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March 7: The country music world, already reeling from the deaths of Patsy Cline, Cowboy Copas, Hawkshaw Hawkins and Randy Hughes in a plane crash on March 5, 1963, suffered another blow two days later. Jack Anglin, half of the popular duo Johnnie and Jack, was on his way to Cline’s funeral when he died in a horrific car crash in the Nashville suburb of Madison. Along with intensifying a tragic week for the Grand Ole Opry, his death brought an instant end to an act whose innovations in the ’50s — beginning with “Poison Love” — helped it ride out the coming rock ‘n’ roll onslaught better than many country artists were able to.

Johnnie Wright and Jack Anglin sang in the “brother” tradition of Charlie and Bill Monroe, Alton and Rabon Delmore, and Ira and Charlie Louvin. They weren’t brothers, however, but brothers-in-law. (Anglin had married Wright’s sister.) Their music gained a kick when they mixed in a Latin beat on 1950’s “Poison Love,” courtesy of bassist Ernie Newton. He created the Johnnie and Jack sound by holding a maraca and a snare brush in his plucking hand, shaking the former and using the latter to strike a drumskin mounted near the fingerboard, all while playing the notes. It made for an interesting and unique sound. (In the chorus, listen for the high baritone part in the vocal trio. That’s Wright’s wife, Kitty Wells.)

After Anglin’s death, Wright continued to perform, as a solo artist and with Kitty Wells. Now in their 90s, both are retired and living in Madison. In October 2009 they celebrated their 72nd wedding anniversary.

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