February 03, 2007

The Day the Music Died

On this day in 1959, rising American rock stars Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson are killed when their chartered Beechcraft
Bonanza plane crashes in Iowa a few minutes after takeoff from Mason City on a flight headed for Moorehead, Minnesota. Investigators blamed the crash on bad weather and pilot error. Holly and his band, the Crickets, had just scored a No. 1 hit with "That'll Be the Day."

After mechanical difficulties with the tour bus, Holly had chartered a plane for his band to fly between stops on the Winter Dance Party Tour. However, Richardson, who had the flu, convinced Holly's band member Waylon Jennings to give up his seat, and Ritchie Valens won a coin toss for another seat on the plane.

Buddy Holly, born Charles Holley in Lubbock, Texas, and just 22 when he died, began singing country music with high
school friends before switching to rock and roll after opening for various performers, including Elvis Presley. By the mid-1950s, Holly and his band had a regular radio show and toured internationally, playing hits like "Peggy Sue," "Oh, Boy!," "Maybe Baby" and
"Early in the Morning." Holly wrote all his own songs, many of which were released after his death and influenced such artists as Bob Dylan and Paul McCartney.

Another crash victim, J.P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson, 28, started out as a disk jockey in Texas. Jiles Perry Richardson was born October 24, 1930 in Sabine Pass, Texas.The family moved to Port Arthur when Jiles was still very young.After high school, Jiles decided to attend Lamar State College in Beaumont,Texas. While attending Lamar, Jiles found a job as a disc jockey and singer on the local radio station KTRM. Jiles coined his ownstage name, "The Big Bopper," while working at the station.

On April 18, 1952, The Big Bopper married Adrian Joy Fryon. Together, they would have one daughter which they named Deborah. In the May of 1957, Jiles established a world record for continuous broadcasting by working six straight days and spinning 1,821 records. During his tenure at KTRM, Jiles decided to write a few songs. Before long, he was discovered by Harold "Pappy" Daily. In 1957, Jiles released his most popular work, "Chantilly Lace," which became the third most played song of 1958. Jiles was overwhelmed with tour offers and decided to take them.

His last tour, the Winter Dance Party of 1959, was scheduled to play in remote locations throughout the midwest United States.The tour headlined with the likes of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and The Big Bopper (Jiles). The three musicians and their bands toured in a run down bus with a poor heating system. Because of these terrible circumstances, Jiles became ill with the flu. When the tour rolled into Clear Lake, Iowa, Buddy Holly chartered a plane to fly him and his band to the next tour stop after the show. When the show ended, Jiles approached Buddy's bassist, Waylon Jennings, and asked for Jennings' seat on the plane so that Jiles could get some rest and have time to schedule a doctors appointment. Waylon agreed and gave his seat to Jiles.

The third crash victim was Ritchie Valens, born on 13 May, 1941 in Pacoima, a suburb of Los Angeles, California. His real name was Richard Valenzuela. At nine years of age he got his first (Spanish) guitar. As a twelve year old Ritchie had already written several songs, most of which were inspired by Mexican music. He also displayed considerable singing talent, and became a feature at school assemblies singing and playing the guitar. When Ritchie was seventeen he was spotted by Bob Keene, president of Del Fi Records in Hollywood, and offered recording contract. Bob Keene also became his manager. His first single, the self-penned tune 'Come On Let's Go', sold 750,000 copies and earned him quite a reputation among teenagers all over the country.

Shortly after this, he wrote a song for his high school sweetheart, Donna Ludwig. The song 'Donna' was recorded and rapidly made the 1958 hit charts. It became his biggest all-time hit and first million seller it was a two-sided hit and the flip side 'La Bamba' was a traditional Spanish wedding song which Ritchie sang in Spanish after adding a rock'n'roll beat to it. That song was also a million seller.
Valens was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001.

Singer Don McLean memorialized Holly, Valens and
Richardson in the 1972 No. 1 hit "American Pie," which
refers to February 3, 1959 as "the day the music