Welcome to THE DAY THE MUSIC DIED. One moment, please.


On a cold winter's night a small private plane took off from Clear Lake, Iowa bound for Fargo, N.D. It never made its destination.
When that plane crashed, it claimed the lives of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, J.P. "Big Bopper" Richardson and the pilot, Roger Peterson. Three of Rock and Roll's most promising performers were gone. As Don McLean wrote in his classic music parable, American Pie, it was "the day the music died."
Jiles P. Richardson, called Jape by his friends, known as The Big Bopper to his fans, was a Texas D.J. who found recording success and fame in 1958 with the song Chantilly Lace.
Richie Valenzuela was only 16 years old when Del-Fi record producer, Bob Keane, discovered the Pacoima, California singer. Keane rearranged his name to Ritchie Valens, and in 1958 they recorded Come On, Let's Go. Far more successful was the song Valens wrote for his girlfriend, Donna, and its flip side, La Bamba, a Rock and Roll version of an old Mexican standard. This earned the teenager an appearance on American Bandstand and the prospect of continued popularity.
Charles Hardin "Buddy" Holley (changed to Holly due to a misspelling on a contract) and his band, The Crickets, had a number one hit in 1957 with the tune That'll Be The Day. This success was follwed by Peggy Sue and an appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show. By 1959, Holly had decided to move in a new direction. He and the Crickets parted company. Holly married Maria Elena Santiago and moved to New York with the hope of concentrating on song writing and producing.
Performing in concert was very profitable, and Buddy Holly needed the money it provided. "The Winter Dance Party" was planned as a multi-city tour, and Holly would be the biggest headliner. Waylon Jennings, a friend from Lubbock, Texas and Tommy Allsup, a former Cricket would go as backup musicians.
The Big Bopper, Ritchie Valens and Dion and the Belmonts would round out the list of performers.
The tour bus developed heating problems. It was so cold onboard that reportedly one of the drummers developed frostbite riding in it. Valens and The Big Bopper caught colds.
After the performance at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa, Buddy Holly had had enough of the unheated bus and chartered a four passenger airplane to fly the next leg of the tour.
Reportedly, Waylon Jennings gave his seat up to Richardson. Jennings still doesn't talk much about that night. Some say Dion didn't want to spend the $35, his pro rata share. What is known is that Valens and Tommy Allsup flipped a coin to see who got the remaining seat on that plane. Valens won the toss.
The plane took off a little after 1 A.M. from Clear Lake and never got far from the airport before it crashed, killing all onboard.
Tommy Allsup would one day open a club named "The Head's Up Saloon," a tribute to the coin toss that saved his life.
Waylon Jennings would become a hugely popular Country singer.
Dion di Mucci would enjoy a long lived solo career.
Holly, Richardson and Valens were replaced on the Winter Dance Party tour by Fabian and Paul Anka. Though both were Teen Idols, they lacked the innovative creativity of the artists who preceded them. Representative of rock's new direction, Fabian especially was but a poor imitation of what had been.
Lamenting the changes which occurred in Rock and Roll after the crash, in 1971 Don McLean would immortalize its relevance in Rock's history in American Pie. Read the lyrics and look for references to other rockers such as Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin and Mick Jagger.
Inscribed on Ritchie Valens' grave are the words, "Come On, Let's Go."

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