1985 – Ricky Nelson dies

The glory days of Ricky Nelson’s career were behind him by 1985. But at 45, he wasn’t ready to quit, and he still had enough of a fan base to make gigging a winning proposition financially. The other thing he had was a hatred of traveling by bus. Instead, despite not liking flying that much more than bussing, he had a charter plane to carry him and the band around.

On the New Year’s Eve, 1985, he was booked to play in Dallas, and as they flew into Texas that afternoon, it’s unlikely anyone though anything would go wrong. This may have been a little optimistic – the plane had already been grounded twice in the last six months due to assorted faults – but it was New Year’s Eve. Everyone wanted to party.

Nelson’s plane – which according to some witnesses was already on fire at the time – crashed two miles short of its destination, killing 8 of the ten people on board including Nelson.

Referenced in:

Air Crash Museum — The Dead Milkmen

1941 – Rudolf Hess crashes in Scotland

To this day, there is no clear explanation of his motives, but the facts in the case are these: on May 10, 1941, Rudolf Hess – the third most powerful man in Nazi Germany behind Hitler and Goring, flew a plane to Scotland, where he crash landed and was taken into custody. He had come on a mission of peace, trying to secure an end to hostilities between Germany and the United Kingdom.

However, his offer was quickly disavowed by the German government, and Hess stripped of al authority. He spent the rest of the war as a p.o.w., and stood trial alongside the other surviving Nazis at Nuremberg.

It seems that he had experienced some sort of guilt-motivated nervous breakdown, causing him to undertake his quixotic mission. It remains an open question whether his guilt was about the war by itself, or also about the Holocaust.

Referenced in:

Air Crash Museum — Dead Milkmen

1963 – Patsy Cline dies

About a month after finishing recording her fourth, and, alas, final album Sentimentally Yours, Patsy Cline died in what has been described as “one of the worst wrecks in the country”. Also on the plane that night – and also dying in the crash – were her manager Randy Hughes and fellow musicians Hawkshaw Hawkins and Cowboy Copas.

Patsy Clines’s legacy is vast: at the time of her death, she was one of the most popular and best-selling artists in the world (and deservedly so). Her works remain perennially popular, both in terms of airplay and of being covered by the artists that followed her.

Referenced in:

Air Crash Museum — The Dead Milkmen

1973 — Jim Croce dies in a plane crash

Probably best known for his singles, Operator, You Don’t Mess Around With Jim, Time in a Bottle, and his biggest hit, Bad, Bad Leroy Brown, Croce was a American singer-songwriter who enjoyed a too-brief fame in the early Seventies.

His career was tragically cut short when he and his close friend and frequent collaborator Maury Muehleisen died when the light aircaft they were flying in crashed en route between Natchitoches, Louisiana, and Sherman, Texas.

Referenced in:
Air Crash Museum — The Dead Milkmen

1959 – Ritchie Valens, Buddy Holly and the Big Bopper die in a plane crash

The facts, as generally agreed upon, are these:

At appoximately 1AM on February 3, 1959, Holly, Valens and Richardson (‘the Big Bopper’) boarded a plane in Clear Lake, Iowa, intending to fly to their next concert, in Moorhead, Minnesota. The three, flown by pilot Roger Peterson, were killed a short time later when their plane crashed.

The major cause of the crash appears to have been a combination of poor weather conditions and pilot error. Peterson was not qualified for nighttime flights, and it also appears that he may have been given incorrect information regarding the weather conditions on that fateful night.

Referenced in:
American Pie – Don McLean
Air Crash Museum – Dead Milkmen
We Didn’t Start The Fire – Billy Joel
Rock And Roll Hall Of Death — Mitch Benn And The Distractions