Singers Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper died February 3, 1959
Their deaths were commemorated in the song American Pie by Don McLean who referred to the event as “the day the music died”.
Several bands were playing the “Winter Dance Party” across America: Buddy Holly and his band (Waylon Jennings, Tommy Allsup, and Carl Bunch), Ritchie Valens, JP Richardson “The Big Bopper” and Dion and the Belmonts. The tour began in Milwaukee on January 23rd and they had played 11 performances up to Clear Water on February 2nd.
The tour bus was a reconditioned school bus that kept breaking down and didn’t have any heat. Many of them had the flu and even frostbite from traveling on the bus, so Holly – the biggest name at the time – decided to rent a plane to take his band to the next venue.
Valens was sick, so Allsup flipped a coin with him for his seat on the plane. Richardson had the flu, too, and talked Jennings into letting him have his seat on the plane. In Jennings’ memoir, Waylon: An Autobiography, he says Buddy told him “I hope your damned bus freezes up again” to which he replied. “I hope your ol’ plane crashes.” This haunted Jennings for years.
There had been a weather advisory issued before they took off, but Roger Peterson, the 21 year old pilot that had volunteered to take them, was unaware. They crashed shortly after takeoff in a cornfield near the airstrip.
Jerry Dwyer, the owner of the air service in Mason City, went looking for the plane after it failed to land in Fargo. He was the one who discovered the fatal crash site.
Buddy Holly’s wife of 6 months was pregnant at the time. Ater hearing about the crash on the news she had a miscarriage. This was the event that changed how fatal events are reported in the news – family members must be contacted first.
The Big Bopper’s wife was pregnant at the time as well and give birth to a son, Jay Perry.
Ritchie Valens was only 17 at the time of his death, a rising star.
The pilot had married his high school sweetheart less than a year earlier.
What To Do
Enjoy Their Music Once Again
Watch Movies About Their Lives
Here are all of our daily holidays in February. Put more play in your day.