Music on Mondays — The day the music died
On February 3, 1959, a plane crash in an Iowa cornfield near Grant Township took from the world three young musicians: Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J. P. Richardson. The plane’s pilot, Roger Peterson, too often forgotten since the crash was blamed on bad weather and pilot error, also died. Peterson had both a private pilot license and a commecial license, but he was still working on his instrument flying rating, which turned out to be critical in the bad weather.
At the time, Buddy Holly was part of the Winter Dance Tour that was to cover 24 midwestern states in just three weeks. After signing on to the Winter Dance Tour, Holly assembled a backing band that included Tommy Allsup on guitar, Carl Bunch on drums, and Waylon Jennings (yes, that Waylon Jennings) on bass. After their performance in Clear Lake, Iowa, Holly’s bus developed mechanical problems, causing Holly to charter a plane for his band to get to the next performance in Moorhead, Minnesota. The plane, a 1947 Beechcraft Bonanza, crashed shortly after takeoff.
Ritchie Valens and Richardson also were part of the Winter Dance Tour. Richardson, having the flu, convinced Waylon Jennings to give up his seat on the plane. Ritchie Valens won a coin toss for another seat on the plane, the seat originally to go to Dion DiMucci of Dion & The Belmonts. Dion did not want to pay $36 for his seat on the plane.
Don McLean memorialized Holly, Valens, and Richardson in his No. 1 hit “American Pie,” released in November 1971, referring to February 3, 1959, as “the day the music died.” If you ever hear someone say “The day the music died,” it’s a phrase that entered the public lexicon to mean something ending prematurely; when Holly, Valens, and Richardson died, they were just 22, 17, and 28, respectively. Peterson, the pilot, was just 21.
Here, then, are four songs for today’s Music on Mondays, one each from Holly, Valens, and Richardson, and then Don McLean’s “American Pie.” Below the four songs are some interesting tidbits that you might not know.
Interesting tidbits that you might not know:
If you’ve already listened to the four songs, you probably recognize J. P. Richardson as The Big Bopper.
Richardson is credited with creating the first music video, in 1958.
The first #1 hit for country music legend George Jones was “White Lightning,” written by Richardson.
Richardson also wrote “Running Bear” and sang background vocals on the recording by Johnny Preston. It was released seven months after the crash and went to #1 on the charts.
Richardson’s son, Jay Perry, had his dad’s body exhumed in January 2007 to settle rumors of Richardson surviving the plane crash. The well-preserved body was identified as Richardson, autopsied, and reburied in a new casket. The autopsy showed that J.P. died of massive injuries and could not have crawled away from the plane and survived as some believed. In December 2008, Jay put the original casket up for auction on eBay. I don’t know whether or not it sold.
Buddy Holly was in the inaugural class of inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, in 1986.
Holly was born in Lubbock, Texas, and sang in the choir at Lubbock High School. Lubbock memorials to Buddy Holly include streets named Crickets Avenue and Buddy Holly Avenue. The Buddy Holly Center in Lubbock is located in the former Fort Worth & Denver South Plains Railway Depot and contains a museum of Holly memorabilia and a Fine Arts Gallery.
Valens had overcome a fear of flying after a Douglas
DC-7B (picture at right) and a U.S. Air Force Northrup F89J Scorpion collided over his junior high school in L.A.’s San Fernando Valley on January 31, 1957. Eight people were killed or died from their injuries, three of whom were children age 12 and 13, and another 74 children suffered injuries. The DC-7B was on its first functional test flight before being delivered to Continental Airlines; the F89J was also on a test flight to check its onboard radar equipment. The collision took place at an altitude of 25,000 feet, with the DC-7B falling onto the grounds of the Pacoima Junior High School and the Pacoima Congregational Church.
- The Beechcraft Bonanza that crashed in the cornfield has been in continuous production since 1947, making it the oldest continuously produced plane, with over 17,000 planes produced.
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Posted on February 4, 2013, in Music on Mondays and tagged Beechcraft Bonanza 35, buddy holly and the crickets, Douglas CD-7B, j. p. richardson, Northrup F89J Scorpion, Pacoima Congregational Church, Pacoima Junior High School, ritchie valens, the big bopper, waylon jennings. Bookmark the permalink. 25 Comments.