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The Day the Music Died

The Day the Music Died

On February 3, 1959, American rock and roll musicians Buddy HollyRitchie Valens, and “The Big Bopper” J. P. Richardson were killed in a plane crash near Clear LakeIowa, together with pilot Roger Peterson.

The event later became known as “The Day the Music Died” after singer-songwriter Don McLean referred to it as such in his 1971 song “American Pie“.

At the time, Holly and his band, consisting of Waylon JenningsTommy Allsup, and Carl Bunch, were playing on the “Winter Dance Party” tour across the Midwest.

Rising artists Valens, Richardson, and Dion and the Belmonts had joined the tour as well.

The long journeys between venues on board the cold, uncomfortable tour buses adversely affected the performers, with cases of flu and even frostbite.

After stopping at Clear Lake to perform, and frustrated by such conditions, Holly chose to charter a plane to reach their next venue in MoorheadMinnesota.

Richardson, suffering from flu, swapped places with Jennings, taking his seat on the plane, while Allsup lost his seat to Valens on a coin toss.

Soon after takeoff, late at night and in poor, wintry weather conditions, the pilot lost control of the light aircraft, a Beechcraft Bonanza, which subsequently crashed into a cornfield, killing all four on board.

The event has since been mentioned in several songs and films.

Various monuments have been erected at the crash site and in Clear Lake, where an annual memorial concert is also held at the Surf Ballroom, the venue that hosted the artists’ last performances.

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