60th Anniversary Of ‘The Day The Music Died’


February 3, 1959 – The Day The Music Died.  Today is the 60th anniversary of the plane crash that killed Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson.

The trio had just played at the Surf Ballroom in Cedar Lake, Iowa the night before.  It is reported that Holly did not want to take a long, cold bus ride to the next destination in Moorhead, Minnesota, so he chartered a small plane.  Waylon Jennings, who was part of Holly’s band at the time, along with Tommy Allsup and Carl Bunch did not join Buddy on the plane.  Richardson, who had the flu, swapped places with Jennings taking his seat on the plane, and Allsup is said to have lost his seat to Valens on a coin toss.

Soon after takeoff, the pilot, Roger Peterson, who also died, lost control of the aircraft, crashing into a cornfield.  Investigators blamed the crash on bad weather and pilot error.

Buddy Holly was 22 years old when he died, but had already recorded several hits, including “Peggy Sue,” “Oh, Boy!,” “Maybe Baby” and “That’ll Be The Day.”  Holly is also known for writing all of his own songs, many of which were released after his death.  He was portrayed by Gary Busey in a 1978 movie, “The Buddy Holly Story.”  Another pop song from 1994 by Weezer also keeps his memory alive.  It was released on what would have been the singer’s 58th birthday.

Ritchie Valens, the youngest victim at only 17, had several popular songs in the late ’50s, including “Come On, Let’s Go,” “Donna” and “La Bamba.”  In 1987, his life was portrayed in the movie La Bamba, and the title song, performed by Los Lobos, hit number one.

Singer Don McLean is believed to have coined the phrase, “The Day The Music Died” when he paid tribute to Holly, Valens and Richardson in the 1971 song, “American Pie.”

Below is a photo of a tribute placed at the crash scene, audio of a radio bulletin from February 3, 1959, and some rare video performances from the 3 young, talented singers.

THE LAKE 940 will be featuring several hits from Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper (as well as playing American Pie) on the radio today, tune in if you can.