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)
As for remembering when they died, I was not here yet! But I have always liked Buddy Holly's, Ritchie Valens' and The Big Bopper's Music. They all had a lot of talent and it is fantastic that they shared it with everyone. That it is still popular in today's world says a lot. Dee
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,a s well.
-- Ron Smith
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 2 scanned pages of Ritchie from my '59 and '60 high school yearbooks.
Thanks for sharing these with our readers once again! (kk)
(click photos to enlarge image)
Hi, Kent -
I did three episodes of the “History of Rock ‘n’ Roll with Gary Theroux” that dealt with Buddy Holly. His music lives on today as a testament to what an innovative artist he really was -- years ahead of his time. Gary Theroux
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.
I 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.
Treasure Isle Recorders, Inc.
"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
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”
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
Hi, 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.
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 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
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.
(click photos to enlarge image)
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
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 ScoopsSince 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
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, rudamentary 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. Rick Nelson would record an AMAZING stripped-down version of Holly's "True Love Ways" near the end of his own career ... powerful in its own reading ... and all the more so when you consider that Nelson made it out of the '50's alive as one of Buddy's contemporaries ... but would perish decades later in his OWN plane crash. (kk)