When Reba McEntire lost most of her band in a plane crash in 1991, she leaned on her country music friends to help pay special tribute to them. But when she asked music legend Waylon Jennings to speak at the memorial, he declined the invitation. So how did McEntire feel? And who directed the tribute instead?
Waylon Jennings could have been on the plane that crashed and killed Buddy Holly
Before becoming a country music outlaw, Jennings was part of Buddy Holly’s band, The Crickets. And he gave up a seat on the plane that crashed and killed Holly, Ritchie Valens, JP “the Big Bopper” Richardson and pilot Roger Petersen.
According to Biography, Jennings spoke to Holly before she boarded and the two exchanged words that apparently still haunted the country star. After Jennings gave up her seat and decided to travel by bus, Holly playfully wished the bus would freeze. “Well, I hope your old plane crashes,” Jennings joked, seeming to believe it was impossible.
The plane crashed and Holly and the others died on February 3, 1959. Jennings first walked away from music and wrote in Waylon: an autobiography he had “no intention of playing another note” when he returned to Texas. He said he had been “sick to the core” over Holly’s death. “He was the first person to believe in me,” Jennings wrote. “He was my friend.”
Notably, Holly is said to have been the inspiration for the song “Old Friend”.
Waylon Jennings sympathized with Reba McEntire but refused to speak at his band’s memorial
On March 16, 1991, McEntire lost most of his party when their plane crashed and killed everyone on board. Ten people died in the tragedy, including seven band members and its tour manager.
McEntire wrote about the devastation in his autobiography, Reba: My story. She said many of her country music friends, like Dolly Parton, have come together to offer support where they can. And one of those people was Jennings, who spoke words that she said gave her “great comfort.”
“Don’t you feel guilty about the plane crash,” she recalled telling him. “It was not for you to be on this plane, otherwise you would have been. So don’t blame yourself or feel guilty.
However, despite this reassuring advice, he declined her request to speak at the memorial. And she said she understood given her background. But that still left her in the position of finding someone else.
Johnny Cash spoke at Reba McEntire’s band memorial
When McEntire was instructed to think of someone other than Jennings to speak at her band’s tribute, she said she next thought of her former roommate, Johnny Cash. She was unaware that he had recently buried his own mother, but he told her he would do so regardless.
Even as a second choice, McEntire wrote in his autobiography that Cash could have chosen nothing “more appropriate or uplifting” than his performance of “Jim, I Wore a Tie Today”.
RELATED: The plane crash that killed Patsy Cline and the country’s other tragedies surrounding it