Patsy Cline, AKA Virginia Patterson Hensley
Birthplace: Winchester, VA
Location of death: Camden, TN
Cause of death: Accident – Airplane
Remains: Buried, Shenandoah Memorial Park, Winchester, VA
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Country Musician
Nationality: United States
Executive summary: I Fall To Pieces
Born Virginia Hensley and referred to by her family as “Ginny”, Patsy Cline displayed a talent for performing as early as the age of 4, when she won first prize in an amateur tap-dancing contest. It was not long afterward that she transferred her enthusiasm from dance to music, and for her eighth birthday Ginny’s mother bought a piano to provide her with a means to develop her natural musical skills. By her early teens she was singing in the choir of the family’s Baptist church and on her own at the local radio station. At the age of 13 the young girl’s life was nearly brought to end by an attack of rheumatic fever, which forced her to spend a period in an oxygen tent; she would later attribute the quality of her voice to the throat infection that resulted from her illness. Two years later her father abandoned the family and Ginny was forced to drop out of school, taking night jobs singing at clubs in addition to service jobs during the day in order to help pay the bills.
Despite these hardships Virginia Hensley remained dedicated to her pursuit of a singing career, in which she received the steadfast support of her mother. After gaining exposure through several local talent contests she was invited to join the orchestra at the York Inn in 1948, followed later in the year by an opportunity to audition for the Grand Ole Opry (an opportunity that initially amounted to nothing due to her status as a minor). It wasn’t until 1952 that things started to fall into place for the singer: it was at this time that, after landing a job at the Brunswick Moose Hall, she first adopted the stage name Patsy. Early the next year her marriage to Gerald Cline provided the other half of the name by which the world would come to know her. A record contract was secured in 1954, but unfortunately it was with a complete parasite named Bill McCall. A series of ineffectual singles ensued before at last the song Walking After Midnight (1957) provided the breakthrough she needed. A performance of it earned her a victory on The Arthur Godfrey Talent Show and the subsequent single release climbed high into the charts.
1960 turned out to be the magic number for Cline: by its arrival she had already traded her miserable marriage for a happy one, bore her first child, come to the end of her contract with bloodsucker McCall, and gained full-time membership with the Grand Ole Opry. That year also featured the release of her crossover hit I Fall To Pieces. 1961 had more trials in store, however, and the singer was given her second near-death experience when she and her brother were involved in a head-on collision while driving in Nashville. Cline was thrown through the windshield by the crash, and received a life-threatening gash across her forehead and a dislocated hip. While recovering in the hospital afterwards, she heard a tribute sung for her on the radio by up-and-coming singer Loretta Lynn; the two meet soon afterwards and immediately became close friends.
Early TV clip of Patsy Cline singing her signature song, “Crazy”
After recovering from her injuries, Cline came back with another significant hit in the form of the song Crazy, and participated in a well-received showcase at Carnegie Hall in November. Her career had now far surpassed all of her expectations. While Crazy ascended to #1, the singles She’s Got You and Imagine That both took their turns on the charts in 1962; an extensive tour was undertaken at the start of that same year, followed by an appearance on American Bandstand in February, and a 35-day headlining gig in Las Vegas that November. In the midst of the enormous popularity she now enjoyed, Cline experienced a premoniton that it would all be over for her soon and gave friend June Carter instructions on how she wanted her children to be raised when she was no longer around. After a benefit concert in Kansas City in March of 1963, Patsy Cline was killed when the plane flying her home crashed near Camden, Tennessee.
Father: Samuel Lawrence Hensley (d. 1956)
Brother: Sam Hensley
Sister: Sylvia Hensley
Husband: Gerald Cline (m. 1953, div. 1957)
Husband: Charles Dick (m. 1957, one daughter, one son)
Daughter: Julia Simadore Dick (b. 1958)
Son: Randy Dick (b. 1960)
Country Music Hall of Fame 1973
Rockabilly Hall of Fame
Full Bio. Source Wikipedia, YouTube and imdb.com
Patsy Cline (September 8, 1932 – March 5, 1963), born Virginia Patterson Hensley, was an American country music singer who enjoyed pop music crossover success during the era of the Nashville sound in the early 1960s. Since her death at age 30 in a 1963 private airplane crash at the height of her career, she has been considered one of the most influential, successful and acclaimed female vocalists of the 20th century.
