If you listen t my daily radio show, you’ll remember last Friday’s show when I mentioned an article in Rolling Stone magazine asking readers their favorite sad song. I posed the question to my listening audience and my phones rang for an hour. I promised I would post my favorite today.
My favorite sad song is Last Kiss by J. Frank Wilson & the Cavaliers. I chose that one because it’s based on the real live story of three teenagers killed in a car accident three days before Christmas 1962. I’ll tell you the story as I read and researched it a few years back. There have been many variations of this story by different people over the years however, I believe this to be the correct story.
Five teenagers, were on their way to a movie. Two sets of boyfriend/girlfriend and one friend account for the five. Jeanette Clark and J.L. Hancock, were on a date a few days before Christmas in 1962, along with Wayne Cooper, Jewel Emerson, and Ed Shockley. Hancock was driving his Chevy when he collided with a tractor trailer truck near Barnesville Georgia.. Clark, Hancock, and Cooper were killed. Their two other friends, Jewel Emerson and Ed Shockley, survived with serious injuries.
Enter a man named Wayne Cochrane. Wayne was a popular singer/songwriter whose band had a great reputation locally. His drummer in the band was dating Jeanette Clark’s sister at the time of the accident. Curiously enough, Wayne had been writing a song about the all the car crashes he had seen over the years on that highway. There was a huge emotional response from the community after the tragedy, and Cochran used those feelings to finish the song, which he dedicated to Jeanette Clark. Because of the notoriety of the crash, the song became local hit.
Enter a man named Sonley Roush. Sonley wanted to manage a band, not just any band, but a group he felt could really go somewhere. Always on the lookout for talent, he attended one of Wayne Cochrane’s dances. He was not impressed with the group at all, but greatly impressed with Cochrane’s recent hit Last Kiss.
One of Roush’s favorite singers was J. Frank Wilson. Not only did he think Wilson had what it took to reach the top, his band was great as well. Approaching Wilson at one of his dances, he expressed his feelings about Wilson recording Last Kiss. Wilson, did not agree, feeling that Cochrane had already recorded the song which was getting heavy air-play locally. Not to be discouraged, Roush offered to foot the entire cost of recording and production, if he could be the band’s manager. That deal was too good for Wilson to pass up, and he agreed to it.
J.Frank Wilson recording of Last Kiss received rave reviews. The song was soon distributed Nationally, and became the number one song in America, according to Cashbox. While Cochrane and his band faded from sight, J.Frank Wilson & the Cavaliers were doing National tours. Things were going great for Wilson, but in a strange turn of events, while driving back to Memphis with his manager Sonley at the wheel, they were involved in an accident in which Sonley was killed and Wilson severely injured.
Wilson was never the same after the death of Sonley Roush. He was unable to regain the stardom he once had, and turned to substance abuse. Many years later he was employed as a janitor in a a nursing home. He died soon after, penniless.
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