February 3, 1959 – “An Airplane Crash Near Clear Lake Iowa”- The Deaths Of Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, The Big Bopper.
KSYD – Snuff Garrett Program – February 3, 1959 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –
February 3, 1959 – A tragic day in Rock n’ Roll history, the first of what would be many over the years. But this one was especially poignant because it was something of a first and it involved three artists in their prime. Holly and Richardson (The Big Bopper) were established while Valens was just getting national attention.
My friend Harvey Kubernik wrote a piece about this and I’m including a snippet of it here as a reminder but also to give some background to those who may not be at all familiar:
By Harvey Kubernik © 2021
February 3, 2021 is the 62nd anniversary of tragic airplane crash that subsequently became known as “The Day the Music Died,” sadly referenced in Don McLean’s song, “American Pie.” Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. Richardson aka The Big Bopper died along with pilot Roger Peterson.
After a February 2, 1959 “Winter Dance Party” show in Clear Lake, Iowa, Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. Richardson took off from the Mason City airport, in a three-passenger airplane that Holly chartered piloted by Roger Peterson during inclement weather. It crashed into a cornfield in nearby Macon City, Iowa, just minutes after takeoff.
I will always remember the February 3, 1959 front page headline in The Los Angeles Times-Mirror, a daily newspaper who reported this accident.
Ritchie Valen’s death was a very big regional loss. He was from Pacoima, a suburb in Southern California. Ritchie’s records were very popular in Los Angeles and the surrounding communities. It was KFWB-AM deejay Gene Weed who first spun his music and the radio station held what seemed like an all-day shiva celebrating the life of Valens, whose record label, Del-Fi, was based in Hollywood.
I knew Buddy Holly from his appearances on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand and from 1957 when he was on The Ed Sullivan Show. Holly’s records were also spun on KFWB. “Chantilly Lace” by The Big Bopper was a national hit single.
To get a better idea of what happened that day, here is a tribute, done the day it happened over radio station WSYD by Disc Jockey (later producer) Snuff Garrett. It’s made the collector rounds frequently over the years so fans and aficionados probably know this recording by heart. It’s a little dim and distant and hard to make out in places, but the feeling of loss and the tragedy of the moment are preserved intact.
Still, if you aren’t familiar and are interested in the pivotal moments in Rock history – this is certainly one of them.
Thanks to Harvey Kubernik for the reminder.