On February 3, 1959, Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, “The Big Bopper” J. P. Richardson, and pilot Roger Peterson were killed in a plane crash near Clear Lake, Iowa.
They were headed to their next stop on their tour. They were traveling in mid-winter and it was absolutely freezing. The tour was miserable and was not routed for efficiency or safety. Before what they would know would be their last performance, their bus broke down on an icy highway and they were stranded in the northern Wisconsin forest.
They ended up making it to Clear Lake, but their next stop was Moorhead. This would’ve been a 365-mile bus ride. With tour members getting frostbite, sick, and dirty clothes combined with not getting good sleep, they decided to take a plane.
“It was so cold on the bus that we’d have to wear all our clothes, coats and everything. … I couldn’t believe how cold it was,” wrote Jennings, who played bass for Holly on the tour.
Valens wanted to fly as well so he and Allsup (Holly’s guitarist) held a coin toss for the final seat. Valens ended up winning.
Holly, J.P. (the Big Bopper) Richardson, and Valens climbed into a single-engine Beechcraft Bonanza that crashed into a cornfield in a snowstorm just after take-off.
We remember the legacy of each musician. We play Ritchie Valens on our station, but it’s more than just the music. Ritchie is known as the first ‘Chicano Rockstar’ at only 17 years old he had made a significant impact with not only his music but representation for aspiring Chicano musicians.
The story is legend but the term “The Day the Music Died” was coined by Don McLean’s song “American Pie.”