The Day the Music Died
Buddy Holly - February 3, 1959 - the Day the Music Died
February 3rd, 1959, is referred to as 'the day the music died'. It was on this day that Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, the Big Bopper - and let's not forget the young pilot Roger Peterson - were killed when their chartered plane crashed in Iowa. I'm too young to remember Buddy Holly (just) But I do know his music well and so it was a shock to discover how he - and his fellow musicians - died.
The boys, because that's all they were - just youngsters - had chartered the plane to get to their next gig. They were touring in a bus in appalling weather conditions and were totally fed up of the cold, damp and overcrowded transport. They were touring a total of twenty four cities in the space of three weeks, so the bus journeys were becoming tedious at best. There were sixteen musicians in total and the bus also had to transport their luggage and their instruments.
Soon after the plane had taken off from Clear Lake, the charter company lost radio contact and the following morning, he reported this to the authorities. The owner of the charter company took off in his own light aircraft and spotted the wreckage just six miles from the airport.
On the plane
- Buddy Holly, 22
- Ritchie Valens, 17
- J. P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson, 28
- Roger Peterson, 21
This will give you goosebumps
Did you know?
- Waylon Jennings, who was also on the tour, was supposed to be on the plane. He gave up his place to The Big Bopper who was suffering from flu. A lucky miss.
- Musicians Tommy Allsup and Ritchie Valens tossed a coin to determine who should have a seat on the plane.
- Dion DiMucci had intended to be on the plane but decided at the last minute that he couldn't afford the fare.
- The gig at Clear Lake wasn't originally on the tour's schedule. It was arranged at the last minute by the promoters.
- Holly had been married for six months when he died. His widow claimed that she was pregnant and miscarried when she heard the news.
- The Big Bopper's wife was also pregnant at the time of the accident. She had a son, Jay, who had his father's body exhumed in 2007. This was to put paid to the rumors that he had survived the accident but died when trying to fetch help. It was found that all four men had been killed instantly.
- The remaining musicians who had taken the bus, didn't cancel the tour but decided that 'the show must go on'.
- On the same day as the plane crash, a commercial plane with 73 people aboard crashed into the East River in New York and B47 bomber crashed in Arkansas. Another commercial aircraft avoided disaster when it leveled off after a mysterious 30,000 ft dive towards the ocean. Actor Gene Kelly was one of the passengers.
- Two months after the crash, a gun belonging to Holly, was found near the crash site. This started speculation that an accidental discharge could have caused the plane to crash.
- Although weather advisories had been issued, the pilot wasn't told about them - and yet a blizzard was approaching. Snow was on the ground when the plane took off but the sky remained clear.
- When he died, Holly had only had one hit record. He took on the tour because he was in trouble financially. After his death, demo tapes were released and he shot to fame, firstly in the UK. George Harrison and John Lennon were influenced greatly by their early exposure to his recordings.
I missed the Buddy Holly era
I'm pretty old but I was just a toddler when he died - I don't remember it. But when my brother was in his teens he joined a band and they used to perform Holly songs. That was the first time I'd heard of him. Then I looked into it and discovered the tragedy. How sad it is that so many musicians lost their lives at an early age.
I'm a fairly nonchalant air traveler, it's not something that bothers me, but it the fifties it was still a relatively new technology. There were so many entertainers who died in air crashes in those early days. Glenn Miller comes to mind, as does Carole Lombard, Patsy Kline, Jim Reeves, Jim Croce, Ricky Nelson and several others. So sad. I guess 'the music died' on more than one occasion....
The story fascinates me. I don't remember it but in later life I was intrigued by the story of this tragedy. Read more.
Prefer to watch?
Here's a great opportunity to buy two tremendous films together.
Here we have two excellent (and classic) movies that are sold together in one bargain package. Travel back to the fifties, enjoy the music and learn more about the day the music died in February 1959.
This set gets a 4.6 star rating at Amazon out of a possible 5. You can buy this as a gift with confidence.
I don't know exactly why but I'm pretty sure that his music will live forever. Doesn't it simply have that certain something?
It's an important part of any serious musical collection.
All photographs via Wikipedia Commons - bus image Joe Mabel.
More music from another era
- Liberace - entertainer
Who was Liberace? He was probably the most flamboyant entertainer America has ever known - if not the world. He had a style which seems so odd to us today. Read more and see video action.
- The Ivy Benson All Girls Band
Her name is little-known today, but Ivy Benson was a pioneer. In the male-dominated world of wartime music, she and her all girls band threatened the male establishment & gained huge success.
- The Glenn Miller Story: Classic film
The Glenn Miller Story - a wonderful classic film - is available on DVD and an essential part of a good movie collection.