It was the day the music died. On February 3, 1959, American rock and roll musicians Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and "The Big Bopper" J. P. Richardson were all killed in a plane crash near Clear Lake, Iowa.
We remember them today on what later became known as "The Day the Music Died".
Buddy Holly was the single most influential creative force in early Rock & Roll, with a string of classics that only ended with his tragic death at 22.
Jiles Perry " J. P. " Richardson Jr. was known as The Big Bopper, was an American musician, singer, songwriter, and disc jockey. His best-known compositions include " Chantilly Lace " and " White Lightning ", the latter of which became George Jones ' first number-one hit in 1959.
Richard Steven Valenzuela was known professionally as Ritchie Valens was an American singer, songwriter, and guitarist. A rock and roll pioneer and a forefather of the Chicano rock movement, Valens was killed in the plane crash eight months into his recording career.
In the early morning hours on Tuesday, February 3, 1959, Ritchie Valens, Buddy Holly, and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson along with their pilot Roger Peterson died in a plane crash. The singers signed on to be a part of “The Winter Dance Party” tour with 24 concerts over a 3 week period in the Midwest.
The singers finished up a performance at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa on February 2nd. To escape the freezing cold bus for the trip to their next gig in Moorhead, Minnesota, Buddy Holly hired a local plane to take him to nearby Fargo, North Dakota. There was room for two additional passengers on the plane. The two seats were originally intended for members of Holly’s band, Tommy Allsup and Waylon Jennings. Ritchie won Allsup’s seat in a coin toss and the Big Bopper convinced Jennings to let him have his seat on the plane because he was feeling ill.
The flight was scheduled to depart the Mason City airport at 12:30 am. The pilot was young at 21-years old but had four years of experience. Unfortunately, he was unaware of a weather advisory that had been issued before the plane took off. The plane crashed about five miles from where it took off.
The news of the crash shocked the country. Ritchie was only 17 years old when he died. Even in his short career, Ritchie recorded numerous hits and would leave an indelible mark on music for years to come. In 1971, Don McLean penned the song “American Pie,” which immortalized the crash as “the day the music died.”
On February 3, 1959, Mama said “God needed him more than we did.” Three great talents were lost that day. The music lives on, the families remember and tell their stories.
RITCHIE VALENS TURNED AN OLD MEXICAN FOLK SONG INTO A MASSIVE, GROUNDBREAKING ROCK SMASH HIT