September 11

Country Icons Whom We Lost to Plane Accidents

Part of the job as a musician comes with a lot of traveling. That, of course, comes with the risk of possible accidents. Here is a list of country singers who died in a plane crash.

1. Patsy Cline

The young talented singer “Crazy” died when she was 30 years on March 5, 1963. Her plane crashed in a heavy downpour on her way back to Nashville from a show in Kansas City, Kansas. It was rumored that she had premonitions of the doomed flight. Patsy Cline was one of the first big female stars in country music, with a string of classic hits.

2. Jim Reeves

Jim Reeves was one of country music’s most influential early singers, earning hits in the ’50s and ’60s. Best known for “He’ll Have to Go,” Reeves was instrumental in popularizing the Nashville Sound, which fused country music with strings for a more mainstream appeal.  He piloted a plane that crashed during a storm on Friday, July 31, 1964, during a rainstorm outside of Nashville while flying back from Batesville, Arkansas, where he had conducted a real estate deal. Reeves was piloting the plane at the time. His business partner and manager Dean Manuel also died in the crash. He was 40 when it ended his life but he went on to have 33 posthumous hits. He was also one of the first American country singers to achieve significant success overseas.

3. Buddy Holly

Buddy Holly was a pioneer in rock music, but his influence extends into Country. He was killed on Feb. 3, 1959, when his plane took off despite the inclement weather. It crashed into a cornfield in Mason City, Iowa. The same flight killed Ritchie Valens, the Big Bopper, and the pilot, Roger Peterson. Holly’s bass player, Waylon Jennings, was not on board because he had volunteered to ride on the bus to the Big Bopper could ride on the plane. Reportedly, the incident haunted him for the rest of his life.

4. Cowboy Copas

“The Country Gentleman of Song,” Cowboy Copas was a country singer who attained popularity beginning in the 1940s. He was a member of the Grand Ole Opry. He died on March 5, 1963, in the same plane crash that killed Patsy Cline.

5. Hawkshaw Hawkins

Hawkshaw Hawkins was a popular country singer from the 1950s into the early 1960s. He was a Grand Ole Opry member and he was married to fellow Opry star Jean Shepard. He died on March 5, 1963,  it was the same plane crash that killed Patsy Cline and Cowboy Copas.

6. Lynyrd Skynyrd

Lynyrd Skynyrd is one of the most influential Southern rock bands of all time, and their influence is felt in much of contemporary country music as well. On Oct. 20, 1977, the band’s chartered plane ran out of fuel and crashed in Gillsburg, Miss., Lead singer Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist/vocalist Steve Gaines and backing vocalist Cassie Gaines (Steve’s older sister) died in the crash, along with assistant road manager Dean Kilpatrick, pilot Walter McCreary and co-pilot William Gray. The crash happened three days after the release of the band’s fifth album, Street Survivors. The album cover depicted the band members standing in front of flames. Creepy! So, the record label re-issued the album with a new cover after the accident.

7. Ricky Nelson

Ricky Nelson was a teen idol, scoring early successes as a singer and actor. His impact was felt across rock and country music, with his later career focusing more on Country. He was killed on Dec. 31, 1985, when his small private plane crashed Northeast of Dallas in De Kalb, Texas. Nelson was headed for a New Year’s Eve show in Dallas. Investigators concluded the crash was likely caused by a fire caused by a malfunctioning heater in the cabin of the plane.

8. Reba McEntire’s Band

We all know who Reba McEntire is and her success but there was a band behind her who, unfortunately, died. In the early morning of March 16, 1991, a small plane carrying eight of McEntire’s band members crashed into Olay Mountain near San Diego, Calif., after a private show for IBM executives. The crash was attributed to poor visibility. To honor them, McEntire dedicated her sixteenth album, For My Broken Heart, to the band members who were killed in the crash.

9. John Denver

John Denver began his career as a folk singer before rocketing to solo success as one of the most popular pop and country singers of his generation in the ’70s with songs including “Annie’s Song,” “Rocky Mountain High,” “Back Home Again” and more. He died on Oct. 12, 1997, when his plane crashed into Monterey Bay after running out of fuel.

10. Montgomery Gentry

Troy Gentry was one-half of the country duo Montgomery Gentry, who scored a long string of hits in the ’90s and 2000s including “My Town” and “Something to Be Proud Of.” He died on Sept. 8, 2017, in a helicopter crash just hours before a scheduled Montgomery Gentry concert in Medford, N.J. The cause of the accident is still under investigation.

It is sad to know that these talented singers left us early but I’m sure that they will never be forgotten as long as their musical legacy continues to be heard and appreciated by country music lovers.


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