Summary

On Feb 2, 1959, rock stars Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and Big Booper performed at Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa. Shortly after midnight, the three rock stars took off in a charted plane that promptly crashed on take off, killing the pilot and the three rock stars. Buddy and Ritchie were in their early twenty's and they were rising stars. In 1971, Don Mclean wrote his famous song, the American Pie, in it he referred Feburary 3, 1959 as the "day the music died". Don must not like the rock stars after that, because he believed the rock music die that day.

Birth:
07 Sep 1936 1
Lubbock Texas 1
Death:
31 Dec 1969 1
Clear Lake, Iowa 1
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Pictures & Records (19)

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Buddy Holly Poster in Surf Ballroom
Buddy Holly Poster in Surf Ballroom
The poster in Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa showing appearance of Buddy Holly on Feb 2, 1959. After his performance and Surf, Buddy was kill when his plan crashed on take off from Mason City Airport.
Buddly Holly's plane crash site
Buddly Holly's plane crash site
The site of Buddy Holly's plane crash on 2/3/1959 in Clear Lake, Iowa. This crash also killed rock stars Ritchie Valens and Big Bopper. In the song "The American Pie", the date 2/3/1959 was called "the day the music died".
Buddy Holly's last call
Buddy Holly's last call
The phone in Surf Ballroom where Buddy Holly made his last phone call.
Buddy Holly
Buddy Holly
The picture of Buddy Holly at Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, IA
Plaque at Surf Ballroom
Plaque at Surf Ballroom
The Plaque of Surf Ballroom honoring the rock stars.
Ritchie Valens
Ritchie Valens
Pictures of Ritchie Valens at Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa
The Surf Ballroom
The Surf Ballroom
The Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa, where three famous rock stars made their last performance on Feb 2, 1959, they were killed in a plane crash only hours later. The rock stars are Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and Big Bopper.
Ballroom floor
Ballroom floor
The ballroom floor at Surf Ballroom. They claimed they have left it is exactly like it on Feb 3, 1959, eventhough the floor are used for dancing every night.
Buddy Holly Crash Site
Buddy Holly Crash Site
another view of the site of Buddy Holly Plane crash site.
actual photo of the plane crash
actual photo of the plane crash
An old photo showing the plane crash that kill the three rock stars and the pilot. Source www.HowardOlson.tripod.com
Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake Iowa
Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake Iowa
The Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa. On Feburary 2, 1959, it becamse site of the last performance for three famous rock stars of that era. They stars are Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, and Big Booper.
Marker to the Buddy Holly crash site
Marker to the Buddy Holly crash site
The Buddy Holly crash site is near the corner of Gull Ave and 315th st, north of Clear lake, Iowa. The crash site is 1/2 miles from the street sign shown in the photo. Use I35 exit 197 to get to the site.
Mason City Airport
Mason City Airport
Mason City Aiport might be a small airport, but it has big history. It was from this airport that Buddy Holly's charted flight took off.
Buddy Holly
Buddy Holly
Big Booper
Big Booper
Rock star J. P. Richardson who calls himself the Big Booper
Ritchie Valens
Ritchie Valens
Buddy and Elena Holly
Buddy and Elena Holly
An old photo showing Buddy and Maria Elena Holly on their wedding day.
Buddy Holly headline
Buddy Holly headline
Mason City paper showing the death of the three rock stars
Don Mclean
Don Mclean
picture of Don Mclean with American Pie

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Personal Details

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Full Name:
Charles Harding Holley 1
Also known as:
Buddy Holly 1
Birth:
07 Sep 1936 1
Lubbock Texas 1
Male 1
Death:
31 Dec 1969 1
Clear Lake, Iowa 1
Cause: Plane crash 1
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Occupation:
Rock Star 1
Category:
musician 1

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Stories

Buddy Holly begins Midwest Tour

Green Bay, Wisconsin

Buddy Holly
3 images

Buddy was offered the Winter Dance Party by the General Artist Corporation, a three-week tour across the Midwest  with other notable performers Tommy Allsup, Waylon Jennings, Ritchie Valens, and J. P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson.  The tour begun on January 23, 1959 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

Buddy Holly's Last performance

Clear lake, Iowa

Ballroom floor
9 images

The tour moves to the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake Iowa with a performance scheduled for Feburary 2, 1959.  Due to mechnical differculty with their charted bus, the group arrived at Surf Ballroom less than two hours before the performance. The ballroom was packed with about 1500 people, many drove hundreds of miles in snow covered roads to see the rock stars.

