ON THIS DAY IN MUSIC HISTORY: The Day The Music Died
1959 - Buddy Holly, JP Richardson (aka The Big Bopper) and Ritchie Valens, along with pilot Roger Peterson, died in a plane crash shortly after takeoff from Clear Lake, Iowa. The three musicians were traveling to Fargo, N.D., for the next show on their Winter Dance Party Tour, which covered 24 cities in three weeks. Holly had arranged the tour after the breakup of his band, The Crickets.
By this time, Holly had enough of the freezing, unreliable tour bus and decided to hire a plane from a local flying service to take him to the next gig in Moorhead, Minnesota, to avoid another miserable night on the road. The plan was to fly to Fargo, North Dakota, which was close to Moorhead.
There was room for two more passengers on the flight, and those seats were originally intended for members of Holly’s band, Tommy Allsup and Waylon Jennings. Valens won Allsup’s spot in a coin toss, according to several reports. Richardson was feeling ill and convinced Jennings to let him have his seat on the plane. According to Jennings’ memoir, Waylon: An Autobiography, he and Holly joked about the change in travel arrangements. Holly told him that “I hope your damned bus freezes up again.” Jennings replied. “Well, I hope your ol’ plane crashes.” This casual remark haunted Jennings for years.
Only a short while after the flight began, the plane ran into some trouble and crashed.
Losing these three alters the rock and roll landscape; the "rock era" had begun about four years earlier, and with Elvis Presley in the Army, there are few stars to propel it forward (the British Invasion was still a few years away). Holly, 22, the headliner on the tour, was a rising star with a #1 hit under his belt ("That'll Be The Day"). Valens, 17, was one of the hottest new artists at the time, with the song "Donna" on the charts. Richardson, better known as “The Big Bopper,” was a Texas songwriter and radio DJ who caught the nation’s ear with the catchy tune “Chantilly Lace.”
Don McLean, who was a teenager at the time, would call it "The Day the Music Died" in his 1971 hit "American Pie." (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
On This Day In Music History was sourced from Song Facts and Biography.net