Promoter Charlie Dick succumbs at age 81 . . .
NASHVILLE – Entrepreneur Charlie Dick, 81, died Nov. 8 at his home here, following a brief illness. Good buddy Mac Wiseman called Charlie “the keeper of the flame,” noting how he kept the career of his late wife Patsy Cline burning brightly more than half a century after her tragic 1963 death.
Today (Nov. 12) we honored him for this and his own country music contributions through the years, at a funeral service in First Baptist Church. Among mourners besides daughter Julie Fudge, sons Randy and Chip Dick, and their families, were friends like former Opry manager Jerry Strobel, singers Jeannie Seely, Jett Williams, Michelle & Jimmy Capps, his former secretary Marsha Basore, and even ex-wife Jamey Ryan.
Keith Bilbrey, announcer on RFD’s Larry’s Country Diner, spoke at the family’s request, saying, “Charlie was a prankster.” He remembered the time that he had to have surgery for a hernia, and Charlie related the tiniest detail about his corrective surgery for the same problem, to prepare Keith ad nauseam; however, following Keith’s surgery, sent him an invitation to join Charlie and friends on a “trail ride.”
Although understandably emotional, Chip eulogized his father, managing to weave in some humorous anecdotes, agreeing Dad was indeed a jokester. On a more serious note, The Reverend David Royalty officiated, and a three-piece string band offered a mix of gospel and country songs between the talks.
Charles Allen Dick was born May 24, 1934 to Mary (Heflin) and Leland Dick near Whitehall in Frederick County, Va. In 1950, he dropped out of Handley High School – “I didn’t get along with teachers very well” – then worked as a linotype operator for the daily Winchester Star newspaper (which he’d once sold as a kid).
Country Music Hall of Famer Wiseman, 90, said in a telephone chat, “Charlie was special, and you could always rely on him . . . what you saw was what you got. He was the same fun fellow when I talked to him the other day, as he was when I met him close to 60 years ago.”
Charlie and Mac were Lifetime Members of the Reunion Of Professional Entertainers (ROPE), both still heading up the association’s executive board. Mac, five times president, offered to step down one summer while performing in Branson at Willie Nelson Theatre, sharing the bill with Willie and Merle Haggard.
“Well, Charlie and (fellow officer) George Riddle told me to forget about doing that, saying they could keep things running smoothly until my return.”
In an interview for Wiseman’s biography (“All My Memories Fit For Print,” Nova Books), Charlie recalled listening to country music on the radio as a youngster: “I never was a big bluegrass fan myself. When I first heard that type of music, we called it ‘string music.’ I lived in northern Virginia, up close to the West Virginia state line, out in the country. My mother kept the radio on as long as its battery would hold out. That was in the 1940s and actually I didn’t know one style from the next. She could pick up stations clearly like WSVA-Harrisonburg. Mac was on that station back then. I listened to some of it, the things I liked. Mom listened all the time, until the battery wore down.
“Mac was just country to us. The music we heard in Virginia then wasn’t called bluegrass, it was more raw hillbilly country without any amplifying or anything. As I got older, we started going to parks on weekends, where they had about any kind of acoustic music you could think of, some pretty smooth and some wild and crazy. I got so I liked all of it and maybe that’s why I ended up in the music business.”
After moving to Winchester, Charlie got to hanging around with local musicians and got more into it: “One weekend after I met Patsy, she was working a park down in Fredericksburg, and one of the other artists on the bill was Mac Wiseman. I had not yet met Mac. Well, Patsy brought along a box of fried chicken and me, I had a picnic-jug full of grapefruit juice and something else – it might’ve been gin (he chuckles). Now Mac was tickled to death to share Patsy’s chicken, but I think he even liked my beverage better, you know having something to wash it down with.
“Also on that day, they were advertising to ‘give away’ a Mac Wiseman Cadillac car by means of a raffle. I thought, ‘Wow! This is great!’ Back then I didn’t know too many people driving Caddies, especially one who was going to give it away. Then I heard it had a hundred thousand miles or more on it already, and figured Mac had driven it about all it was gonna go. But they did give it away. Meanwhile, backstage, the three of us ate, drank and visited, and we got on very well.”
Patsy, who had split with first husband Gerald Cline, liked Charlie’s take-charge manner and after receiving her divorce decree in March, married Charlie Dick on Sept. 15, 1957.
She was already making a name for herself, having signed with Four-Star Records, became a semi-regular on Jimmy Dean’s WMAL-TV Town & Country Time in Washington, D.C., and won CBS’s national Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts competition, thanks to her performance on her first hit “Walkin’ After Midnight.”
