On this day: Plane crash kills Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and the Big Bopper in 1959
The Day the Music Died: A rock ‘n’ roll tragedy goes down in flames out of the Midwestern sky
(WVUE) - On Feb. 3, 1959, the careers of three American music legends were unfortunately cut short as a plane carrying Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. Richardson (a.k.a The Big Bopper) crashed in Clear Lake, Iowa.
The three were on the Winter Dance Party Tour that began in Milwaukee, Wisc., on Jan. 23, 1959.
The tour started off with failing logistics due to excessive travel and terrible winter conditions that year. The unheated tour bus broke down and Holly’s drummer Carl Bunch was hospitalized due to frostbite in his foot.
Prior to the tour, Holly had just founded a new backing band with Bunch, Tommy Allsup on guitar, and Waylon Jennings on bass after ending his relationship with The Crickets. With financial motivation on the line, the group of musicians sought a private plane for travel to complete the tour dates.
Allsup and Jennings never got on the plane. Allsup and Valens flipped a coin to see who would get a seat on the small plane. Valens called heads and won and Allsup took the bus. Jennings gave up his seat for Richardson, who felt that as a large-sized man, would feel uncomfortable on the bus.
Jennings took the bus. Later in his career, he eventually became one of the biggest outlaw country music artists of all time.
The pilot, Roger Peterson, was not certified to fly by instruments only, yet proceeded to take off in inclement weather. The plane crashed in Clear Lake the day they were scheduled to perform. There were no survivors.
Holly, who’s recognized as one of the most innovative musicians in rock history, was only 22 at the time of his death.
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