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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. Holly had hired the plane after heating problems developed on his tour bus.

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. The date was dubbed "The Day the Music Died" by Don McLean, who sang about it in his song, "American Pie."

Tommy Allsup and Waylon Jennings, also on the tour, are spared by sheer luck: Allsup lost a coin flip for a seat on the plane to Valens, and Jennings let Richardson have the other seat. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

1960 - Frank Sinatra launches the first fully artist-owned label, Reprise Records (pronounced "repreeze"), so he can own his own masters.

It would soon be home to Jimi Hendrix, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, The Kinks, Frank Zappa, and many others.

Ironic because Sinatra was not a fan of Elvis Presley, or of rock 'n' roll in general. According to an online Elvis biography, Sinatra described rock 'n' roll as “phony and false,” and the rock 'n' roll musicians who made it as “cretinous goons.”

1976 - David Bowie opens his US tour with a new persona: The Thin White Duke. He's dressed in a black-vested suit with slicked-back hair. Bowie later described the persona as "a nasty character indeed." He is primarily identified with Bowie's 1976 album Station to Station and is mentioned by name in the title track, although Bowie had first begun to adopt the "Duke" persona during the preceding Young Americans tour.

Bowie's hair was still orange, but it was cut shorter, and his stage costumes moderated from colorful glam outfits to more conventional dress clothes.

The Thin White Duke was a controversial figure due to ostensibly pro-fascist statements made by Bowie in press interviews during this period. Soon after making the comments, Bowie claimed that they were "theatrical" remarks made in character and did not reflect his actual views. In later years, he blamed his erratic behavior during his mid-1970s Duke era on an "astronomical" use of hard drugs (particularly cocaine) while living in Los Angeles.


Johnny 'Guitar' Watson, American blues guitarist, was born on this day in 1935.

Dave Davies, guitarist with The Kinks, is 75.

Melanie, the singer and songwriter of the hit single, "Brand New Key", is 75. Her full name is Melanie Safka.

Arthur 'Killer' Kane, bass guitarist with The New York Dolls, was born on this day in 1949.

Sonic Youth guitarist Lee Ranaldo is 66.

On This Day In Music History is sourced from Cheat Sheet, This Day in Music, Song Facts and Wikipedia.

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