Cline was best known for her rich tone and emotionally expressive bold contralto voice, which, along with her role as a mover and shaker in the country music industry, has been cited as an inspiration by many vocalists of various music genres. Her life and career have been the subject of numerous books, movies, documentaries, articles and stage plays.
Her hits included “Walkin’ After Midnight“, “I Fall to Pieces“, “She’s Got You“, “Crazy” and “Sweet Dreams“. Posthumously, millions of her albums have sold over the past 50 years and she has been given numerous awards, which have given her an iconic status with some fans similar to that of legends Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley. Ten years after her death, she became the first female solo artist inducted to the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Patsy singing “I Fall To Pieces: in 1963
In 2002, Cline was voted by artists and members of the country music industry as number one on CMT’s television special, The 40 Greatest Women of Country Music, and 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. According to her 1973 Country Music Hall of Fame plaque, “Her heritage of timeless recordings is testimony to her artistic capacity.”
Born September 8, 1932, in Winchester, Virginia, she was the daughter of Sam and Hilda Patterson Hensley, a blacksmith and a seamstress; Hilda was only 16 when Patsy was born. Patsy was the eldest of three children, the others being Samuel and Sylvia. The three children, despite their given names, were called Ginny, John, and Sis. Patsy grew up a poor girl “on the wrong side of the tracks,” but except for the fact that her father deserted the family in 1947, when she was 15, the Hensley home was quite happy.
The family lived in many different places around Virginia before settling in Winchester. Cline often said as a child that she would one day be famous, and admired stars such as Judy Garland and Shirley Temple. A serious illness as a child caused a throat infection which, according to Cline, resulted in her gift of “a voice that boomed like Kate Smith‘s.” Well-rounded in her musical tastes, Cline cited everyone from Kay Starr to Hank Williams as influences. As a child, she often sang in church with her mother. Cline was also a by-ear pianist who sang with perfect pitch.
Cline began performing in variety-talent showcases in and around Winchester. She asked WINC-AM disc jockey Jimmy McCoy if he would let her sing on his show, which he did. His program was a showcase for local talent.
To help support her family after her father abandoned them, she dropped out of high school and worked various jobs, soda jerking and waitressing by day at The Triangle Diner across the street from her school, John Handley High. At night, Cline could be found singing at local nightclubs, wearing her fringed Western stage outfits she designed herself and were made by her mother, Hilda.
“Walkin’ After Midnight”
In her early 20s, Cline met two men who would influence her rise to stardom. The first was contractor Gerald Cline, whom she married in 1953 and divorced in 1957. The dissolution of the marriage was blamed not only on a considerable age difference, but also Patsy Cline’s desire to sing professionally and Gerald Cline’s lack of support of her quest for stardom. While she dreamed of a career as a superstar, he wanted her to conform to the role of a housewife first. The second was Bill Peer, her new manager, who gave her the name Patsy, from her middle name and her mother’s maiden name, Patterson.
Cline’s numerous appearances on local radio attracted a large following in the Virginia-Maryland area—especially when Jimmy Dean learned of her. She became a regular on Connie B. Gay‘s Town and Country television show on WTOP-TV in Washington, DC, which also featured Dean, himself a young country star.
In 1955, Cline was signed to Four Star Records. Her contract, however, only allowed her to record compositions by Four Star writers; Cline disliked this, and later expressed regret over signing with the label. Her first record for Four Star was “A Church, A Courtroom & Then Good-Bye”, which attracted little attention, although it did lead to several appearances on the Grand Ole Opry. Between 1955 and 1957, Cline also recorded honky tonk material, with songs like “Fingerprints”, “Pick Me Up On Your Way Down”, “Don’t Ever Leave Me Again”, and “A Stranger In My Arms”; the latter two both co-written by Cline, and she experimented with rockabilly. None of these songs, however, gained any notable success.
According to Owen Bradley, her Decca Records producer, the Four Star compositions only seemed to hint at the potential that lurked inside of Cline. Bradley thought her voice was best suited for singing pop music. The Four Star producers, however, insisted that Cline would record only country songs, as her contract also stated. During her contract with Four Star, she recorded 51 songs.
