Over the years there have been a number of musicians who have died as a result of a plane crash – Glenn Miller, Jim Croce, Ricky Nelson, and John Denver to name a few. But perhaps the most notable of these is the crash that took place in February of 1959.
Known as The Day The Music Died, a small plane crashed in the early hours of February 3, 1959 and taking the lives of Ritchie Valens, JP Richardson – better known as the Big Bopper, and a young phenom just beginning what was expected to be a very successful musical career by a rock and roll pioneer named Buddy Holley.
The Texas native had formed a band called The Crickets but in 1958 he ventured out on his own and was a part of a winter dance tour. After touring a frigid Midwest – sub zero temperatures – in a bus with a broken heater, Holly chartered a plane to take Holly, Waylon Jennings, and Tommy Allsup to the spot in the tour in Moorhead, Minnesota.
Seventeen year old Ritchie Valens had never been in an airplane; Tommy Allsup flipped a coin with Valens for the right to fly…Valens won.
Waylon Jennings was seated in the plane but when the Big Bopper stuck his head in the door, Jennings gave up his seat.
The plane took off from Clear Lake, Iowa shortly before 1am central time in poor weather conditions with 21 year old pilot Roger Peterson at the helm. The plane was aloft for only a out 10 minutes before crashing into an Iowa cornfield killing all aboard. But it would over eight hours before the crash site was found. Holy was only 22 years old hen he died.
By Civil Aeronautics Board – Picture from The Day the Music Died: Crash Site Photo Archive (Other photos available, graphic content). The photographs were originally attached with the Aircraft Accident Report – File No. 2-0001 by the Civil Aeronautics Board (September 15, 1959), Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19957315
When Holly’s bride of less than year learned of his death, she miscarried the fetus she was carrying.
Despite their sorrow and serious bouts of survivors guilt, the tour continued including the show in Moorhead only hours after the plane crash with the help of some local talent including a 15 year old Bobby Vee that took the rock and roll world by storm.
The day that has become known as “The Day the Music Died” is marked each year by pilgrimages to the Surf Ballroom in Clare Lake, Iowa – the site of Holly’s final performance- and been immortalized in the song “American Pie” by Don McLean.
feature photo credit: By Buddy_Holly_Brunswick_Records.jpg: Brunswick Recordsderivative work: GDuwenTell me! – This file was derived from: Buddy Holly Brunswick Records.jpg:, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17334147