The Day The Music Died, And Took With It Big Bopper, Buddy Holly And Ritchie Valens

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On February 3rd, 1959, the music world lost three of its most promising rising stars when a plane carrying singers the Big Bopper, Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens crashed in a field near Clear Lake, Iowa, killing the trio along with pilot Roger Peterson. DoYouRemember looks back at the tragedy known forever as The Day the Music Died.

Rock & roll pioneer Buddy Holly who was riding a wave of success fueled by such hits as “That’ll Be the Day” and ”Peggy Sue” had just embarked on the Winter Dance Party Tour, which was his first major showcase following his departure from his band the Crickets just two months earlier. He’d assembled a new group comprised of bassist Waylon Jennings, drummer Carl Bunch and guitarist Tommy Allsup for a 24-city tour through the Midwest that was to last for just over three weeks. Also tagging along were new stars J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson (Chantilly Lace) and Ritchie Valens (La Bamba), who were anxious to promote their recent releases.

The tours first stop was Milwaukee, and while the show was a huge hit with fans, problems with logistics began to develop. Travel between the cities was much more difficult than expected, largely due to severe winter weather. The tour bus had a broken heating system, resulting in numerous people suffering from the flu, and Bunch was hospitalized with frostbitten feet. Eventually, a school bus was commandeered and the tour headed to Clear Lake for a February 2nd show at the Surf Ballroom, which was added by promoters at the last minute.

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At the end of the evening, Holly, who was upset with the travel arrangements, decided to engage a plane to take him and a few others to Fargo, North Dakota, where they could meet the bus en route to Moorhead, Minnesota. Since the Big Bopper was too sick for the bus ride, Jennings gave up his plane seat to him. Valens, who was reportedly afraid to fly, was also under the weather, as was Allsup, so the duo agreed to a coin toss, which Valens won. Each member of the traveling party paid a $36 fee to board the single-engine 1947 Beechcraft Bonanza 35, which had room for three passengers and the pilot, 21-year-old Peterson.

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