Carl Lee Cunningham
And the rest of the story …
It was 3:28 p.m. Dec. 10, 1967, when 26-year-old Redding’s nearly new Beechcraft Model 18 went down in the cold waters of Lake Monona three miles from the runway at Truax Field in Madison, Wis. It was foggy, rainy and cold, and there was talk of flights being grounded. Redding’s 26-year-old pilot Dick Fraser had flown just 118 hours in twin-engine aircraft. The National Transportation Safety Board never reached a firm decision about the cause of the crash, attributing it to multiple factors, which is a polite way of saying that someone displayed bad judgment.
The impact with the water split the plane open like a tube of biscuit dough, filling the fuselage with water. Ben Cauley, the Bar-Kays’ 20-year-old trumpet player and singer, was the only one of eight people on board to survive the crash. He was sitting directly behind Redding, back to back with the singer, who was buckled into the co-pilot seat.
There wasn’t room on the plane for James Alexander and Bar-Kays’ vocalist Carl Sims; they’d flown commercial from the band’s prior gig in Cleveland to Milwaukee. Alexander ended up identifying the bodies.
Contrary to urban legend, the Beech 18 Redding bought was not previously owned by James Brown.
Redding and the Bar-Kays were scheduled to play two shows at a Madison club called the Factory that night, the first at 6:30 and a later one at 9. The opening act was a local band called the Grim Reapers, which featured future Cheap Trick guitarist Rick Neilsen.
Final Resting Place:
New Park Cemetery
4536 Horn Lake Road
Memphis, Tennessee, 38119
Grave Location:Trinity Section
Grave Location Description
Upon entering the cemetery drive straight ahead and stop six rows before the ditch. Look for the upright King and Cunningham monuments on your right. Phalon Jones, whose body was found several days after the crash is also buried at New Park Cemetery. Ronnie Caldwell was buried at Memorial Park Cemetery in Memphis, Tennessee.