Tuesday, February 3, 2015

56 Years Ago Today

re: The Day The Music Died:
Today marks the 56th Anniversary of the plane crash that took Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper from us.  February 3, 1959 ... forever immortalized in Don McLean's #1 Hit "American Pie" as "the day the music died" ... there have been ALL kinds of theories and speculation over the years as to the exact circumstances surrounding this tragic event.   

The death of these three young rock and roll stars, all with their careers on the rise, caught teenage America completely off guard ... nothing like this had ever happened before.  Holly and Valens weren't much older than many of their fans!
It's funny in a way as I don't think the whole concept of a "conspiracy theory" existed prior to the Kennedy assassination ... and yet now this line of thinking seems to be applied to ANY tragedy we find it hard to come to terms with. 

By February 3, 1959, Buddy Holly had hit Billboard's Pop Singles Chart nine times, both as a solo act and as part of The Crickets.  These hits included Top 20 Smashes like "That'll Be The Day" (#1, 1957), "Peggy Sue" (#3, 1957), "Oh Boy" (#10, 1958) and "Maybe Baby (#18, 1958).  

The Big Bopper was a disc jockey down in Beaumont, Texas, who also dabbled in the music business.  (He wrote the #1 Hit "Running Bear" for Johnny Preston ... and even supplied some of the Indian whooping calls in the background along with soon-to-be Country Music Superstar George Jones.)  The Big Bopper (J.P. Richardson) scored his biggest hit with the #6 smash "Chantilly Lance" about six months before the fatal crash that took his life. 

Meanwhile, young Ritchie Valens (just 17 years old when he died) had recently scored with a MONSTER two-sided hit "Donna" / "La Bamba".  To say that they were taken at the prime of their careers is an understatement ... there is no telling what the future may have held for any of these young stars. 

We recently ran a piece talking about a new "cold case" investigation being solicited by LJ Coon.  (If you missed it, scroll back to last Tuesday's column to read all about it.)  I don't know how far he'll get with this ... but there would seem to be some advantages available using the technology developed over the past 56 years that didn't exist at the time.  The REAL question is what kind of legitimate documentation remains from that fateful night.    

I feel that this is still a "developing story" ... so if ANYONE out there can provide concrete facts, evidence or substantiated theories on just what may have gone wrong that night, please contact LJ via the email address provided. 

Longtime Forgotten Hits Readers Ed and Diana Parker are HUGE Buddy Holly fans ... they were two of the original 35 readers when Forgotten Hits began as an emailed newsletter over Thanksgiving weekend back in 1999 ... and have studied numerous reports over the years as they pertain to the events of that night, February 3, 1959.  They have made the pilgrimage to The Surf Ballroom and the plane crash site and have poured over countless volumes and accounts about the circumstances surrounding this flight.  As such, they've kind of become our "resident experts" on all things Buddy Holly related,
I asked them to comment about some of LJ's theories and questions ...    

Buddy Holly was not just a pioneer in rock music, he influenced so many who influenced so many, etc.  Where would rock music be if not for bands like The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and songwriters like Bob Dylan?  They were all directly influenced by Buddy Holly (and look how many were influenced by them).  

You already know the story, but I'll tell it again and you can share if you want to:   

I have been a long-time music lover, and I met another music lover while playing a music trivia game in November of 1996.  I was impressed with his knowledge, and we started talking about the music we loved.  The first artist we found that we loved in common was Buddy Holly.  We became online pals and pretty soon, we were an item.  I guess I could say that Buddy was responsible for our relationship.   

When we took our first vacation together, we went to Clearlake, Iowa, for a Winter Dance Party celebration.  We went to the Surf Ballroom, we hiked out to the crash site, etc., and we met Buddy fans from all over the world.  It was heaven to meet like-minded folks.   

When we finally married, it was on Buddy's birthday in 2003.  Our "True Love Ways" have lasted ever since.   

As for LJ Coon's investigation, I do know that when the reservations were made with Dwyer's Flying Service, they were made for three passengers - Buddy Holly, Waylon Jennings, and Tommy Allsup.  Yes, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper were substituted, but Dwyer was expecting more than just Buddy. 

