It has been almost 50 years (February 2, 1959) since a single-engine plane crashed into a snowy field in Iowa. When that plane crashed, it claimed the lives of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, J.P. “Big Bopper” Richardson and the pilot, Roger Peterson. Three of Rock and Roll’s most promising performers were gone. As Don McLean wrote in his classic music parable, American Pie, it was “the day the music died.”
The 5 decades that have passed since the horrific crash have not dampended the fascination for the 22 year old Buddy Holley whose birth name was Charles Hardin “Buddy” Holley (changed to Holly due to a misspelling on a contract) and his band, The Crickets, had a number one hit in 1957 with the tune That’ll Be The Day. This success was followed by Peggy Sue and an appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show.
Richie Valenzuela was only 16 years old when Del-Fi record producer, Bob Keane, who discovered the Pacoima, California singer. Keane changed his name to Ritchie Valens, and in 1958 they recorded “Come On, Let’s Go”. Way more successful was the song Valens wrote for his girlfriend, Donna, and its flip side, “La Bamba”, a Rock and Roll version of an old Mexican standard. This earned the teenager an appearance on American Bandstand and the prospect of continued popularity.
Jiles P. Richardson, known as The Big Bopper to his fans, was a Texas D.J. who found recording success and fame in 1958 with the song Chantilly Lace.
The Civil Aeronautics Board determined that the probable cause of this accident was the pilot’s poor judgement to set out on a flight which would require flying by instruments only, when he was not properly certificated or qualified to do so. Contributing factors were serious deficiencies in the weather briefing, and the pilot’s lack of familiarity with the gauge which determines the altitude of the aircraft.
Buddy Holly was the singer-songwriter-guitar player who pioneered the Rock and Roll and the Rockabilly music vibes. He played the guitar, it was a Fender Stratocaster. Buddy came from a musical family and had experience with piano, fiddle and violin before settling on the guitar.
In honor of their last performance at the ‘Surf Ballroom’ thousands of people will gather to attend symposiums with the late rock stars family members and a ceremony as the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame designates the building as it’s ninth national landmark.
To a large degree a great deal of the music and guitar players Guitar Players Center features has some strong influence from Buddy Holly and The Crickets. The whole rockabilly and surfer music vibe has been well integrated into much of the music we love today. RIP