Home Today Is “The Day the Music Died Day” – 60 Years Ago Today

“The Day the Music Died Day” – 60 Years Ago Today

The Day the Music Died Day is always observed on February 3rd. This day we remember the unfortunate and untimely death of singers 22-year-old Buddy Holly, 17-year-old Richie Valens, and 28-year-old J. P. Richardson, aka: “The Big Bopper”.  These three artists died in an airplane accident on February 3, 1959, near Clear Lake, Iowa. Their pilot, Roger Peterson, also perished in the crash.

  • The Winter Dance Party Tour was planned to cover 24 cities in just three weeks and Holly would be the biggest headliner. Waylon Jennings, a friend from Lubbock, Texas, and Tommy Allsup joined the tour as backup musicians. Ritchie Valens, probably the hottest of the artists at the time, The Big Bopper, and Dion and the Belmonts made up the list of other performers.
  • Buddy Holly’s band was on tour and had played at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake.  They were headed to their next destination in Moorhead, Minnesota.  For this leg of their journey, they decided to take a charter plane rather than go with their tour bus. Richardson “The Big Bopper”,  had swapped places with Waylon Jennings, taking the latter’s place on the plane and Tommy Allsup had lost his place to Ritchie Valens in a coin toss.
  • Visitors still make the pilgrimage each year to Clear Lake, Iowa, the resort town about 110 miles north of Des Moines, as this was the point of their last concert before the fatal accident.
  • “The day the music died” is a line in the 1972 Don McLean hit “American Pie.” McLean’s song, which he wrote in the late 1960s and released in 1971, was in part inspired by the tragic event which took the lives of three great musicians and their pilot. With lyrics such as “February made me shiver, with every paper I’d deliver, bad news on the doorstep…when I read about his widowed bride…the day the music died.”
  • In 2017, the original version was selected by the Library of Congress to be preserved in the National Recording Registry for being “culturally, historically, or artistically significant.”
  • Buddy Holly himself had a posthumous hit with “It Doesn’t Matter Anymore” about a month after his death. His life has been the subject of numerous books and films, including the 1978 movie The Buddy Holly Story starring Gary Busey.
  • Valens was also immortalized on the big screen with the 1987 film La Bamba with Lou Diamond Phillips as the teen singer.
  • Richardson has lived on through his music, which has been featured on countless soundtracks. His son also spent years preserving his father’s legacy by performing as the Big Bopper Jr. before his own death in 2013.
  • In his 1996 autobiography, Waylon Jennings stated that he was disappointed that he had to ride in the freezing bus, so his parting remark to Buddy was, “I hope your damn plane crashes!” Jennings said this remark has haunted him ever since then.
  • There was a Buddy Holly lookalike waiter in “Pulp Fiction”.  In the 1994 movie “Pulp Fiction,” John Travolta and Uma Thurman’s waiter was a Buddy Holly lookalike… and not a very good waiter.
  • Keith Moon died the day after seeing “The Buddy Holly Story”. The movie starring Gary Busey came out in 1978.  Keith Moon, drummer for The Who, died of an overdose the day after he saw the movie.
  • Buddy’s surname is spelled Holley. His surname is spelled Holley, but it was misspelled on his first recording contract and never corrected.
  • Buddy Holly & The Crickets were booked to play the Apollo Theater in Harlem in 1957 by a promoter who assumed they were black. They played, were received well and brought down the house.

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