I can't speak for the condition of the plane, fuel, etc., but from my readings, I know that Pilot Roger Peterson was fatigued from flying all day, suffered from vertigo, and was not night-flight certified for that particular plane.  According to an interview with Dwyer by writer Ellis Amburn, Peterson was also not familiar with the Sperry Horizon. 
Diana Parker  

I don't think LJ ever assumed the plane was hired just for Buddy ... it was known in advance that it would be carrying three passengers.  I think HIS concern is that Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper ... plus any luggage, musical instruments, etc., that they may have been transporting with them ... could have weighed considerably more than the original weight load measured for Holly, Jennings and Allsup.  Pretty incredible, really, in hindsight that TWO of the three scheduled passengers ended up missing the flight ... and lived to tell about that whole experience.  (kk)   

I'll have to read all of it but the bits I did read are VERY interesting.  The Buddy bio by Ellis Amburn states that pilot Roger Peterson wasn't qualified to fly at night, plus he was tired; not interested at all in making another flight (having flown, I believe, for the last few days at that point), but decided he'd do it once he found out who his passengers were.  Of course, weather conditions were lousy.
Ed Parker   

From our 50th Anniversary Tribute ... February 3, 2009 ... 
It was a cold snowy day in early February of 1959 when Alice Cochran telephoned and asked if I could fly out to be with Eddie ... he was in deep depression mourning the death of his good friend Buddy Holly. A single engine plane with Buddy, Richie Valens and J.P. Richardson, known as the Big Bopper, had crashed just a few miles outside of Mason City, Iowa. They were part of a tour, traveling by bus that had been breaking down and, in need of sleep, they decided to rent a small plane to fly them ahead in enough time for them to get some much needed rest before the next show. The tragedy hit Eddie especially hard as he and Buddy had formed a strong friendship during the Australian tour the previous year. I left immediately for Rapid City to catch a flight to Denver and on to California. Red Julson picked me up at the Los Angeles airport and as we drove to the house in silence I only remember his saying, “Eddie’s pretty torn up, Johnnie”. I shook my head in understanding. This would be a gloomy visit to the Cochran home, not at all like the fun filled days in the past. Alice met me at the door and without saying anything reached up to give me a hug and a kiss I entered the house. She just shook her head in distress with tears in her eyes and, as we walked into the living room, Eddie appeared, advancing from his bedroom, offering a combined handshake and hug saying “Good to see ya, man”. We walked silently into his bedroom and as I starred out the window to the outside world, Eddie picked up his guitar and began to quietly pick on the strings with a pained frown on his face. After several minutes, Eddie was standing behind me reaching for my shoulders to turn me around facing him and said, “If anything like this happens to me, promise me you’ll take care of Shrimper,” ok? I assured him I would and did honor that pledge for the remainder of her life in the thirty plus years ahead. Alice poked her head in the bedroom door and inquired if I was hungry and as I answered I wasn’t, Eddie laid his guitar down on the bed and motioned for me to follow him outside. It was nice feeling the warmth of the California sun but a cloud clearly shadowed Eddie’s mind as he stopped to gaze blindly at some flowers. His back was turned to me but I could see he was quietly crying. As I approached him and placed my arm around his neck he turned away and, with his hand, wiped the tears from his face. That evening, brother Bob Cochran arrived and I noticed an improvement in Eddie’s behavior as he embraced and smiled at seeing his favorite brother. Bob looked at me and said, “How you been, disc jockey John?” It was the first I had seen Bob since the change in my career and Eddie picked up on the theme by remarking “Disc Jockey John ain’t playin’ enough Eddie Cochran records”. The humor was a welcome relief and I thought I would help it along by saying something to the effect that I only played the hits. Bob responded, “Your job is to make them hits, boy!”. Coming from another area of the house, sister Gloria interrupted asking how my flight was, encouraging Eddie to add, “Flight, I didn’t know they had airplanes out there in Indian country”. I don’t recall seeing Frank during this visit but I believe it was this trip that I met Eddie’s sister Pat and her husband Hank as they stopped by briefly. It would seem my arrival had broken some of the gloom that brought me to the Cochran home and after two days, Alice managed a limited smile as I said it was time for me to return to South Dakota. Tears came to her eyes as I hugged her and Eddie goodbye and Red took me to the airport for the return trip home. Several months later, Eddie called asking if I would be interested in presenting him in concert. Of course my listening audience was way ahead of the nation in being Eddie Cochran fans, with his recordings a regular feature on my radio show. We agreed he would appear in both Hot Springs, South Dakota and Chadron, Nebraska. Having just completed a survey of the record stores, I was pleased that Eddie had been voted on top of the popularity polls of the record buying public. Now as he planned on appearing, I had a trophy made up announcing Eddie as the area’s number one singer and Keys to the City of Chadron and Hot Springs would be given to him upon his arrival. Even better, the Nebraska appearance would be on his 21st birthday, so his fans would present Eddie with a giant birthday cake. Little did we know, it would sadly be Eddie’s last. Both concerts were sold out, as fans from all throughout the area came to celebrate Eddie’s birthday by attending the concert. The shows were in top form as Eddie, wearing those white bucks with their tongue hanging out for comfort, put on great shows. He was delighted not only to see me but in appreciation of the welcome I had orchestrated for him. After both appearances we had some time alone where we laughed heartily of past experiences and talked about the future. Eddie encouraged me to “take your act to a larger town” ... he thought Denver and Salt Lake City would be excellent stepping stones for my some day returning to Los Angeles. We laughed in unison how an advancement in my career would improve his too, as Eddie said, “We both need to move up some, boy”. We toasted our friendship with swigs of alcohol that surfaced from a bottle that came from out of nowhere. It would be our last time together as Eddie told me about an up coming tour of England planned for early the following year. I thought how unusual for Eddie to be actually looking forward to touring. He actually seemed to be looking forward to traveling abroad to the UK, just the opposite reaction he demonstrated for his tour of Australia. His excitement of this trip was fueled by his being one of the very first American rock acts to appear there. He also told me about a new all black leather stage outfit he was planning to wear, that would break apart in pieces if grabbed by fans. Eddie joked, he was debating about wearing anything underneath the leather. “Can you imagine the attention that would get?”, he said. Bidding him goodbye, Eddie walked me to my car and reminded me of our plans for seeing each other in the following summer when I would vacation in California. As we hugged goodbye, I kidded that I had every intention of actually being employed in radio in Los Angeles by then. His final words to me were, “You’ll be staying out at the house with us, won’t ya”? He was so proud of the new home he had just purchased for his parents in Buena Park, and was looking forward to my visit and being his guest. I assured him that would be the case and I waved goodbye to Eddie … for the final time.
-- John Rook
(from his forthcoming book, "Passing Thru" ... used by permission)

