MJ PRESENTS: THE DAY THE MUSIC DIED
The Day The Music Died
Even though this radio station does not play a song by anyone involved in this historic and tragic day, a lot of the music we do play has been inspired in some way by them.
On February 3rd of this year it will mark the 49th year we have been without one of the biggest pioneers in the history of rock music. The events of that day shook the foundations and rattled a music scene that was just about to take over and transform into this huge wondrous thing. The music eventually did take over but it took a lot longer after what happened on February 3, 1959. There have been many stories and theories about exactly what took place at the SURF BALLROOM in CLEAR LAKE, IOWA that fateful night but the only thing we know for certain is 3 rock and rollers perished and gave their lives so their music could live on.
Charles Harden “Buddy” Holly, J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson & 17 year old Richie Valens boarded a plane at around 1:30 am on the morning of February 3rd . 2 of them were not originally supposed to be on the plane. Buddy chartered the plane because he was tired of riding around on the old tour bus that kept breaking down throughout their various stops in the American mid west. The bus had no heat and most of the performers were getting frostbite and the flu because the weather was so cold. Buddy chartered the plane to get from Clear Lake, Iowa to the next stop on the WINTER DANCE PARTY tour which was Fargo, North Dakota. Buddy had chartered the plane for himself and his 2 other band members the CRICKETS (Not the original CRICKETS). One of the new Crickets was a young Texan, much like Buddy, by the name of Waylon Jennings. Waylon gave his seat on the plane to J.P. Richardson, known professionally as THE BIG BOPPER. He did this because the BOPPER was sick from riding the bus and had a temperature of nearly 101 degrees. Waylon gave the BOPPER his seat on the condition that the BOPPER check himself into a hospital when they reached Fargo. The other seat in the plane was reserved for Tommy Allsup, the other one of the newer Crickets, he was all set to go to the airport and before he and buddy got into the taxi to go to the airport Allsup forgot something and had to run back into the SURF BALLROOM. When he went back in he saw young Richie Valens talking with some girls and signing some autographs. Richie called Tommy over and asked him “Hey man you gonna let me fly tonight?”. Tommy said “No way. I am NOT riding that bus again”. Richie, who was also un-well followed Allsup and kept asking and begging for the seat. Finally Allsup relented and said “ I have a quarter in my pocket…call it in the air”. Richie called HEADS and that’s what won the youngster the remaining seat on the plane. Allsup and Valens made their way back to the cab and Allsup had told Buddy that Valens was taking his seat. Allsup asked Buddy to mail a letter and wire some money to his wife for him. Buddy could not do this without Allsups ID so Allsup GAVE Buddy his wallet and said “I will pick this up from you tomorrow in North Dakota”.Allsup got back on the bus and the 3 young rock n rollers were on their way to the small airport/landing strip just north of Clear Lake, Iowa to catch their plane.
They reached the airport but during the drive there the weather started to get worse and worse. Snow flurries and strong winds. They got inside the little building at the airport. They were introduced to their pilot, a fellow by the name of Roger Peterson, and proceeded to the hangar to taxi to the runway. They got into the plane. Buddy riding shotgun. Richie directly behind him and the BOPPER in the other rear passenger seat. They began their approach on to the runway and started their ascent into the night sky. Less than 10 mins later 3 stars of the new music called rock and roll were dead and laying in a farmers field a few miles north of Mason City, Iowa. No one really knows what happened to make the plane crash. There have been numerous theories:
-Their pilot was fairly young and inexperienced. He had had no previous instrument training. Also, the fact that his passengers were famous could have also been a distraction
-The horrendous weather is another theory. It was snowing severely by the time the plane took off that it would have been extremely hard to look out the window to see if you were climbing or falling
The man who worked at the airport, the one who Buddy chartered the plane from, was monitoring the flight on radar. After about 10 mins he noticed the plane no longer showed up on any radar and no distress call had been made. He waited at the airport until daylight and took to the air himself to try and see if he could find the missing plane. That’s when the discovery was made. The plane was spotted in a crumpled ball against a fence in a farmers field. 3 bodies strewn around it. The pilots body was still inside the twisted wreckage of the plane. Buddy was the first body discovered just north of the crash site. Ritchie was found about 20 feet beside him on the left. The Big Bopper was found sometime later behind the plane on the other side of the fence in the adjoining farmers field. His body was not noticeable at first because it was blocked by the carcass of the plane. Tommy Allsups wallet was found amongst all the wreckage. The police and investigators, not knowing that he actually was not on the plane, began to search all over the field for Allsup as well. It was during this time they found the BOPPER in the next field over.
That’s what happened on February 3, 1959. Buddy Holly, one of the biggest pioneers in the history of rock and roll was dead. So were two more up and coming stars.
From here the stories get twisted and strange. I have no idea how truthful some of the things I am about to write are but they make for a great debate.
Apparently there were bullet holes found in the back of the pilots seat. Buddy, who was VERY paranoid, never traveled with out a gun. This leads to a story that their may have been a dispute while the plane was in the air and the pilot was shot and killed causing the plane to crash…..
The name of the plane was NOT American Pie as the Don McLean may or may not suggest
Richie was petrified of flying which leads to some speculation as to why he wanted a seat on the plane so badly. About two days later at the SURF BALLROOM where the trio had played the night they died, Richies’ good luck medallion which he believed protected him from flying, was found on the floor behind the stage
The original CRICKETS were on their way to FARGO to catch up with Buddy and join him for the rest of the tour
Waylon Jennings had such a hard time talking about what had happened for years afterwards. Rumour has it that he and Buddy got into a bit of an argument when Waylon gave his seat to the Bopper. Buddy said “I chartered the plane for US, now you wanna give the seat away” to which Waylon responded “ Look at Bopper man, he is sick as a dog, he needs the seat more than I do”. Buddy then said” Okay, fine, you get back on the bus and I hope it breaks down and you freeze all night” and then Waylon said something he always lived to regret “Well I hope your plane crashes then!”…..
No matter which way you slice it it was a terrible day in the history of music and pop culture. These men died but their music and ideas have continued to live on. Numerous books, magazines, websites, documentaries and Hollywood motion pictures have been made about what happened.
Watch the movies LA BAMBA & THE BUDDY HOLLY STORY
(No film has been made about the BIG BOPPER YET)
We have to keep remembering what these men gave us. They opened the door so music could change. It ultimately cost them their lives but without their contributions who knows what the music would sound like now.
BUDDY,RICHIE & BOPPER
MJ, 96.7 The Rig