Cline made her network television debut on January 7, 1956 on ABC-TV‘s Grand Ole Opry; followed by an appearance on the network’s Ozark Jubilee later that month, returning to the show in April. Later that year, while looking for material for her first album, Patsy Cline, a song appeared titled “Walkin’ After Midnight“, written by Don Hecht and Alan Block. Cline initially did not like the song because it was, according to her, “just a little old pop song.” However, the song’s writers and record label insisted she should record it.
She auditioned for Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts in New York City, and was accepted to sing on the CBS-TV show on January 21, 1957. Godfrey’s “discovery” of Cline was typical. Her scout, actually her mother, presented Patsy who initially was supposed to sing “A Poor Man’s Roses (Or a Rich Man’s Gold)“, but the show’s producers insisted she instead sing her recent release, “Walkin’ After Midnight”. Though heralded as a country song, recorded in Nashville, Godfrey’s staff insisted Cline not wear one of her mother’s hand-crafted cowgirl outfits but appear in a cocktail dress.
The audience’s enthusiastic ovations stopped the meter at its apex, and she won the competition and was invited to return. The song was so well-received that she released it as a single. In short, although Cline had been performing for nearly a decade and had been recording and appearing on local Washington, D.C. TV for more than two years, Godfrey was largely responsible for making her a star. For a couple of months thereafter, Cline appeared regularly on Godfrey’s radio program.
“Walkin’ After Midnight” reached No. 2 on the country chart and No. 12 on the pop chart, making Cline one of the first country singers to have a crossover pop hit. She rode high on the hit for the next year, making personal appearances and performing regularly on both Godfrey’s show, and for several years on Ozark Jubilee (later Jubilee USA). She could not follow it up with another hit, however, in part because of the deal with Four Star that limited her to recording songs only from its writers.
Cline co-wrote two songs, both in 1957 under her birth name, Virginia Hensley:
- “A Stranger in My Arms”, written with Charlotte White, and Mary Lu Jeans and recorded on April 24, 1957. The song was released as a Decca 45 single (Decca 30406), on August 12, 1957 b/w “Three Cigarettes (In An Ashtray)”, and also as a 45 single on the Festival label as Festival SP45-1620.
- “Don’t Ever Leave Me Again”, written with James E. Crawford, Jr., and Lillian N. Claiborne. “Don’t Ever Leave Me Again” appeared on the 1957 Decca LP Patsy Cline and was the title track of a 1991 compilation album released on Laser Light.
Also in 1957, she met Charlie Dick, a good-looking ladies’ man who frequented the local club circuit Cline played on weekends. His charismatic personality and admiration of Cline’s talents captured her attention. Their relationship resulted in a marriage that would last the rest of her life. Though their love affair has long been publicized as controversial, Cline regarded him as “the love of her life.” After the birth of their daughter, Julie, in 1958, they moved to Nashville, Tennessee.
In 1959, Cline met Randy Hughes, who became her manager. With Hughes’s promotion and a new label, Cline would begin her ascent to the top. When her Four Star contract expired in 1960, she signed with Decca Records-Nashville, under the direction of legendary producer Owen Bradley. He was not only responsible for much of the success behind Cline’s recording career, but he positively influenced the careers of Brenda Lee and Loretta Lynn as well.
Thanks to her vocal versatility, and with the help of Bradley’s direction and arrangements, Cline enjoyed both country and pop success. His arrangements incorporated strings and other instruments not typical of country recordings of the day. He considered Cline’s voice best-suited for country pop-crossover songs, and helped smooth her voice into the silky, torch song style for which she is famous. Nevertheless, she did not enjoy singing pop material. This new, more sophisticated instrumental style became known as The Nashville sound, created by Bradley and RCA’s Chet Atkins, who produced Jim Reeves, Connie Smith, and Eddy Arnold. Cline’s first Decca release was the country pop ballad, “I Fall to Pieces” (1961), written by Hank Cochran and Harlan Howard. The song was promoted at both country and pop music stations across the country, leading to success on both country and pop charts. The song slowly climbed to the top of the country chart—Cline’s first number one. The song also made No. 12 on the pop chart, as well as No. 6 on the adult contemporary chart, a major feat for any country singer at the time. The song made her a household name, demonstrating that a woman country singer could enjoy as much crossover success as a man.