Growing up, I always enjoyed The Big Bopper's "Chantilly Lace". I actually thought it was a comedy record when I was little!
Ritchie Valens and Buddy Holly were huge influences on many of the bands that I listened to on a regular basis growing up. It wasn't until The Beatles covered "Words Of Love" on the "Beatles VI" album that I actually became aware of Buddy. I love Buddy Holly's and Ritchie Valens' recordings, and am amazed at what great guitarists they both were. Even today, they are both very underrated as a guitarists. Had they lived, I can only assume that they would have eventually recorded their own Sgt.Pepper / Pet Sounds masterpiece albums.
Mitch Schecter / The Rip Chords

I was too young to appreciate the loss of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper when they died in 1959 ... I wouldn't discover their music until YEARS later. Like Mitch, I first learned about the music of Buddy Holly through The Beatles, who talked often about what a HUGE influence he was on their lives. Their version of "Words Of Love" is probably the first Buddy Holly song I ever heard ... and there's no denying the fact that the artists of The British Invasion helped to introduce a good number of us to this music, thanks to recordings like "Not Fade Away" by The Rolling Stones and "True Love Ways" by Peter And Gordon. Sadly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper seem to be forgotten at times when people talk about the tragic events of February 3rd, 1959, and that's a shame. ALL of these careers were cut short that fateful day. I used to sing "Donna" in the early '70's and when La Bamba was made into a feature film, the music of Ritchie Valens FINALLY came into the limelight. (A film about the life of J.P. Richardson, aka The Big Bopper, has been in the works for at least a decade now yet STILL hasn't seen the light of day.) Forgotten Hits readers may remember his son looking into the details of his death last year ... it seems that The Big Bopper's body was found quite a distance from the plane wreckage and other bodies, leading some to suspect that he survived the plane crash and was on his way for help that night before he was ultimately overcome by his injuries and the elements of a cold February evening.
Surely, their music HAS lived on ... and withstood the test of time. Untold HUNDREDS of artists have gone on to cover Buddy Holly's tunes ... and we'll never know what new heights these artists may have reached had their careers not been so tragically cut short.
-- Kent Kotal / Forgotten Hits      

