February 3, 1959: Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P “The Big Bopper” Richardson boarded a plane, that was supposed to be a quick flight to their next stop on their tour. The flight would change music history forever. Today is known as “the day the music died.”
The plane crashed. All aboard died.
Holly was the hottest star of the bunch with hits, “That’ll Be The Day”, and “Peggy Sue.” Valens was a star in the making, impressing ears with his songs, including an ode to this ex-girlfriend, “Donna.” The Big Bopper, an old DJ from Texas, had the catchy tune “Chantilly Lace.”
The Monday night concert was packed at the Surf Ballroom. The boys made their way to the Mason City airport just after midnight, for the 12:30 departure. Roger Peterson was the pilot – a job he volunteered of doing. The 21-year-old had four years of flying experience under his belt, however, he was unaware of a weather warning that had been issued before the boys took to the air.
Shortly after takeoff, the plane saw trouble and crashed. Jerry Dwyer, the owner of the air service company, took the pilgrimage to search out for the foursome, when it failed to land in Fargo. Dwyer made the gruesome discovery only a few miles into his search. The bodies were thrown from the plane in the crash. Boppers’ body was trapped inside the cockpit.
The crash was blamed on a pilot error and poor weather conditions. Aviation expert, L.J. Coon called for the case to be re-opened in 2015, according to a report in the Storm Lake Pilot Tribune. Coon stated, “Roger would have flown out and about this airport at night, under multiple different conditions.”
The world mourned the loss of the three huge hit-makers. “Three Stars” was the first tribute track to be released about the tragedy. The ballad’s lyrics remembered Valens as one “just starting to realize your dreams” and Holly’s music “could make the coldest heart melt.” The lyrics recalled Bopper’s most famous line, “you know what I like”.
The ode we all remember wasn’t heard until much later. Don McLean belted to number-one on the charts with “American Pie.” And we all know how that diddy went.
Holly dropped a posthumous song, “It Doesn’t Matter Anymore.” It was released a month after his passing. Holly’s life has been told in many forms, including the 1978 flick, The Buddy Holly Story starring Gary Busey. Valens was immortalized in the Hollywood blockbuster, the 1987 film, La Bamba with Lou Diamond Phillips playing the singer. Bopper has lived through his music, which has been heard in TV and on soundtracks. Bopper’s son also spent years paying tribute to his father’s legacy by performing as Big Bopper. Jr, before his own death in 2013.