Charlie was summoned by Uncle Sam to serve in the Army (1957-1959). After Charlie wed Patsy, she went with him to Fort Bragg, N.C., temporarily putting her career on hold, while he worked as a motor pool dispatcher. Following discharge, they went back to Winchester with baby daughter Julie. In 1960, they moved to Nashville, where Patsy was signed to Decca Records, and Charlie went to work for Curly Printing.
The year 1961 was especially rewarding for Patsy, who scored her first #1 single “I Fall To Pieces,” and the classic “Crazy” (#2), which eventually became a Grammy Hall of Fame disc; she joined WSM’s Grand Ole Opry cast; and gave birth to son Allen Randolph (Randy).
Charlie frequently accompanied his wife on tour, and the associations he made led to later work within the music industry. One particular gig he missed was a benefit show to aid ailing Kansas City DJ Jack Call, and the returning flight with Cline, Hawkshaw Hawkins and Cowboy Copas in a plane piloted by Copas’ son-in-law Randy Hughes, struck a storm, crashing near Camden, Tenn., where all four occupants died on March 5, 1963.
The death of the three Opry stars reverberated around the world, and Randy’s wife Kathy, herself a former singer and mother of a son, lost both husband and dad. Cowboy’s wife had two teen-aged sons at home; Hawkins’ singer-wife Jean Shepard had a two-year-old and another son due a month later; while Charlie was left to raise Julie, 4, and Randy, 2.
Charlie Dick later worked as a music promoter for various independent labels, covering the Starday, King and Gusto catalogs. He was proud of his role in producing the smash Red Sovine single “Teddy Bear,” in coordination with Tommy Hill, in 1976. Dick explained: “Moe Lytle bought the Dickerson Road studio and Starday masters from Don Pierce. Tommy Hill, who was as good as they come, was part of that deal. One time when Tommy was on the road, Red called me and said, ‘I got something I want you to hear.’ He added, ‘Somebody gave it to me awhile back and I didn’t pay any attention to it, but I’ve just listened and like it. See what you think?’ So he played the tape over the phone, asking ‘What would you do if you had it?’ I told Red, ‘If it were me, I’d record it today.’
“Red already had a smash recitation ‘Giddyup Go,’ which he co-wrote with Tommy, so when Tommy got back, we all listened. But Moe was out of town and Tommy didn’t do too many things without his OK; but, as I recall, we went ahead and recorded it. Well, we put it out right away and ‘Teddy Bear’ sold over a million records and hit number one for us. Moe wasn’t upset about that.” (It also became a Top 40 pop success for Red.)
Harking back to July 4, 1965, Dick married newcomer Jamey Ryan, a talented Texan and younger cousin to Tommy Hill and sister Goldie Hill (Mrs. Carl Smith). In explaining their breakup in 1972, Charlie surmised Jamey didn’t dig standing forever in the shadow of Patsy Cline. Nonetheless, the couple produced a son Charles (Chip) Dick, Jr., in 1968, and he fit snugly into the surviving Dick family, while his parents remained friends.
In the meantime, Charlie devoted himself to promoting Patsy’s music in liaison with Decca/MCA, and her “star” shines even brighter, more than half a century after her untimely passing. In 1973, she was enshrined in the Country Music Hall of Fame, while Charlie’s company, Legacy, Inc., kept him busy overseeing her estate. This includes platinum-selling albums (one electronically with Jim Reeves, since they didn’t record together), technically advising two major motion pictures depicting Patsy – “Coal Miner’s Daughter” and “Sweet Dreams” (in which Ed Harris plays Charlie) – and stage shows licensed about her life and songs, notably “Always . . . Patsy Cline,” “A Closer Walk With Patsy Cline,” and “Patsy Cline, The Musical” in the United Kingdom.
Later, in 1980s’ collaboration with Canadian filmmakers Greg and Mark Hall, Charlie helped produce documentaries like “The Real Patsy Cline,” “George Jones: The Same Ole Me,” “Loretta Lynn: Honky Tonk Girl,” “Waylon Jennings: Renegade, Outlaw, Legend,” and “Willie Nelson, My Life” for their Hallway Productions.
Survivors include daughter Julie Fudge, sons Allen (Randy) and Charles (Chip) Dick; five grandchildren; seven great-grandchildren; and brother Melvin Dick. Interment will be next to wife Patsy in the Shenandoah Memorial Park, Winchester, Va., where on her stone it reads: “Death cannot kill what never dies: Love.