I truly understand that "The Day The Music Died" was a terrible day. My problem is that it is ALWAYS "attributed" to Buddy Holly. I grant that Holly was a "driving force" in the early days or Rock and Roll; however, we will NEVER KNOW the impact that Ritchie Valens might have had on the genre.
Kip Ecclestone / Kip's Klassic Records

I have to agree that much of the focus these past fifty years have revolved around Buddy Holly ... hopefully some of the testimonials today will help to honor the OTHER artists that perished that sad day, too. (kk)     

There are those who would have you believe that there is some kind of "Buddy Holly Curse" that infected people like Bobby Fuller (who sang Buddy's "Love's Made A Fool Of You" before his own mysterious death). I've never bought into it. But if there is one, the chief victim would have to be a guy named Ronnie Smith. Yes, Ronnie Smith.  
After Buddy died, the remaining Crickets were enticed to stay on the Winter Dance Party with a promise that they would be allowed to attend his funeral (they weren't) and that they would be given Buddy's share of the group's fee (the promoters said they gave it instead to Maria Elena and whether that's true is questionable, as well). Since none of the Crickets were vocalists (though Waylon Jennings soon would be), a singer named Ronnie Smith from a Texas group called the Poor Boys was brought in to finish the tour (in addition, Frankie Avalon and Jimmy Clanton were hired to fill out the bill, though Frankie contracted pneumonia and was soon forced to bow out himself in favor of Fabian). 
Ronnie had played with Carl Bunch, the unfortunate drummer who was hospitalized earlier in the tour with frostbite. (In case you're wondering -- Bobby Vee was a local Fargo youth, whose group, the Shadows, played February 3rd in nearby Moorhead, Minnesota ... but he did not finish the Winter Dance Party tour.)
Ronnie joined the Crickets in Des Moines on February 5 (a day after Carl's return) and completed the tour with them. But the original Crickets, the ones who hadn't played with Buddy on the WDP, owned the rights to the name. So when the tour ended, so did Ronnie, Carl, Waylon Jennings and Tommy Allsup's careers as Crickets. While the originals went on without Buddy, Ronnie and Carl formed a new group called the Jitters, joined up with Norm Petty as producer and even got a contract with Brunswick Records -- the Crickets label. Unfortunately, "Lookie, Lookie, Lookie" and "A Tiny Kiss", released that June, went nowhere. The group broke up later that year when Carl entered the Army.
Ronnie was into drugs even before hooking up with the Crickets. It's said he brought along amphetamines bought in Mexico with him when he joined the group in Des Moines. Carl Bunch is quoted in Larry Lehmer's book, "The Day The Music Died" as saying, "Ronnie had some serious problems. He didn't share those problem with me. I knew that he used pills every now and then, but I didn't see him using the stuff. I kept trying my best to keep him away from the use of drugs because I didn't think we needed them. I thought they were hurting him." The efforts of Carl and Waylon Jennings appear to have been in vain. 
By 1962, things had gotten bad enough for Ronnie to be committed to a Texas state hospital for rehabilitation. Tragically, he hung himself in the hospital on October 25, 1962, at the age of 24. Ironically, Carl went on to earn a PhD in clinical psychotheology and worked as a substance abuse counselor.
If February 3, 1959 was indeed "the day the music died," it appears that a small part of that music took 3 1/2 years longer to succumb. But eventually it did, taking the life of the Crickets second lead singer as well.
-- Ron Smith

Hi Kent,
I am one of Ritchie Valens' former classmates. We sat next to each other in a 10th grade English class and he was a real nice kid.
They performed their last concert on my 17th birthday on Feb 2nd, then they were killed early that next morning shortly after take off.
Attached is a newspaper article from the Dayton Daily News (Ohio) about my association with Ritchie after an interview during the time 'La Bamba' was showing in theaters. Perhaps you can find something in it to use in your memories. I had blacked out my last name when I scanned the article. I went to school with Donna for awhile, too. Also attached are two scanned pages of Ritchie from my '59 and '60 high school yearbooks.

