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The day the music died (50 year anniversary)


Freestyle.FM Dee Jays
Feb. 3rd marks the 50th anniversary of the day the music died. On this early morning in 1959, Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and JP "The Big Bopper" Richardson lost their lives in a tragic plane crash after performing at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa.

The 1950's rockers had just finished performing at the Iowa(1 of 3) stops of the Winter Party Dance tour with fellow performers Dion and the Belmonds. The bus they had been touring in had a malfunctioning heating system. The next stop was Fargo, North Dakota. Buddy Holly informed his guitarist Tommy Allsup and bassist Waylon Jennings (narrator/theme song artist of the Dukes of Hazzard T.V. show) that he was going to lease a plane from Dwyer's Flying Service in Mason City, Iowa for them to fly ahead of everyone else.

The Bopper asked Jennings for his seat as his large exterior was hard to fit in the tour bus seats and he had the flu. Jennings agreed. Ritchie Valens, even though he had a fear of flying, hounded Tommy Allsup to give up his seat so he could fly ahead with Holly and Bopper. Allsup flipped a coin that Valens called and ultimately won forcing Allsup to ride in the freezing cold bus.

Shortly after 1 a.m., The Beechcraft Bonanza carrying Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, Bopper, and pilot Roger Peterson took off from the airstrip in Clear Lake and nosedived in a cornfield killing everyone upon impact.

This event has been immortalized in movies like "La Bamba" and "The Buddy Holly Story" and will always be remembered as the day the music died as Don McLean made famous in his song "American Pie".

The legacy these men left behind is immeasureable. Every genre of music has been influenced by these rock pioneers.

In 1994, I was assigned a show on KDPS that aired 50's and 60's music on Wayback Wednesdays. My show was called "Back to the Oldies" as our frequency was 88.1 and I spoofed the "Back the to Future" trilogy with my promos stating how when you turned your dial to 88.1, you were going to hear some serious (sound effect to cover up expletive). My cohost was exactly like Doc Brown in his mannerisms thus the idea for the show was born. For the 35th Anniversary, we did a show to honor these rock originals. We spent countless hours at the campus library researching for the show. While not very popular with fellow students(grunge was in then) , we did attract a new demograph to the station that help boost our ratings with the marketing we did at old car shows, cruise nights, flea markets, gun shows, and whatever we could think of to advertise the show.

Before my college years at the station, I started on the station in high school and one of my radio/tv productions instructer had a file of the 1959 plane crash. He has original never before seen photos of the plane crash. One of his former student's grandfather was one of the first people on the scene. I have seen the original wreckage and body pictures taken at the scene. One of the pictures is the infamous image that the Associated Press and other news media outlets ran with when reporting the crash to America. I was one of a very few people that was allowed to take the file home to show to my parents and friends. I even had offers from my employer to purchase the pictures but I had to turn them down. The Bopper was hanging on a fence while Buddy and Ritchie were face down in the cornfield. I think the pilot was still inside the plane, but it's been over 15 years since I've seen this.

I do know Waylon Jennings never liked talking about the plane crash as he felt guilty about giving up his seat. I can't imagine what he and Tommy Allsup must have felt....

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