The four country artists who died in a West Tennessee plane crash on March 4, 1963. Click on the image to hear Randy Hughes sing "Birthday Cake."

March 5 is one of the most significant dates in country music history, thanks to what happened in 1963. The event: a small-plane crash near Camden, Tenn. The significance: the deaths of major stars Cowboy Copas, Hawkshaw Hawkins and Patsy Cline. All have been in the 3 Chords a Day spotlight. But the fourth victim of the crash had cut a few sides himself, before becoming Copas’ son-in-law, then Cline’s manager and finally the pilot of the ill-fated plane. His name was Randy Hughes; click on the image above to hear one of his efforts from the early 1950s on Nashville-based indie label Tennessee Records.

Be advised: Like much of Hughes’ output on Tennessee in the early 1950s, “Birthday Cake” is a bit on the, uh, randy side. He didn’t originate it; others had made or would make versions under various titles, thus honoring the roots music tradition of double-entendre songs that was as old as records themselves. Says Martin Hawkins in his indispensible book A Shot in the Dark: Making Records in Nashville, 1945-1955: “With its gynecological detail … “Birthday Cake” was clearly a record aimed at jukeboxes rather than radio. … The song’s origins lie in a number of early hillbilly and blues recordings from the 1930s.” It and Hughes titles like “Tattooed Lady,” ” Talkin’ In Your Sleep,” “Tapping That Thing” and “Not Big Enough” were, the author says, “just innocent enough to get played.”

According to Martin Hawkins, Hughes ended his time with Tennessee Records in 1952, the same year he married Kathy Copas. He took on greater tasks within music and also expanded his business interests beyond entertainment. But it was in his role as Cline’s manager and rhythm guitarist that he found himself so eager to get home that stormy day 47 years ago, even in the face of a storm too strong for a novice pilot to safely challenge, that he let his impatience overrule his caution.

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