The Day the Music Died

Recently, I’ve been listening to Buddy Holly. My husband suggested that I should do a post about that day, known as “The Day the Music Died”.  I think most people know about it, but I wanted to do a post to tribute Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson. Most people wonder what these three legends would have accomplished had they survived.

It was February, 1959. Holly, Valens, and the Big Bopper were on the “Winter Dance Party” tour in Iowa. Buddy Holly got them a plane to Moorhead, Minnesota for their next show. They had been traveling by bus for over a week, and it is reported that their buses broke down more than once. The singers were exhausted, hadn’t been paid, and didn’t have any clean clothes. At least, Holly thought, with the plane coming, they could arrive early and he could do everyone’s clothes and get some rest. The pilot who made that fatal flight was known as Roger Peterson. He had agreed to take the singers to Fargo, N.D., where the airport serves Fargo and Moorhead. Peterson had just had a 17-hour workday, and was tired, but he agreed to make the flight anyway. Holly, Valens, and the Big Bopper packed and finalized the flight plan. At the time, Buddy Holly’s bass player was Waylon Jennings, and he was scheduled to be onboard, but gave up his seat to the Big Bopper. Holly’s guitarist, Tommy Allsup, gave up his seat to Ritchie Valens after losing in a coin toss. The three singers boarded the aircraft, Peterson received clearance, and took off. However, he was not told about the warnings of a blizzard. The plane was only airborne for a few moments. Some people say Peterson accidentally flew down instead of up, due to poor visibility. The plane plowed into an Iowa cornfield, killing all four passengers.

This story kind of makes you wonder…what if Roger Peterson had been warned of the blizzard up ahead? It seems to me he was way too tired to be flying. The CAB concluded that the primary cause of the crash was pilot error due to Peterson’s inability to accurately interpret the plane’s Sperry F3 attitude indicator which he was forced to rely upon in those weather conditions. Roger Peterson was not certified to fly solely by reference to instruments.

There are memorials to the singers and the pilot: a 4-foot-tall granite memorial bearing the names of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, the Big Bopper, and Roger Peterson was dedicated outside The Surf Ballroom, a huge pair of black-rimmed glasses in a field marking a trail, a stainless steel guitar and a set of three records marks the spot where the plane carrying the three singers and the pilot crashed, and a monument for the pilot next to the guitar and records.

In a way, the music did die that day. It’s sad to think of how young these stars were, and what they could’ve achieved. So even though they were taken, the music of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and the Big Bopper lives on in the hearts of countless people today. I guess you can say the music is still here, and always will be.

Gone But Not Forgotten


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