Thanks for sharing these with our readers once again! (kk)


Hi Kent,
The "Day the Music Died" will always be remembered. Three great talents gone. Just wonder what they would be doing with their music talents today!
I had the opportunity to meet the Big Bopper's son and see one of John Muellers tribute shows plus the play "Buddy". It was the next best thing to being at one of their original concerts.
"That'll Be the Day" is in my personal top ten of rock and roll songs. It was the first 45 rpm record I bought and I still have it in my 1960 Seeburg Jukebox!
I remember the Buddy Holly Story movie when after his last concert he said "See you Next Year!"
Well, they are gone now, but we will always have the great music of Buddy, JP and Ritchie.

Greetings, Kent....
Wow. Your request for "Buddy Holly" remembrances caught me completely off guard. Can't believe this is the 50th Anniversary of the 'day the music died.' Are we all really that old? It was a long time ago, but fifty years? No way!
I had already been working as a radio station 'gopher' and teen news announcer for nearly two years prior to that fateful early morning, February 3, 1959 and, like most of the others who eagerly await your e-mails, I was totally absorbed by music. I ate, slept and dreamed about music -- and the talented singers and singer / songwriters who dominated the era. It was all about 'God-given talent' for the most part. One can hardly call Buddy Holly, Roy Orbison, and Patsy Cline a 'hunk' or a 'pin-up.'
Sure, Elvis and Ricky Nelson caused the girl's hearts to flutter, but many of the artists and groups having hit records at the time were average 'Joe's.' Except for appearances on "American Bandstand" or "The Dick Clark Saturday Night Beechnut Show," we rarely saw these artists on television. By the time we did see them, we were already hooked on their music, so it really didn't matter what they looked like.
I grew up in Sacramento -- in a quiet middle class neighborhood in the northeast part of the city. We had a three bedroom, one and a half bath home. My bedroom was down the hall from my parent's bedroom, which provided me with the perfect opportunity to listen to music late into the night -- when I should have been sound asleep.
Of course, the little blue transistor radio, with an earpiece nearly twice the size of my daughter's 'ear bud,' could be easily hidden from my parents by placing it under my pillow:) I would often fall asleep at night listening to Bill Gavin's "Lucky Lager Dance Time" -- credited with helping establish the 'Top 40' format -- on KGO Radio -- eighty miles away in my 'hometown' of San Francisco. Little did I know that ten years later, as head of the Beach Boys' Brother Records label, I would be honored to become a friend of Bill -- and his lovely wife, Janet.
So on that fateful February night in the winter of 1959, I was listening to the radio as Buddy, The "Big Bopper" and Ritchie Valens were performing their final show at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa. At approximately 1:00 AM in the morning, on February 3, the three stars (a few weeks later the title of a 'tribute' song in their honor) -- along with twenty-one year old pilot, Roger Peterson -- crashed shortly after takeoff in a frozen Iowa cornfield. It was only 11 PM on the west coast. Within several hours of the crash, early reports of the tragedy began to be announced on the radio. I was falling in and out of sleep by that time, and could not discern if I had been dreaming or if the fatal accident had really taken place.
When I went into the kitchen for breakfast that morning, and prior to leaving for school, on the dinette table was a copy of The Sacramento Union -- the morning newspaper. And there, on the front page, was a short story of the plane crash. My worst nightmare had been confirmed: Buddy Holly, at age 22, was dead. JP Richardson, 28, the Texas deejay turned recording star, and one of rock's first Latino stars, Ritchie Valens, 17, were gone.
Little did I know that barely five years later, a day after my 20th birthday, I would hire The Crickets to open for The Four Seasons at the Sacramento Memorial Auditorium, March 25, 1964. Little did I know that I would become friends with Waylon Jennings, who had given up his seat on the Bonanza aircraft that cold February night, and Bobby Vee, who, at age 15, would get his first big 'break' by filling in for Buddy on the February 3 "Winter Dance Party" date in Moorehead, Minnesota. Yes, I've been truly blessed, just as all of us were blessed by the great music of three rock n' roll legends.
Fred Vail
Treasure Isle Recorders, Inc.
Nashville, TN
"Music City, USA"

