George Jones Was Supposed To Be On Patsy Cline’s Plane When It Crashed – But A Plate Of Fried Chicken Saved His Life

George Jones
George Jones via 2911 Media

Today, George Jones is widely regarded as one of the greatest country artists of all time.

But back in 1963, the Possum was just starting to get his first taste of commercial success.

He scored his first career #1 hit with 1959’s “White Lightnin’,” and quickly followed that up with chart toppers in “Tender Years” and “She Thinks I Still Care.”

By March of 1963, Jones was big enough that he was booked on a benefit show in Kansas City to raise money for the family of DJ Jack “Cactus” Hall, who had been killed in a car crash earlier that year. The three performances were headlined by Patsy Cline, and along with Jones also featured Hawkshaw Hawkins, Cowboy Copas, Dottie West, and many others of the biggest stars of the time.

Of course the show on March 3, 1963 would end up being the final show of Patsy Cline’s career. Just two days later, on March 5, Cline, Hawkins and Copas were killed when the plane they were flying on back to Nashville crashed in Camden, Tennessee, about 100 miles west of Music City.

But did you know that George Jones was supposed to be on that plane too?

In her book Playin’ Possum, George Jones’ widow Nancy Jones, along with Ken Abraham, tell the story of that fateful night, and how a dispute over fried chicken saved his life.

As Nancy writes, Patsy Cline preferred to save her heavy meals for after her performances – and she was well-known for her love of fried chicken.

On March 3, 1963, Patsy had fried chicken waiting for her in her dressing room after the benefit show. But a drunk George Jones got hungry while she was on stage, and who can pass up a plate of fresh fried chicken?

Jones gobbled down the fried chicken, and was met by a furious Patsy Cline after the show.

Nancy recalls in the book:

“Patsy knew every cuss word ever created, and she spewed a litany of them at George, calling him every dirty, despicable name she could think of.”

But Jones didn’t care. As he recalled to his wife years later:

“I just stood there grinnin’ at her. I’d eaten her chicken. My belly was full and I was ready to sing.”

Well Patsy cared. She was still furious at George for eating her chicken, and refused to allow him to fly back to Nashville with her.

Ultimately, it would be that fried chicken that saved his life, when the ill-fated plane went down just two days later. And if not for that fried chicken, we may have lost one of the greatest singers country music has ever known while his career was just getting started.

Nancy writes in her book that while George often laughed about eating Patsy’s fried chicken, he also often asked her:

“I could have been on that plane. God saved my life that night. I’ve often wondered why?”

I think we all know why, George. He had big things in store for you.

That’s one plate of fried chicken that the country music world is grateful for.

George Jones Performs His Final Concert In 2013

It may be dependent on who you talk to but ask anybody with half a lick of sense about country music, and they’ll tell you that George Jones belongs on the Mount Rushmore of country music.

Just an all-time country music legend.

A career that spanned nearly 60 years, and produced some of country music’s most memorable hits like “He Stopped Loving Her Today,” “White Lightning,” “Tennessee Whiskey” and more, George wanted to die on stage… and he nearly did.

At 80 years old, fresh off a vicious respiratory infection, George announced his farewell tour knowing full well that he probably wouldn’t make it to the end of it. Dubbed The Grand Tour, the 60-city tour was supposed to culminate in a big farewell performance at Nashville’s Bridgestone Area.

In an old interview with The TennesseanGeorge’s wife Nancy said begged him to come off the road and stop performing, but he wouldn’t.

“I said, ‘Why are you agreeing to everything?’ and he said, ‘’Cause I’m not going to be here. I’m going to agree to anything they ask.

Promise me you’ll make a tribute show out of it, and I’ll see it from heaven.’”

And then after his final show in Knoxville, Tennessee, 10 years ago today, George knew he was done:

“I just did my last show. And I gave ’em hell.”

George was admitted to the hospital shortly thereafter, where he stayed until he passed away on April 26th, 2013, at the age of 81.

He closed out his final performance with his signature song, “He Stopped Loving Her Today.”

Below is some rare footage from that final night.

His final performance of  “He Stopped Loving Her Today.”

And of course, Alan Jackson performed at Jones’ funeral, a moving rendition of “He Stopped Loving Her Today.”


Dolly Parton’s “Big Heartache” Over Never Recording An Album With George Jones

I’m pretty sure Dolly Parton could essentially snap her fingers and record with just about any artist on the planet that she wants to.

I mean, she’s the queen of country music, a national treasure, and I think any artist, country or not, would jump at the change to do a song or album with her.

She sat down with Kelly and Amber on Amazon’s Country Heat podcast to talk about her ACM hosting gig, as well as some of the other projects she has going on right now, like her new book with James Patterson Run, Rose, Run.

When they asked her who her dream collaboration would be with, she said she always regrets that she didn’t get to do an album with George Jones or Merle Haggard:

“Oh, yeah. I have a big heartache over the fact that I never did an album with George Jones, who was my favorite singer, and with Merle Haggard.

Those two guys I really, really wish, and I had a few opportunities to do it, but it just never worked out for somebody’s schedule til it was too late, so I hate that.”

Of course, Dolly and Merle were always good friends, and Merle had a longtime, not-so-secret crush on her that lasted pretty much his whole life.

Can you imagine a collaborative album by Dolly with either one of those country legends? It would’ve been so incredible to have a project like that.

She says if she could pick any current artist to work with, though, it would be pop star Ed Sheeran:

“But right now, there’s a lot of great people out there. I love Ed Sheeran. I’ve always thought in his early days when I would hear his little voice, or his big little voice, his emotional, wonderful voice, I used to think ‘Boy, I bet we could sing something beautiful together’.

Like to pick the right song, that really has the way that we both can sing with emotion, cuz we feel it. Maybe some day I could do something with him, I’d like to.”

I’m sure all she has to do is ask… and that duo would really be something. I’d love for them to get together on a song just out of sheer curiosity for what it would sound like.

Of course, though Dolly never did an official album with Merle, they toured together back in the day and even did a cool medley of his biggest hits on her show back in the late ’80s:

And Dolly teamed up with George Jones for a cover of Hank Williams Jr.’s “The Blues Man”

A beer bottle on a dock



A beer bottle on a dock