The day the music died

By: sonofabeach96

Feb 03 2016

Category: Uncategorized


On this date, in 1959, a plane crash in the wee hours took the life of Ritchie Valens, J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson, and Buddy Holly.  The crash occurred in Clear Lake, Iowa after the three, plus Dion Dinnuchi (of Dion and The Belmonts) had played a gig at The Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake.

They were all touring the Midwest on what was billed as the Winter Dance Party Tour.


Buddy Holly was already established at the time and his backup band consisted of Tommy Allsup on guitar, Carl Bunch on drums, and Waylon Jennings on bass.  Valens and The Big Bopper were emerging artists and were partaking in the tour to promote their recordings and earn some extra cash.

The tour was to take place over 24 days and required lots and lots of travel between many cities.   The logistics were not very well thought out though, as it required travel by bus in extreme upper Midwest winter weather.  The tour began in Milwaukee on January 23.  Shortly after commencing, the tour bus lost its heat, resulting in several members of the bands catching the flu.  In fact, Carl Bunch was hospitalized with frostbite to his toes, requiring several others, including Holly, to play drums for everyone else, as Holly’s band was backer to Valens, Dion, and The Big Bopper too.

After becoming fed up with the traveling conditions, Holly had arranged a chartered flight to fly him to Fargo, ND where the rest of the crew were to meet him on the way to their next gig, in Moorhead, MN.  When it came time to board the plane, Holly had a seat and so did Jennings.  Jennings decided to give up his seat to Richardson, due to The Bopper currently having the flu.  The final seat went to Ritchie Valens, who, in a cruel twist of fate, won a coin toss with Tommy Allsup.  There are some conflicting stories, as Dion claims he was slated for the final seat but didn’t want to pay the $36 for the ticket.  Nonetheless, Valens was the one who’s fate was doomed.

The investigation afterwards determined that the pilot, Roger Peterson, was not certified to fly using only instrumentation.  The night in question required such skills as there was low visibility, darkness with no horizon line, and wintery conditions.  The plane crashed shortly after takeoff.


Buddy Holly’s wife found out about the crash and his subsequent death via news accounts and the impact resulted in her having a miscarriage.  This led to changes in survivor notifications after accidents, requiring next of kin notification prior to names being released.

There are several memorials at the crash site to honor the victims


and there is a memorial concert held every year at The Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, being started in 1979.  The 50th anniversary occurred in 2009, and a memorial show was held featuring the likes of Los Lobos, Graham Nash, Delbert McClinton, Los Lonely Boys, Wanda Jackson, and Joe Ely.  The event has been the subject of two films and was made infamous by Don McLeans “American Pie”.   Most consider it rock’s first tragedy, but it certainly was not the last, unfortunately.

In honor of the anniversary and tragic loss of young talent, my songs of the day are:

“Chantilly Lace” by The Big Bopper

“La Bamba” by Los Lobos

“That’ll Be The Day” by Buddy Holly

“Hurry Up” by Ritchie Valens

“Where Corn Don’t Grow” by Waylon Jennings

“Peggy Sue” by Buddy Holly

“Stay Beside Me” by Ritchie Valens

“American Pie” by Don McLean




22 comments on “The day the music died”

  1. You do this memory a great honor!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. “Singing bye bye Miss American Pie”….first thing that came to my mind when I saw this post title. Thanks for posting this article. As time progresses I feel less and less people remember this event and its significance.

    And what an incredibly detailed article. I remembered that someone had given up their seat that was also famous but I couldn’t remember who. Obviously now I see it was Waylon. I remember him discussing it in an interview one time.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Thank you for sharing this wonderful tribute! Everything about this tragedy is so incredibly sad.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Makes me sad to even think about the good people that died that day….great tribute to them…kat

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Forgot all about Waylon Jennings giving up his seat, that would have definitely altered the course of music history.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I was listening to this on The Conspiracy Show by Richard Serit, on the radio

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Great classic songs! Haven’t thought about Chantilly Lace in a very very long time!

    Liked by 1 person

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