THE FLORENCE MORNING NEWS
MONDAY, MArCH 11, 1963
Tribute To Dead Troupers
Opry Personalities Smile On Stage; Weep in Wings
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (API—The "Grand Ole Opry" cast put on its usual rollicking show with stoic grace this weekend. It was their fitting tribute to five Opry troupers
killed in accidents and buried hours before.
But out of the light, in the backstage shadows, onlookers saw through the masquerade.
Cousin Minnie Pearl told her last joke and skipped off stage, roaring with laughter at the punchline. Then the gossip of Grinder's Switch, the comic of the Opry, broke down sobbing in the wing.
"Thai's the hardest thing I ever did," said Miss Pearl, wiping her eyes with the back of her hand. "It seemed so heartless to get out there and act silly and funny when those kids. . ."
She straightened her floppy straw hat and yellow organdy dress.
Roy Acuff and his Smoky Mountain Boys ended with a rousing fiddle tune and "the king of country music" walked off stage swinging a fiddle bow.
"It's a family here at the Opry," said Acuff. "We visit here on Saturday night. We expect to see each other down here. Like the preacher said, 'when one down here cuts his finger, we all bleed.'"
The Opry, on stage and off, was saying goodbye to departed members of its close family.
Killed Tuesday night, when their flight plane plunged into a scrubwood hill 85 miles west of here near the Tennessee River, were:
—Patsy Cline, 29, a poor girl who became country music's fastest- rising star. The Opry cast and others, like television's Arthur Godfrey, always treated her as a parent would a gifted child.
—Hawkshaw Hawkins, 43, the strapping Opry veteran who loved to turn with a grin and kiddingly introduce Minnie Pearl as "mother."
—Cowboy Copas, 40, another long-loc Opry star, When times were hard in the '30s, they say here, he would pay the musicians out of his own pocket when a skimpy crowd showed up for a square dance.
—Handy Hughes, 35. who had a Renaissance gift for doing everything. He was manager for Miss Cline and other singers, pilot of the ill-fated plane, backup man on the guitar and stockbroker for numerous Opry performers.
The fifth member of the famous country music troupe was killed 48 hours later, he was Johnny Anglin, 41, of the singing team"Johnny and Jack."
Their deaths form a mosaic that observers say is a tribute to the Opry's tradition of lending a helping hand. The four plane crash victims were returning from a Kansas City benefit show for the family of a disk jockey killed in a traffic accident. Anglin's car ran off a road near here and hit a tree as he hurried to prayer services for Miss Cline.
The only under-the-lights show the Opry made of its sorrow, at the first performance since the quadruple tragedies, lasted five, minutes. It was dignified and simple.