Friday, June 12, 2009

The saddest side of lonesome

Hawkshaw Hawkins was so sure "Lonesome 7-7203'' could be a hit that he attached this note when sending off a copy to Ralph Emery.

"Play the hell out of this hoss.''

Emery, who at the time was the popular and influential late-nite disc jockey on Nashville's WSM, no doubt agreed. As did the faithful legion of country and western radio listeners back in 1963.

Hawkins would have himself a coveted No. 1 song. "Lonesome 7-7203'', written by Justin Tubb, had been recorded previously by Hawkins' wife, Jean Shepard. But when Shepard's version was shelved by her label, Hawkins -- who knew a winner when he heard one -- asked to record it.

Tubb always maintained the song was written for a female voice, but he couldn't argue with the results Hawkins got recording it for King Records. "Lonesome'' would spend half the year on Billboard's country chart, including four weeks at the summit. The only problem was, Hawkins wouldn't be around to enjoy his fame.

Just three days after "Lonesome'' first charted, Hawkins was killed in the plane crash that also took the lives of Patsy Cline, Cowboy Copas and Cline's road manager and pilot, Randy Hughes, just 90 miles from touching down in Nashville.

Ironically, the four were returning from a benefit show for the disc jockey Cactus Jack Call, who had been killed the previous year in an automobile accident.

With a nickname like Hawkshaw (he was born Harold Franklin Hawkins on Dec. 22, 1921), he seemed destined for some measure of fame. Toss in the story about him trading five rabbits for his first guitar and you have a legend in waiting.

But fate is known to play cruel tricks, and this one was devastating to the country music fraternity. Cline, who had already logged hits like "Walkin' After Midnight'', "I Fall to Pieces'' and "Crazy'', was only 30 years old. Copas, who had a No. 1 with "Alabam'' in 1960, was 49. And Hawkins, whose wife Jean was pregnant at the time with Harold Franklin Jr., was 42.

"Lonesome 7-7203'' is one of those sad songs made sadder by an awful tragedy. Hear it now.

1 comment:

  1. Great song, by a great and overlooked singer. Thanks.