Charlie Dick, the widower of music icon Patsy Cline and a champion of her legacy for the last five decades, died suddenly at home in the Nashville area Sunday morning. He was 81 years old.
“He was a fun guy,” said country and bluegrass legend Mac Wiseman, his friend of more than 50 years; the two had spoken just days ago. “He had a heart as big as his head.”
Charles Allen Dick was born in May of 1934 in Virginia. He and Cline met in 1956 at one of her performances; they were married Sept. 15, 1957 in Winchester, Virginia. The two relocated to Fayetteville, North Carolina, where Mr. Dick, a linotype operator, was stationed at Ft. Bragg. They soon welcomed two children: first a daughter, Julie, and later a son, Randy.
According to Wiseman, who played many package shows with Cline, Mr. Dick often served as her unofficial road manager as the young country singer with the rich voice traveled from performance to performance.
On March 5, 1963, Cline, 30, was killed in a plane crash near Camden, Tenn., that also claimed the lives of country music stars Cowboy Copas and Hawkshaw Hawkins, and pilot Randy Hughes. Mr. Dick was left to rebuild his life with two children under the age of five.
Following Cline’s death, her husband worked for several years in promotions at Starday Records, a label that included artists like Red Sovine on its roster. Mr. Dick remained in the Nashville area for the rest of his life, though he frequently traveled over the years to various events and programs that honored Cline. She became more famous after her death thanks in part to reissues of her music and films like “Sweet Dreams,” and her husband worked for years to make sure that her music, her legacy and her estate were protected.
“Sixty years later, people still love Patsy Cline, and he had a big part in that…it could have all died with the crash but he made sure that her music stayed out there,” said singer Mandy Barnett, who starred in the play “Always…Patsy Cline.” Barnett first met Mr. Dick at the Grand Ole Opry when she was just an awestruck 10-year-old singer who idolized the singer. He was supportive of Barnett’s music, and her contributions in preserving his wife’s legacy, throughout her career.
Throughout his life, people were drawn to his easy smile and quick humor. “Everybody loved Charlie,” said Wiseman. Barnett went to his birthday celebration last May and remembers that Mr. Dick was the life of the party: “He was rocking out to the band, all his friends were (around him), and they were grilling hamburgers and hot dogs. That was the thing about Charlie: he knew how to have a good time, and he always had a smile on his face.”
Mr. Dick leaves behind his two children with Cline, Julie Fudge and Randy Dick, Chip Dick, a son from his brief marriage to singer Jamey Ryan, and several grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He also has a younger brother, Mel Dick, who lived in Virginia.
Funeral arrangements are not known at this time. Mr. Dick may be buried alongside Cline in Winchester.