rudkipon66 Posted February 3, 2009 Report Share Posted February 3, 2009 Today is the 50th Anniversary of the plane crash that killed Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and the Big Bopper (J.P. Richardson). Below is a nice article about the event. If you can find it, VH1 did a fantastic "Behind The Music" about that tragic day (I would have thought they would have re-broadcast it but I don't see it listed.) Quinn and I went to Clear Lake several years ago--Clear Lake, IA is a very cool step back in time, and the Surf Ballroom (where the last concert took place) is a wonderful place. You can get directions to the crash site at http://www.roadsideamerica.com/tip/351 They had a big party over the past week in Clear Lake to celebrate the event, the preparations for which turned the town on its ear! (http://www.clreporter.com/local-news/one-week-and-counting-surf-ballroom-prepares-historic-week) Would have been a blast! Oh well, I will have to settle for getting in my car, cranking up the tunes, thanking that great trio for what they gave us, and humming a little Neil Young to myself: "hey hey, my my, Rock N' Roll will NEVER DIE! Slan go foill, Kip The 'Day the Music Died' didn't kill music - it lived and grew bigger BY DAVID HINCKLEY DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER Tuesday, February 3rd 2009, 4:00 AM Feb. 3, 2009 is the 50th anniversary of the day musicians Ritchie Valens, Buddy Holly and the Big Bopper were killed in a plane crash. The music didn't really die on Feb. 3, 1959, the day a four-seat airplane carrying Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper (J.P. Richardson) crashed into a cornfield eight miles north of Clear Lake, Iowa. Five years and six days later, the Beatles, who learned their craft from Buddy Holly records and whose name is a shoutout to Holly's Crickets, played the Ed Sullivan show. No, the music lived. It just got bigger than anyone in 1959 could have imagined. Still, that plane crash deeply affected a rock 'n' roll world that in 1959 was still in early adolescence. The term "rock 'n' roll" itself had only come into widespread use about three years earlier, though it had floated around the blues world at least since the 1920s as a thinly camouflaged synonym for fun under the sheets. When you're young, you don't think about death. Before Feb. 3, 1959, rock 'n' roll's idea of a loss was Elvis Presley going into the Army or Little Richard announcing he was going to sing only for he Lord. John Lennon later would remarks that rock 'n' roll died when Elvis went into the Army. On this one, John was wrong. There's a widespread popular myth that after Elvis' induction and the Buddy Holly plane crash, the enemies of rock 'n' roll smashed it into harmless little pieces. By this myth, traditionalists in the music, entertainment and radio games got together and conspired to replace the wild, raw power of Elvis, Buddy and Little Richard with the harmless likes of Fabian and Frankie Avalon, pretty boys with minimal talent. Thus yanking the teeth and the bite out of this dangerous, subversive intruder. Without question there were traditionalists who wanted to see that happen, and even many fans believed rock 'n' roll was another fad, like goldfish swallowing, whose inevitable expiration date was coming up fast. They too were wrong. The music and the seeds it planted in those 1958-1964 years, between Elvis and the Beatles, will stand with any six years in rock 'n' roll history. Motown started then, with artists like Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson and the Temptations. That was Roy Orbison's peak. You had the Beach Boys and the Four Seasons at their best. Phil Spector was producing, Stax and Muscle Shoals were gearing up. The Shirelles were singing. So were Del Shannon and Arthur Alexander and James Brown and Gene Pitney. Small companies produced hundreds of great singles, from Maxine Brown's "All In My Mind" to Kathy Young's "A Thousand Stars" to the Capris' classic "There's a Moon Out Tonight" and the Edsels' immortal "Rama-Lama-Ding-Dong." In the larger picture, the music was only slightly wounded. What the crash did do was take away some of the innocence, the adolescent's blithe confidence that things will not change. That loss of innocence was the real point of "American Pie," the 1971 Don McLean ballad that locked the "day the music died" phrase into our cultural vocabulary. McLean's massive hit, with its mildly inside references and quasi-profound imagery, is ultimately most notable for reflecting the fact that a dozen years later, fans still missed and mourned those who were lost. The crash also triggered a discussion, somewhat muted with the passage of time, over what those men could have given us had they lived. Richardson, the veteran of the group at 28, was a disc jockey and country singer who happened to have a novelty pop hit with "Chantilly Lace." Country was his legitimate talent and he probably would have returned there. Valens is the wild card. At 17 he had already written the timeless ballad "Donna." Would he have written more? Or