In 1961, Cline joined the cast of the Grand Ole Opry, realizing a lifelong dream. She became one of the Opry’s biggest stars, and is believed to be the only person granted membership by asking.
Believing that there was “room enough for everybody,” and confident of her abilities and appeal, Cline befriended and encouraged a number of women starting out in country music, including Loretta Lynn, Dottie West, Barbara Mandrell (with whom Cline once toured), Jan Howard and Brenda Lee, all of whom cite her as an influence. According to Lynn and West, Cline always gave of herself to friends, buying them groceries and furniture when they were hard up. On occasion, she would even pay their rent, enabling them to stay in Nashville and continue their careers. In Ellis Nassour’s 1980 biography Patsy Cline, Cline’s friend, honky tonk pianist and Opry star Del Wood, was quoted as saying, “Even when she didn’t have it, she’d spend it—and not always on herself. She’d give anyone the skirt off her backside if they needed it.”
Cline also befriended Roger Miller, Hank Cochran, Faron Young, Ferlin Husky, Harlan Howard and Carl Perkins, male artists and songwriters with whom she socialized at Tootsies Orchid Lounge next door to the Grand Ole Opry. In the 1986 documentary The Real Patsy Cline, singer George Riddle said of her, “It wasn’t unusual for her to sit down and have a beer and tell a joke. She’d never be offended at the guys’ jokes, because most of the time she’d tell a joke better than you! Patsy was full of life, as I remember.”
Cline used the term of endearment “Hoss” to refer to her friends, and referred to herself as The Cline. According to the book “Honky Tonk Angel: The Intimate Story of Patsy Cline” by Ellis Nassour, Patsy Cline met Elvis Presley in 1962 at a fundraiser at St. Judes and they even exchanged phone numbers. Having seen him perform during one of his rare Grand Ole Opry appearances, she admired his music, called him The Big Hoss, and recorded with his backup group, The Jordanaires.
Cline was in control of her own career, making it clear that she could stand up to any man—verbally and professionally—and challenge their rules if they got in the way of where she felt her career should be headed. In a time when concert promoters often cheated stars out of their money by promising to pay them after the show but running with the money during the concert, Cline stood up to many of the male promoters before she took the stage and demanded their money by proclaiming: “No dough, no show.” According to friend Roy Drusky in the 1986 documentary The Real Patsy Cline: “Before one concert, we hadn’t been paid. And we were talking about who was going to tell the audience that we couldn’t perform without pay. Patsy said, ‘I’ll tell ’em!’ And she did!” Friend Dottie West stated, “It was common knowledge around town that you didn’t mess with ‘The Cline!'”
Cline continued to thrive in 1961, and gave birth to a son, Randy. On June 14, 1961, she and her brother, Sam, were involved in a head-on car collision on Old Hickory Boulevard in Nashville, the second and more serious of two during her lifetime. The impact threw Cline into the windshield, nearly killing her. Upon arriving, Dottie West picked glass from Patsy’s hair, and went with her in the ambulance. While that happened, Patsy insisted that the other car’s driver be treated first. This had a long-term detrimental effect on Ms. West; when West was fatally injured in a car accident in 1991, she insisted that the driver of her car be treated first, possibly causing her own death. Cline later stated that she saw the female driver of the other car die before her eyes at the hospital.
Suffering from a jagged cut across her forehead that required stitches, a broken wrist and a dislocated hip, she spent a month hospitalized. While in the hospital, Cline, according to the Nassour biography Patsy Cline and to friend Billy Walker (who died in a vehicle accident in 2006), rededicated her life to Christianity. She received thousands of cards and flowers sent by fans. When she left the hospital, her forehead was still visibly scarred. For the remainder of her career, she wore wigs and makeup to hide the scars, and headbands to relieve pressure on her forehead. She returned to the road on crutches, determined to be a survivor with a new appreciation for life.
