling her that he’d booked her for a return engagement. Unfortunately, fate would intervene and deny Patsy the opportunity to accept.