Buddy was fed up with the charted bus with its faulty heater, a bad thing in Upper Midwest winter,so before the perfromance, Buddy asked the Surf manager Carroll Anderson about renting a chartered plane to fly him to his next destination in Moorhead, Minnesota.  Carroll said that he knows the owner of Dywer Flying Service in nearby Mason City and he will call him to arrange a flight.  Carroll was not able to get hold of the owner Jerry Dywer, so he called one of it pilot, Roger Peterson and Roger agreed to take Buddy plus two others to Moorhead.

Buddy took off from Mason City Airport

Mason City, Iowa

Mason City Airport

After the performance, the group got ready to travel to their next destination in Moorhead, Minnesota. Buddy decided to get there first with a charter plane. Since the plane can only seat four peoples including the pilot. Buddy already have a seat , while the remaining two seats were decided with coin tosses.  Ritchie Valens and Big Booper win the toss and got on the plane with Buddy.  While Tommy Allsup and Waylan Jenning lost the toss ( lucky for them ). And they were to arrive at Moorhead later with the tour bus, which has a faulty heater, a bad thing in  Minnesota winter. In his 1996 autobiography, Waylon Jennings stated that he was very dissapointed that he had to ride in the freezing  bus, so his parting remark to Buddy was "I hope your damn plane crashes!",  Waylon Jennings claimed this remark has haunted him ever since then.

The took off around 1:00 AM from Mason City Airport, Feburary 3 and crashed only minutes later in a corn field, killing all three rock stars and the pilot. Because the plane didn't catch on fire when it crashed, no one noticed the crash until the next day.  Feburary 3, 1959 becomes known as the "The Day the Music Die" in Don Mclean's 1971 song, the "American Pie".   

Crash Site

hanlontown, IA

Buddly Holly's plane crash site
4 images

The crash site is located in a corn field, 1/2 miles from the intersection of Gull Ave and 333rd Street, which is 3 miles north of Clear Lake, IA. To get there, take exit 197 from Interstate I-35 / IA-27.  A big pair of black glass is there to let you know that you are in the right place (see photo).

Roger Peterson, the pilot

Clear Lake, Iowa

On the evening of February 2, 1959, the manager of the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake contacted Dywer Flying Service to arrange a charter flight from Mason City to Fargo, North Dakota, the nearest airport to Moorhead MN. He couldn't get hold of Jerry Dywer, the ower of Dywer Flying Service, so he contacted one of its pilot, Roger Peterson. Peterson agreed to take the flight. Roger already had worked a whole day and were not expecting to take on additional 3 hours of flying to Fargo, ND, but he accepted the charter flight due to his financial need.

 Roger then called Jerry Dywer (Roger knew where Jerry was). Jerry arrived at the hanger at Mason City Airport and he selected 1947 Beechcraft Bonanza from the Dywer fleet. The two then got the plane fueled and wheeled it out of the hanger.

After the performance at Surf Ballroom, the Surf Ballroom manager Carroll Anderson took the three rocks stars in his car and drove them 2 miles to the Mason City Airport and the hanger for the Dywer Air Service.  The three then boarded the plane with the Roger.

 The plane with the rock stars took off in light snow from  Mason City Airport with the  around  1:00 AM on the morning of February 3, 1959. It crashed only three miles from the airport as it flew directly into the snow covered ground and did not catch on fire, but it summersaulted several times and thrown all three rocks stars out of plane.  Buddy and Ritchies bodies were found near the plane wreckage, but Big Bopper's body was founded some 50 feet from the wreckage, which led to spectulations that perhaps Richardson might have survived the crash and was able to walk a few step before dying. But this rumor was put to rest in 2007 (See story Richardson's 2007 autopsy).