In the 1990s, a series of recordings from her first concert after the accident were released. These archives, recorded in Tulsa, Oklahoma, were found in the attic of one of Cline’s former residences by the current owners and given to the family. The album, released in 1997, is titled Patsy Cline: Live At the Cimarron Ballroom. and features dialogue of Cline interacting with the audience, providing an historical archive of what her live performances were like.
After the success of “I Fall to Pieces”, Cline needed a follow-up after a month lost from touring and promotions. Written by Willie Nelson, it was called “Crazy“, which Cline originally hated. Her first session recording was a disaster, and Cline claimed that the song was too difficult to sing. She tried to record “Crazy” like its demo recording, which featured Nelson’s idiosyncratic style, but had a tough time recording it not only because of the demo, but also because she found the high notes hard to sing due to injured ribs from her car accident. The day in the studio at Decca resulted in a head-on fight between Cline and Bradley.
Cline recorded the song the next week in one take, a version completely different from the demo. It became a classic and, ultimately, Cline’s signature song—and the one for which she remains best known. In late 1961, the song was an immediate country pop crossover hit, and also constituted her biggest pop hit, making the Top 10. Loretta Lynn later reported that the night Cline premiered “Crazy” at the Grand Ole Opry, she received three standing ovations.
“Crazy” was a hit on three different charts in late 1961 and early 1962—the Hot Country Songs list (No. 2), the US Hot 100 list (No. 9), and the Adult Contemporary list (also No. 2). An album released that November entitled Patsy Cline Showcase featured Cline’s two hits of 1961.
With Cline’s success climbing the record charts, she was in high demand on the concert circuit. Although many women in country music at that time were considered “window dressing” or opening acts for the more popular and higher-paid male stars, Cline was the first to headline her own show and receive top billing above some of the male stars with whom she toured. While bands typically backed up the female singer, Cline led the band through the concert instead. She was so respected by men in the industry, that rather than being introduced to audiences as “Pretty Miss Patsy Cline” as her female contemporaries often were, she was given a more stately introduction such as that given by Johnny Cash on their 1962 tour together: “Ladies and gentlemen, the one and only Patsy Cline.” As an artist, she held her fan base in extremely high regard (many of whom became friends), staying for hours after concerts to chat and sign autographs.
Cline was not only the first woman in country music to perform at New York’s Carnegie Hall (which she did with fellow Opry members and disapproval from gossip columnist Dorothy Kilgallen—whom Cline fired back at) but also to headline the Hollywood Bowl with Johnny Cash and, later, in 1962, the first woman in country music to headline her own show in Las Vegas.
This success enabled Cline to buy her dream home in Nashville’s Goodlettsville community, personally decorated in her style featuring gold dust sprinkled in the bathroom tiles and a music room. Loretta Lynn stated in a 1986 documentary interview, “She called me into the front yard and said, ‘Isn’t this pretty? Now I’ll never be happy until I have my Mama one just like it.'” Cline called her home “the house that Vegas built” since she was able to pay it off with the money she earned during her time there. (Later, after Cline’s death in 1963, Cline’s home was sold by her husband to singer Wilma Burgess who told Patsy Cline author Ellis Nassour that “strange occurrences” happened during her years there.)
With this new demand for Cline came a higher price tag, and reportedly towards the end of her life, she was being paid at least $1,000 for appearances—then an unheard-of fee for women in the country music industry, since they usually grossed less than $200. Her penultimate concert, held in Birmingham, Alabama, grossed $3,000.
To match her new sophisticated sound, Cline also reinvented her personal style, shedding her trademark Western cowgirl outfits for elegant sequined gowns, cocktail dresses, spiked heels, and even gold lame pants. Cline’s new image was considered riskier and sexier by a then-conservative country music industry more accustomed to gingham and calico dresses for women. But like her sound, Cline’s style in fashion was mocked by many at first, then copied. She also loved dangly earrings and ruby-red lipstick; her favorite perfume was Wind Song.
During her short career of only five-and-a-half years, Cline received 12 awards for her achievements and three more following her death. Most were from Cashbox, Music Reporter, and Billboard Awards, considered high honors during her time. (Awards such as the ACM and CMAs were not established until after her death, and the Nashville chapter of the Grammys wasn’t founded until 1964.)
