Today Feb 3, is National The Day the Music Died day. Almost seventy years ago on this day, musicians Buddy Holly, J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson and Ritchie Valens were killed in a plane crash on the way to their next concert.
With the recent deaths of musicians Lisa Marie Presley, Alan Rankine, Gordy Harmon, Jeff Beck, and most recently David Crosby, we look back on what happened the’ Day the Music Died’ in 1959.
According to This Day in History, Holly, Richardson, Valens, and pilot Roger Peterson were traveling from Mason City, Iowa to Moorhead, Minnesota for their next concert.
They were in the air for only a few minutes after takeoff when their plane, the Beechcraft Bonanza went down. They believe the pilot lost control of the aircraft, which caused them to crash into a cornfield, killing all four of them.
At the time they were performing in “The Winter Dance Party Tour” which according to biography.com, had 24 performances in three weeks throughout the mid-west. They were originally on a tour bus, with other singers such as Dion and the Belmonts.
They had already performed at several venues, but the tour bus was having technical difficulties, including a heater that didn’t work very well. Holly, who told others he was cold and tired of the bus, chartered a plane to fly him and his band to their concerts.
Valens and Richardson did not originally plan to be on the plane. Holly’s band members Tommy Allsup and Waylon Jennings were supposed to ride on the plane that crashed, but according to several reports, Richardson felt sick and convinced Jennings to let him take his place, and Valens won against Allsup in a coin toss for a seat on the plane.
Both Holly’s wife and his mother found out that Holly had died via news reports. Official protocols were implemented shortly after to ensure the names of victims are not released by authorities until the families have been notified.
Don Mclean talked, in his lyrics, about learning of their deaths in the paper. He said,
“But February made me shiver
With every paper I’d deliver
Bad news on the doorstep
I couldn’t take one more step”
“I can’t remember if I cried
When I read about his widowed bride
But something touched me deep inside
The day the music died”
Songs, stories, and monuments have been created, and concerts performed to memorialize this day in history. Every year since 1979, people gather at Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake to listen to a memorial concert. Even the song American Pie was written about this day.