Friday Five: Missing Persons

Juli Thanki | September 6th, 2013

If I had a time-traveling police box at my disposal, in between placing bets on various sporting events, attending concerts, and avoiding the Grandfather paradox, I’d like to find out what happened to these people.

5. Roger McGuinn – “Bag Full of Money”

McGuinn invents a past for the infamous Dan “D.B.” Cooper in this country-rock song (skip ahead to 2:30 in the video): “If you can’t get a job and they think you’re insane / If the years of your youth have been washed down the drain / And you wake up some mornin’ with nothin’ but pain / It was then I decided to grab me a plane.”


4. Paul Clayton – “Lady Franklin’s Lament”

In 1845, an expedition led by Sir John Franklin left England for the Arctic Circle in order to chart The Northwest Passage. When there had been no word from the expedition by 1847, Lady Franklin urged the formation of search parties. Although a few bodies and artifacts (including a note that mentioned Franklin’s death) were found, there is no definitive proof about what happened to the 128 men of the lost expedition. (Perhaps the newest search for Franklin’s ships will uncover new information.) This popular 19th century broadside—written from Lady Franklin’s point of view–was recorded by Paul Clayton in the late 1950s.


3. Todd Snider – “D.B. Cooper”

Seriously, who is this guy? And what happened to him?


2. Dave Alvin – “Everett Ruess”

20-year old artist/wanderer Ruess disappeared in November of 1934 near Escalante, Utah. Nearly 80 years later, we still don’t definitively know what happened to him – some hypothesize he was murdered, others say he fell to his death or drowned. There are a couple good books on Ruess if you’re interested (I enjoyed this one), or you can listen to Alvin’s take on the mysterious young man.


1. The Country Gentlemen – “Amelia Earhart’s Last Flight”

Lots of folks have recorded this Red River Dave McEnery salute to “the first lady of the air”, including Kinky Friedman and Freakwater. But if I were going to be stranded on a desert island–perhaps marooned there after my plane ran out of fuel–I’d pick the Gentlemen’s take on the tune.

  1. Janice Brooks
    September 6, 2013 at 9:07 am

    Of course a DC Roots fan would vote for thé Country Gentleman

  2. bob
    September 6, 2013 at 9:42 am

    Interesting songs. Although it may not fit exactly with this group, it made me think of the Kingston Trio’s “MTA” about Charlie, “the man who never returned”.

    Someone should write a song about Ambrose Bierce’s disappearance into Mexico.

    Since you mention time travel – favorite time travel novel: Jack Finney’s “Time & Again”.

    • Juli Thanki
      September 6, 2013 at 9:48 am

      I had really hoped that there was a country Ambrose Bierce song out there, but couldn’t find one.

      Thanks for the book recommendation; I’ll check it out. A new time travel novel I enjoyed this summer was Lauren Beukes’ The Shining Girls. And just for fun, here’s an old 9513 Friday Five about time machines:

  3. Dave D.
    September 6, 2013 at 11:22 am

    Not much of a country song, but certainly about Missing Persons: Little Steven – Los Desaparecidos:

  4. bob
    September 6, 2013 at 2:48 pm

    “Shining Girls” looks like a good story based on reviews I checked out. Thanks. I’ve added it to my “to read” list.

  5. Luckyoldsun
    September 6, 2013 at 3:01 pm

    I’m not quite sure of the parameters of this topic, but I’ll throw in “Her Name is ____” by George Jones and “Lost And Found” by Brooks & Dunn, which are both about women who are missing in one sense or another.

    (“It’s kind of like a lost-and-found in a border town where you’re asking ’bout a diamond ring…”)

  6. Arlene
    September 6, 2013 at 4:05 pm

    I’m sort of surpised there are no songs about Judge Crater or Aimee Semple McPherson– at least, I can’t think of any.

    Here’s a link to “Fifty Miles to the Main,” about the lost colonists of Roanoke.

  7. nm
    September 6, 2013 at 6:00 pm

    Not country, but there is at least one Aimee Semple McPherson song:

  8. Rick
    September 6, 2013 at 7:52 pm

    I’m sure there are plenty of cowboy songs about missing persons, but the one that springs to mind is Dave Stamey’s excellent “The Bones of Benny Gray”.

    Factoid: The “Angelus Temple” church that Aimee Semple McPherson founded in the Echo Park area of Los Angeles is still thriving to this day. They have an exhibit full of crutches and wheelchairs that early parishioners no longer needed after being miraculously healed.

    Not country but the sailor man is definitely a missing person in the Looking Glass song “Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl)”! (lol)

  9. Arlene
    September 7, 2013 at 9:29 am

    Thanks NM and Juli! I enjoyed that.

  10. Barry Mazor
    September 7, 2013 at 11:57 am

    One of the most celebrated missing person songs is “Mystery of the Dunbar’s Child” by Rabbit Brown. The case was once wildly famous; you may have seen seen Clint Eastwood’s movie about it.

    Hear it and its story here:

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