Cline wrote of her success in a letter to friend Anne Armstrong (from the 1993 documentary Remembering Patsy): “It’s wonderful—but what do I do for ’63? Its getting so even I can’t follow Cline!”
In late 1961, Cline was back in the studio to record songs for her upcoming album in 1962. One of the first songs recorded in late 1961 was the song “She’s Got You“, written by Hank Cochran, who pitched the song over the phone to Cline. It was one of the few songs Cline enjoyed recording. The song was released as a single in January 1962, and soon was another country pop crossover hit, reaching No. 1 on the country chart again (her second and last chart-topper), No. 14 on the pop charts, and No. 3 on the adult contemporary charts (originally called “Easy Listening”). It would be Cline’s last Top 40 Pop hit.
“She’s Got You” was also Cline’s first entry in the U.K. singles chart, covered by one of Britain’s most popular female artists, Alma Cogan; it reached No. 43. Her biggest U.K. record sales Hit Parade entry before her death was her version of the standard tune “Heartaches,” reaching the Top 30 in late 1962.
Following the success of “She’s Got You,” Cline enjoyed a string of smaller country hits, including the Top 10 “When I Get Thru’ With You“, “Imagine That”, “So Wrong“, and “Heartaches“. These hits were not big crossover pop hits as her previous three had been on the country charts; but were Top 10 and 20 hits.
In late 1962, Cline appeared on American Bandstand and released her third album in August, Sentimentally Yours. When asked in a WSM-AM interview about her vocal stylings, Cline stated, “Oh, I just sing like I hurt inside.”
Though she was in high demand and her career was at its peak, the wear and tear of the road and business began to present the possibility of a hiatus for Cline, who longed to spend more time raising her children, Julie and Randy, especially after heading her own show at the Mint Casino in Las Vegas at the end of 1962.
A month before her death, Cline went into the studio to record her fourth album, Faded Love. Recording a mix of country standards and such vintage pop classics as Irving Berlin’s “Always” and “Does Your Heart Beat for Me”, these sessions proved to be the most contemporary-sounding of her career, without any country music instruments and featuring a full string section. (Owen Bradley told Patsy author Margaret Jones that he and Cline had even talked of doing an album of show tunes and standards before her death, including “Can’t Help Loving That Man of Mine”, since Cline was a fan of Helen Morgan.)
Cline, so involved with the story in the song’s lyrics, reportedly cried through most of what would be her last sessions. This emotion can be heard on certain tracks, especially “Sweet Dreams” and “Faded Love”. At the playback party that night at the studio, according to singer Jan Howard on the documentary Remembering Patsy, Cline held up a copy of her first record and a copy of her newest tracks and stated, “Well, here it is…the first and the last.”
As stated in the Nassour biography, Patsy Cline, friends Dottie West and June Carter Cash both recalled Cline telling them that she felt a sense of impending doom and didn’t expect to live much longer in the months leading up to her death. Cline also told Loretta Lynn of this, along with Cash and West, as early as September 1962. Cline, though known for her extreme generosity, even began giving away personal items to friends, writing out her own last will on Delta Air Lines stationery and asking close friends to care for her children if anything should happen to her. She reportedly told Jordanaire back up singer Ray Walker as she exited the Grand Ole Opry a 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, though ill with the flu, gave a performance at a benefit show at the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall, Kansas City, Kansas, for the family of a disc jockey, Cactus Jack Call, who had recently died in an automobile accident. Also performing on the show were George Jones, George Riddle and The Jones Boys, Billy Walker, Dottie West, Cowboy Copas, Hawkshaw Hawkins, Wilma Lee and Stoney Cooper, and George McCormick and the Clinch Mountain Clan. The three shows, at 2:PM 5:15 and 8:PM were standing-room only. For the 2:PM show, she wore a sky-blue tulle-laden dress, for the 5:15 show a red shocker and for the closing show at 8:PM Cline wore a white chiffon gown and closed the show with her performance to a thunderous ovation. Her last song was the last one she recorded during her last sessions the previous month, “I’ll Sail My Ship Alone”.
