56 Years Ago–The Day the Music Died

The Arts & Artists

The Day Music Died Monument

The Day Music Died Monument

The Day Music Died Monument
Erected in 1988, this memorial stands at the site where musicians Buddy Holly (23), Ritchie Valens (17), J. P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson (28), and pilot Roger Peterson‘s (21), plane crashed near Clear Lake, Iowa. On February 2, 1959, Holly and his tour mates were on the eleventh night of their Winter Dance Party tour through the snow-covered Midwest. It was a Monday — a school night — but 1,100 teenagers crammed into Surf Ballroom for two sold out shows. They wore blue jeans and saddle shoes and screamed for 17-year-old Richie Valens, whose single “Donna” was about to go gold. Holly, Valens, and the Big Bopper had traveled by bus for over a week. It had broken down once, their clothes were dirty, they were tired, and they hadn’t been paid yet so Holly chartered a red and white single-engine Beech Bonanza p to get them to their next gig in Moorehead, Minnesota, so they could have some down time and clean up before their next show. Their plane crashed shortly after take off at 1:05 a.m. on February 3, 1959, due to the heavy snow and blizzard conditions. The stainless steel monument above is on private farmland, about one quarter of a mile west of the intersection of 315th Street and Gull Avenue, north of Clear Lake.

Each February 2, since the 1979 twentieth anniversary of the original “Winter Dance Party” concert, the Surf Ballroom hosts a “Winter Dance Party” tribute show. The following video is from the 2012 “Winter Dance Party” show.

The next day, a memorial service in Clear Lake officially honors the February 3 anniversary of the deaths of the three musicians.

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