50 years ago, tragedy struck the music world in a way which took several years to recover from. Three bright young stars of the day were wiped out in a split second due to a pilot error. I've been alive less than half of that time, but their music has touched me and my life, as it has for millions of other people. Why else would people still remember the great tragedy some 50 years later? People still sing the songs, listen to the old 45's, and enjoy the music as much as they did when the tunes first came out -- or whenever they heard them for the first time. "The day the music died?" The music will never die, rock and roll is here to stay! As long as somebody out there still knows their songs and passes them on to the next generation, the music will live on forever. Nobody gets out of this world alive, and it was their time to go, in spite of how short their lives were when they died. Two of them were younger than I currently am, and it's safe to say they had accomplished more in their short lives than I have so far in mine. They all left behind a legacy of great music, and memories for millions of people that will last a lifetime. Where were you the first time you rocked out to La Bamba? I was in the basement of my neighbor's house with the radio turned all the way up on the oldies station. How about Oh Boy? I was on the deck of my old house, in the middle of summer, with a tiny radio next to me, lying out in the sun... how about Chantilly Lace? Well, I discovered that one on a Time Life Rock And Roll Era cassette tape. Everyone has memories of the first time they heard certain songs ... and sometimes I think of other artists whose careers were directly affected by the passing of this trio. Would Bobby Vee have been discovered and become a national treasure if Buddy had lived? What about Bobby Fuller? He likely wouldn't have covered the Crickets' I Fought The Law and Love's Made A Fool Of You, and himself could very well have been alive today still. The people may be gone, but the music lives on, and that is the most important thing. For me, the day the music dies is the day I die too.
-- Tom Diehl  

Kent ... 
How ya' doin'? Of course I remember the day that Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and the Big Bopper died, but I prefer to think of them when I saw them live and in-person at an Alan Freed Stage Show in 1958. It was advertised as having the biggest Stars in the Rock and Roll Galaxy. Although I enjoyed Bo Diddley, Eddie Cochran, Chuck Berry, The Moonglows and The Flamingos, I was there to see one group, whose song, “That’ll Be The Day”, was at the top of the charts.
I remember Alan Freed came out at the 10:00 AM show, in his trademark plaid jacket and was about to introduce Buddy Holly and the Crickets. From where I was sitting, I could see someone in the wings waving and trying to get Alan's attention. On a strict time schedule, he saw only two-thirds of the group waiting in the wings, but he made his announcement anyway, "Now here's Buddy Holly and The Cricket!". Fortunately, Joe B.Maudlin ran onstage with his stand-up bass, halfway through the first song, and added the icing on the cake.
Buddy had been such an inspiration to me; I was determined to meet him, even if it meant I had to stand in the rain to do it!
(For the rest of the story click onto)

As a special treat for Forgotten hit readers here’s a 1955 home movie clip of Buddy without the Crickets in his first appearance in Lubbock, Texas on the same bill as Elvis, Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash! 

Copyright 2009 Artie Wayne from the forthcoming book, “I Did It For A Song”

http://artiewayne.wordpress.com/about-artie-wayne/ /

What's more incredible to contemplate? The extraordinary work he did in such a short time or the great things he would have done had he lived?
I wonder how many of your readers are familiar with the Holly writen and produced "Stay Close to Me" by Lou Giordano from late '58. It features Buddy on guitar and the Everly's participated, too. It was recorded in NYC in late 1958. Giordano returned to obscurity. I wonder if he's still around? By the way, the new Rarities cd looks excellent. Here's a link to the complete information as posted on amazon.com:
Click here: Amazon.com: Down the Line: The Rarities: Buddy Holly: Music 
Tim English / Sounds Like Teen Spirit

Kent and Company,
First, a moment in memory of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper. Holly was my first musical hero; I still remember the feeling of loss when that crash happened. They died, but their music (especially that of Holly and Valens, and their influence) lives.

Country Paul Payton
(proud to be living in New Jersey) 

The first artist I ever interviewed after I got into Country radio in the early 70s was Waylon Jennings. His management asked specifically that I not talk to him about Buddy Holly. As a rock and roll fan, that final concert in Clear Lake is what I wanted to know about most. After the obligatory questions about his latest album, Waylon himself brought up the subject. Waylon always seemed to have a good feeling for people, and in light of later times I spent with Waylon, I’m not surprised he sensed that Buddy was on my mind. I’ll always appreciate the opportunity I had to hear a first person account of that night from him. A few years later, Waylon introduced me to The Crickets when they were touring with him, and over the years I’ve been fortunate to hear a lot of Buddy Holly stories from those closest to him, but hearing the story from Waylon’s viewpoint will always be special.
Ed Salamon
Nashville, TN 