Dottie West, wary of Cline flying, asked her to ride back in the car with her and her husband, Bill. Cline, anxious to get home to her children, refused West’s offer, saying, “Don’t worry about me, Hoss. When it’s my time to go, it’s my time.” She called her mother from the airport and then boarded a Piper Comanche bound for Nashville, flown by her manager Randy Hughes, along with Cowboy Copas and Hawkshaw Hawkins. After stopping to refuel in Dyersburg, Tennessee, the plane took off at 6:07 p.m. CST. According to revelations by the airfield manager in the Nassour biography, he suggested that they stay the night after advising of high winds and inclement weather on the flight path, but Hughes responded, “I’ve already come this far. We’ll be there before you know it.”
The plane flew into severe weather, however, and according to Cline’s wristwatch, crashed at 6:20 p.m. in a forest outside of Camden, Tennessee, 90 miles from the destination. There were no survivors. Throughout the night, reports of the missing plane flooded the radio airwaves.
Roger Miller told Patsy Cline author Nassour that he and a friend went searching for survivors in the early hours of the morning: “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.” Not long after the bodies were removed, scavengers came to take what they could of the stars’ personal belongings and pieces of the plane. Many of these items were later donated to The Country Music Hall of Fame, including Patsy’s beloved Confederate Flag cigarette lighter which played “Dixie”, her wrist watch, belt with ‘Patsy Cline’ studded across it and one of 3 pairs of her gold lame slippers which were featured on the revised version of her Showcase With The Jordanaires album. However, the white chiffon dress that Cline had worn for her last performance and the money bag carrying the star’s payment for their last concert were never found.
As per her wishes, Cline was brought home to her dream house for the last time before her memorial service, which thousands attended. Hours later, news surfaced that singer Jack Anglin of country duo Johnnie and Jack fame had died on the way to her service, and the Opry mounted a tribute show to honor the victims.
She was buried in her hometown of Winchester, Virginia, at Shenandoah Memorial Park. Her grave is marked with a simple bronze plaque, which reads: Virginia H (Patsy) Cline “Death Cannot Kill What Never Dies: Love.” A bell tower in her memory at the cemetery, erected with the help of Loretta Lynn and Dottie West, plays hymns daily at 6:00 p.m., the hour of her death. A memorial marks the place where the plane crashed in the still-remote forest outside of Camden, Tennessee.
In December 1998, Cline’s mother, Hilda Hensley, died in Winchester, Virginia of natural causes. (Cline’s father had died in the 1950s.) Hensley rarely granted interviews, living the rest of her life practicing her craft as a master seamstress in Winchester and helping to raise her grandchildren. Cline’s daughter, Julie, stated in a 1985 People Magazine article: “Grannie loved my mother so much that it’s still hard for her to talk about her.” Hensley stated in her later years that the outpouring of love given to her by Cline’s fans over the years had been amazing. “I never knew so many people loved my daughter,” she told one newspaper.
Because Cline and her mother were so close in age, Cline often commented that her mother was also her best friend and the one person she could truly count on. Hensley also commented that Cline was a “wonderful daughter” who never let her family down in the hard times they endured. Cline’s brother died in 2004, though her sister still lives in Virginia.
Charlie Dick resides in Nashville, where he continues to be a member of the country music community, producing documentaries on Cline and other artists through a video production company. Dick is involved with Cline’s fan base and considers them an extension of family, attending many fan functions. Daughter Julie joins him in representing Cline’s estate at public functions and has four children of her own (one, Virginia, named for Cline, was killed in an automobile accident in 1994) and five grandchildren. Son Randy was the drummer of a Nashville band, although he chooses not to live in the limelight. Dick’s brother, Mel, heads up the “Always… Patsy Cline” fan organization.
After Cline’s death, Dick married singer Jamey Ryan in 1965, but they were divorced a few years later. Ryan provided the vocals for three songs in the film Sweet Dreams: “Bill Bailey (Won’t You Please Come Home)”, “Rollin’ In My Sweet Baby’s Arms” and “Blue Christmas” (a tune Cline never recorded). Ryan’s sound is so close to Cline’s that some fans search Cline’s discography trying to find these two songs but discover that the tracks were recorded solely for the film and were not included on the soundtrack.