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The Day the Music Died, is a phrase from the Don McLean song "American Pie", which records the deaths of R&R musicians Charles Hardin Holley (correct spelling of his surname) aka Buddy Holly, Richard Steven Valenzuela whose stage name was Ritchie Valens (“La Bamba”, "Come On, Let's Go."), and Jiles Perry "JP" Richardson, Jr., commonly known as The Big Bopper (“Chantilly Lace”) in a plane crash near Clear Lake, Iowa, shortly after midnight on the 3rd of February 1959. The pilot Roger Peterson was also killed in the crash.


Buddy Holly split with the original Crickets, Jerry Allison (drums) and Joe B Mauldin (bass) in October 1958 when he moved to New York to record and the Crickets returned to their home town of Lubbock, Texas and thence to the Norman Petty Studios in Clovis New Mexico scene of all the early Buddy Holly hits: “That’ll Be The Day”, “Oh Boy!”,


“Peggy Sue”,



“Rave On” etc. Buddy assembled a new band consisting of Waylon Jennings (later to become a big star in Country Music) , Tommy Allsup (guitar), and Carl Bunch (drums), to play on the arduous '"Winter Dance Party" tour which criss-crossed 24 Midwestern cities in three weeks in January/February 1959.


The tour buses frequently broke down in the 30 below Fahrenheit freezing conditions and the artists took to building fires of newspapers in the aisles to keep warm. The drummer Carl Bunch was hospitalised at Ironwood, Michigan, suffering from severely frost bitten feet en route to an afternoon matinee at the Cinderella Ballroom in Appleton, Wisconsin, after a show in the Duluth's National Guard Armory on Saturday, January 31st, which was watched by none other than a 17-year-old Robert Zimmerman (Bob Dylan). Ironically the matinee was cancelled and the artists headed for the next stop at the Riverside Ballroom, Green Bay, Wisconsin by train. The repaired bus caught up with them there only to break down yet again on the 360 miles journey to Clear Lake.


Holly decided to charter a plane after what was an unscheduled performance in the Surf Ballroom, Clear Lake, Iowa, on the 2nd of February 1959, to reach their next venue in Moorhead, Minnesota via Fargo, North Dakota. JP Richardson, who was suffering from flu, swapped places on the plane with Waylon Jennings, while Tommy Allsup saved his own life by losing the toss of a coin to Richie Valens. Dion Di Mucci (of Dion and the Belmonts fame) decided not to board the plane for the $36 fee. It’s not clear whose place he would have taken.


The plane took off shortly after midnight on the 3rd of February 1959 (accounts of the actual time differ) but the investigation of the accident determined that soon after take-off, a combination of poor weather conditions and pilot error caused spatial disorientation that made pilot Roger Peterson lose control of the plane and it crashed into an Iowa cornfield 5 miles north west of the Mason City Airport.




Tommy Allsup gave Buddy Holly his wallet for ID to collect mail for him in Fargo, so initial reports cited his death as his wallet was found at the crash site.


On the 2nd of February 2009 I was privileged to be among an audience of some 1,700 fans from 37 countries around the world for the Buddy Holly 50th Anniversary Tribute Concert in the very same Surf Ballroom where I met Carl Bunch and The Big Bopper Jnr (son of JP Richardson) both of whom sadly since deceased and Chris (“Let’s Dance” Montez). Tommy Allsup and the original Crickets performed that night as did Los Lobos and Graham Nash, late of the Hollies. The show was part compared by Sir Tim Rice.





Edited by BrahimHemdani
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Interesting bit of pop history BH. I didn't know it was Fargo where the plane crash happened, what a bleak and inhospitable part of the world in the winter that must be.


The crash was only 5 miles from Mason City airport (10 miles outside Clear Lake), they never got close to the destination at Fargo, 370 miles away.


A certain Fargo schoolboy, Robert Thomas Velline aka Bobby Vee ("The Night Has a Thousand Eyes", "Rubber Ball" etc) got his big break as a stand in for Buddy Holly as the show went on at Moorhead. He also performed at the Tribute Concert but had to give up due to a bad throat infection.


When I was there the snow was 15 feet high in some places and it wasn't difficult to imagine the privations of travelling hundreds of miles in old school buses.


I have some other pictures of the ballroom etc which I couldn't find last night; I think I'll refrain from publishing any of me wearing the colours in Clear Lake!

Edited by BrahimHemdani
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This is the map of the tour




It's not 100% accurate because they did drive the 330 miles to Appleton for the matinee that was cancelled before getting the train to Green Bay. They then drove the 360 miles to Clear Lake.


Also the tour continued until February 15th when it finished at the Illinois State Armory, Springfield, Illinois.

Edited by BrahimHemdani
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Gold have been playing some of Buddy's songs today. So young but what great music. Cheers for the music Buddy.


Welcome to Gersnet, Alfie, and thanks for posting on my thread. I emailed a few stations as I usually do at this time of year.


Many folk think that Buddy would have gone on to be bigger than his friend, Elvis, because he was a musician who wrote almost all of his own songs. If you look at his output in a brief 18 month spell from his breakthrough from Country to pop music in the summer of 1957 to his death in Feb 1959 it's hard to disagree.


A brief biography & video here http://www.biography.com/people/buddy-holly-9342186

Edited by BrahimHemdani
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