I've had the great pleasure of meeting and working with some great names in our business -- from Bo Diddley and Eddie Cochran to Paul McCartney and Van Morrison ... but one of my greatest regrets is never having met Buddy Holly. There's no question that Buddy was an innovator. I've always loved his stuff -- and I still do songs like Rave On and That'll Be The Day in my own sets. Also, one has to admire the fact that Buddy seemed to have more creative freedom in the studio than many of us -- his peers -- ever had ... and he used that advantage to establish a sound and a style better than anyone at that time. His music still sounds fresh to this day!
Luckily, I've had the pleasure of working with the Crickets several times in recent years -- here and in England: Joe B. Mauldin, Jerry Allison and Sonny Curtis are a great bunch of guys and they do a fabulous job.
In February of 2006, I was invited to perform at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake and it was a great thrill for my wife Joan and I. That show also featured the Crickets, Albert Lee, Wanda Jackson, Narvel Felts and the Nelsons. We had a great time ... and it was very touching to be part of that particular tribute.
I can hardly believe its been 50-years since we lost Buddy, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper, but what a great legacy they've left to us. We were all just kids then, but they will remain forever young. God Bless Their Souls!

Charlie Gracie

Charlie Gracie, performing in Clear Lake, Iowa, 2006, at The Buddy Holly Fest
Charlie and all the artists (The Crickets, Albert Lee, the Nelson Twins and Narvel Felts) were interviewed on KRIB in Mason City, Iowa. This was a banner year! 

Like most youngsters of my generation, I LOVED Buddy Holly. Sadly I never got to see him, though a friend of mine did, and I've been jealous ever since.
Here's my contribution, but the show is only available for a few days, so listen NOW !!!
George Van Win


As far as my career goes, Buddy Holly has been one of, if not the most, significant influences. It's the simple genius of his writing and singing. I feel that had he lived, he would have been an important writer for years. Many of todays songs have a Buddy Holly sound to them. 
Here's to Buddy, 
Austin Roberts, a true fan

Had Holly been born with Presley's sex appeal, it would have been no contest.
Holly was the 50's true rock renaissance man. He wrote it, he sang it, he played it, he produced it and he imagined it. He accomplished more in 22 years than most will accomplish in a lifetime. His music was deceptively simple, while being the foundation for much that lay ahead. We're all better off that Buddy Holly came along, if only for 17 months.

Bob Stroud / WDRV - FM

Hi Kent,  
Since we're at the 50-year mark, I thought I'd share this with your readers. It's a piece I did 38 or so years ago when I was doing radio in Omaha and I remixed it (digitally) a couple of years ago. It's titled The Day The Music Died 
Hope you enjoy!  
Thanks, Robert ... if you simply click on the link above, you'll get to listen to the whole tribute piece. (kk)

I hope all finds you well. Great Newsletters.Thanks!
Wanted to give you some info on a exhibit I am doing at Clear Lake, Iowa, at the Surf Ballroom in tribute to the 50th Anniversary of "The Day The Music Died". I've enclosed a link of the events. Mine, as you will see, is the last night, Feb 2nd,the night of the big concert. I have enclosed some items in my collection for the exhibit. Hope all the readers will enjoy them.
1. Ritchie Valens and Waylon Jennings (Cricket) at Winter Dance Party signed on back of receipt.
2. Big Bopper handwritten letter
3. Buddy Holly's childhood Homework. Notice he has an "E" in Holley. When he became famous, he dropped the e from his name.

Tom Fontaine

The British Invasion was built by Buddy Holly and his pop roots and country influences. Look at this: Beatles named after Crickets... The Hollies ... Herman's Hermits were originally called Pete Novac and the Heartbeats ... The Stones even did a Buddy Holly song! I dare say Buddy was the prime influence of British Rock and Roll and the reason we were all so melodious. I have trekked to Lubbock and met other English fans (amazing) wandering around, looking for hints of his genius and why it was born there. I have been to Iowa to see the plane crash site and say "Hello, Buddy, we thank you, we miss you and we will see you in heaven, but I hope not soon!"
-- Peter Noone / Herman
And YOUR version of "Heartbeat" is absolutely one of those gems!!! (kk)