was he destined to be a starburst of a teen idol? Either way, he was one of the first Hispanic rock 'n' roll stars. Hispanic rhythms have never gotten the credit they deserve for their part in shaping rock 'n' roll, and while Valens wasn't singing hard-core Hispanic music, he was a pioneer whose importance could easily have grown. Holly? Again, who knows? Scott Shannon, WPLJ program director, morning cohost and lifelong Holly fan, says he thinks Holly's future might have been mostly in songwriting and producing. His recording career, Shannon notes, had hit a lull at the time of his death, though "It Doesn't Matter Any More" became an ironic posthumous hit. While Holly was only 22, he had already begun moving away from the hard rockabilly sound of his earlier days, experimenting with strings in a ballad like "True Love Ways." But right to the end he was writing great, crisp songs, Shannon notes, and in many ways he was a more complete musician than Elvis. "Besides the singing, he was a great guitar player and wrote great songs," says Shannon. "He was a producer, too." The 1983 movie "Eddie and the Cruisers" has its shadowy lead character, a rock 'n' roll singer, quietly trying to arrange musical sessions that would bring black and white performers together in new and different ways. It's been suggested this notion came from some of what Holly was doing. We'll never find out, of course, because 50 years ago Tuesday, the plane went down. Holly, Valens and Richardson were part of the "Winter Dance Party" tour that was doing a whirlwind run of one-nighters through small Midwestern towns, basically to learn a few quick bucks. On the afternoon of Feb. 2, while they were all waiting for that night's show at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Holly decided he couldn't face one more 300-mile ride on a freezing bus to the next stop, Fargo, N.D. So he chartered a small plane, figuring that way he'd arrive early enough to get some sleep and do his laundry. The local charter service assigned the flight to 21-year-old Roger Peterson, a pilot who had little experience flying with instruments in the kind of snowy, overcast skies that descended over Iowa that night. Holly was originally going to take two other members of his band on the plane, guitarist Tommy Allsup and bass player Waylon Jennings. That way they could split the cost -- $108, or $36 apiece. But when other performers on the tour heard about the plane, they put in their own bids. Richardson, who was coming down with a cold, asked Jennings if he could take that seat and Jennings, who didn't mind the bus as much as the others, told him sure. Valens, who thought flying on a small plane sounded cool, had a harder time talking Allsup out of the last seat. Finally Valens proposed flipping a coin and Allsup agreed. Valens pulled out a half dollar. Allsup flipped it and Valens called heads. Heads it was. The plane took off about 1 a.m. from the Mason City airport. The best guess about what happened next is that Peterson realized only after they took off that he would have to fly by instruments. More specifically, he had to fly by a Sperry Attitude Gyroscope, which displays attitude pitch the opposite of the gyroscopes on which he had trained. If he didn't know that, he would have thought the plane was climbing when it was descending. Eight miles from the airport, the plane crashed into a cornfield. It hit, bounced about 50 feet, then skidded 500 or so feet into a fence, where it broke apart. Richardson, Holly and Valens were thrown out. Peterson's body remained in the wreckage. It didn't matter. All were almost certainly killed on impact. When there was no word from anyone on the plane by dawn, a search began. Jerry Dwyer, who owned the air service, took off in another plane, retracing Peterson's route. At 9:35 a.m., he saw the wreckage. A few days later, another brilliant young rock 'n' roll artist, Eddie Cochran, cut a sentimental farewell song called "The Three Stars," which went in part: Look up in the sky, up toward the north. There are three new stars, brightly shining forth It was the kind of song that once was instantly written for any famous person who died, proving how close popular music still was in 1959 to the old pop era. Fourteen months later, on April 17, 1960, Eddie Cochran was killed in a car crash. He was 21. The music didn't die then, either. Today, most younger popular music fans have only historical knowledge of Buddy Holly or Ritchie Valens. Maybe they've seen the movies. Maybe they recognize "That'll Be the Day," which Holly wrote from a John Wayne line in "The Searchers," or "La Bamba," which was Valens applying rock 'n' roll to an old sea song. But the three stars mostly are names, or maybe they're voices. There's little sense of the visceral impact from hearing they were gone. Still, Feb. 3, 1959, helped carve out the path the music has followed to Feb. 3, 2009. Without the blue notes, it wouldn't have the richness that's kept it so alive. Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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