Hey Kent,
Great job as usual.
This story hits close to home for me.
It was 50 years ago on February 3rd that I was born. The exact date and time Buddy Holly and friends perished in that terrible plane crash.
I never understood how important those men were until I was older and in high school.
Although it is a milestone birthday for me, I am still saddened by the loss.
I have included a picture from 2006 when the Crickets came to Cool Scoops for a visit. The music may have died here, but it's still going strong in Heaven!
All the best,
Paul Russo / Cool Scoops
Since you asked for thoughts, I'll share one with you because I could share a TON ... but a LOT of people are sharing thoughts with you ... so the one Buddy Holly thought I have is that his song that he co-wrote with Norman Petty, "True Love Ways" is, in my opinion, STILL one of the most beautiful Love Ballads that has ever been written, sung and produced by ANYBODY.
I play it for older groups in retirement communities and Alzheimer groups as a part of my "Memories" Show, and when I see those folks listening to it and enjoying the 'memories' they have of it from when they used to listen to it back in the old days when it was on the charts and on his records, I can see that it STILL makes them feel good.
I think it's going to be a song that is remembered centuries from now. It is a magic song ... entirely "timeless","inter-generational", and NOBLDY could EVER sing it like Buddy sings it. When you listen to it knowing a little about his life, you can tell that it is his deeply sincere lyric written for his wife, and that chokes me up to think of a love that strong, the way he sings it to her and creates the beautiful song about their "True Love Ways". A love that strong never dies and he's alive in that song today.
I just noticed that he and I share the same birthday, September 7th, so that's cool for me to know, too. Being over 60 now I've had a lot of experiences with playing in groups from Rock bands to BIG bands, and I'm still involved in music, but in my early teens as a singer / guitar player sort of folksinger I sang his songs "Oh Boy", "Peggy Sue", and 'Maybe Baby", and later on in a Rock band, so like most people my age I've felt connected with Buddy and his music my whole life. But Kent, there's no song I can think of that brings out that deep love feeling like "True Love Ways" does, and it's sad to think that he and his wife didn't have too much time together before he was killed.
Remembering him and Ritchie and The Big Bopper is the right thing to do EVERY February 3rd, so take it easy Kent and thanks for all the work you put into your incredible newsletter for us.
Veeder Van Dorn
Camarillo, California  

Buddy Holly was not your traditional Teen Idol. He wasn't all that good looking ... in fact, for the most part he probably looked like the dorkiest kid in your class! 
He wasn't a dynamic performer and didn't command the stage presence of an Elvis Presley or a Jerry Lee Lewis ... for that matter, he wasn't a great singer or an outstanding guitarist ... in fact, his records were pretty basic, rudimentary performances ... simple arrangements with very little background accompaniment ... easy enough for virtually ANY other kid with a guitar to reproduce on stage. (As such, nearly EVERY remake ever recorded sounds better than Buddy's original!) The BEST thing Buddy Holly had going for him was the uncanny ability to write a song ... just look how many of his songs have been covered over the years!!! As Peter Noone mentioned above, a good chunk of The British Invasion owes their roots (and perhaps a bit of their success) to Buddy Holly ... The Beatles did "Words Of Love", The Rolling Stones did "Not Fade Away" and Peter And Gordon did what I think is the BEST version of "True Love Ways" ever recorded. Heck, even hard rock Super Group Blind Faith did an interesting version of "Well, All-Right"!!! In the '70's his music was being recorded by Linda Ronstadt (That'll Be The Day, It's So Easy, It Doesn't Matter Anymore ... which is actually a Paul Anka song, by the way ... while Holly was quite the songwriter himself, early in his career he recorded songs written by his contemporaries like Anka and Bobby Darin!) and James Taylor did "Everyday", a song that placed very high on our recent Favorite, Forgotten B-Sides Poll. There's been SO much speculation as to what Buddy may have accomplished in his career had the music NOT died on February 3, 1959 ... but it's ALL speculation. Odds are he would have continued to have a few hits on his own but then he, too, would have been derailed by The British Invasion that he helped to inspire! Hopefully, he would have continued to write music for other artists ... and maybe produce some of these acts, too. (Then again, who knows ... had HE lived, perhaps Ritchie Valens would have inspired a late '50's Latin Music Revolution and the whole British thing never would have happened!!!) Like I said, it's ALL speculation.

One of the last songs that Rick Nelson ever recorded was a stripped-down version of Holly's "True Love Ways" ... while Nelson made it out of the '50's alive as one of Buddy's contemporaries, he, too, would perish decades later in a plane crash. (kk)