 The Civil Aeronautics Board concluded that the primary cause of the crash was pilot error due to Peterson's inability to accurately interpret the newly-installed Sperry F3 attitude indicator which he was forced to rely upon in the poor weather conditions. The theory was that Peterson may have read the gyroscope backwards as a result of vertigo and thought that the plane was gaining altitude when it was actually descending.

Richardson's 2007 autopsy

J. P. Richardson ( Big Blooper) body was buried in Forest Lawn Cemetery in Beaumount Texas. In 2007, Richardson's son decided to have the grave moved to a different part of the cemetery, a more visible location so they can ererct a life-size statue and historic marker. The disinterment offered Richardson's son Jay a chance to ask experts to examine his father's remains to determine if his father had walked away from the wreckage, because his body was found over 50 feets from the wreckage, resulting in many rumors.

William M. Basss undertook the procedure and confirmed the 1959 report. The body of Richardson was in good preservation, but showed "massive fractures", showing that he too had died on impact, and no way could have walked fifty feet, as all leg bones were shattered.  Since Jay was born two month after the death of his father, he was present during autopsy and finally saw the father that he has never seem.

J. P. Richardson body was reburied in a new casket and the used metal casket was given to the Texas Musician's Museum. In December 2008, Jay Richardson announced that he would be placing the old casket up for auction on eBay to raise money for The Texas Musician's Museum.  At the time of writing of this story, it is not known if it is still on the eBay.

Imagine, looking on the Ebay and see an used casket on sale!

Maria Elena Holly

Lubbock, Texas

Buddy and Elena Holly

Buddy met Maria Elena Santiago in June 1958 and they were married in Lubbock, Texas on August 15, 1958. She was pregnant when Buddy was kill and became a widow after barely six months of marriage and miscarried soon after. María Elena Holly did not attend the funeral and has never visited the grave site. She later told the Avalanche-Journal, "In a way, I blame myself. I was not feeling well when he left. I was two weeks pregnant, and I wanted Buddy to stay with me, but he had scheduled that tour. It was the only time I wasn't with him. And I blame myself because I know that, if only I had gone along, Buddy never would have gotten into that airplane.

In the song American Pie, Don Mclean refered Maria Elena Holly as the "widowed bride".

"Where were you, the night Rock and Roll Died?"

789th AC@W Sq. Bellevue, NE

"Where were you, the night Rock and Roll died?" 

  I was the on-duty, Movements and Identification Operator, at our Radar Station in Bellevue, Nebraska.  It was my job to know the identification of all aircraft showing on our Radar.  A Radar Operator reported a new blip (Target),  to our northeast.  The first plot was put on the big board and I found the Unknown Target on my Radar Scope.  The blip lasted for few rotations of the Radar antenna and disappeared.  A short time later, we got a call asking if, we had any aircraft flying from Clear Lake, Iowa, toward
Fargo.  The officer who took the call, asked me what we had and I told him, we had seen one for a very short time.  The person calling, told the officer they thought the aircraft had crashed and there were several famous people on it.
  That was the night "Buddy Holly, the Big Bopper, Waylon Jennings and Rock and Roll Died."  February 2, 1959, fifty-one years ago.  In one way,  when that last Radar Blip faded from our Radar Screens, I was among a very, very few who last saw the last seconds of "Rock and Roll" and those performers, while they were still alive.  

American Pie lyric

Don Mclean

A long, long time ago...
I can still remember
How that music used to make me smile.
And I knew if I had my chance
That I could make those people dance
And, maybe, they’d be happy for a while.

But february made me shiver
With every paper I’d deliver.
Bad news on the doorstep;
I couldn’t take one more step.

I can’t remember if I cried
When I read about his widowed bride,
But something touched me deep inside
The day the music died.

So bye-bye, miss american pie.
Drove my chevy to the levee,
But the levee was dry.
And them good old boys were drinkin’ whiskey and rye
Singin’, "this’ll be the day that I die.
"this’ll be the day that I die."

Did you write the book of love,
And do you have faith in God above,
If the Bible tells you so?
Do you believe in rock ’n roll,
Can music save your mortal soul,
And can you teach me how to dance real slow?

Well, I know that you’re in love with him
`cause I saw you dancin’ in the gym.
You both kicked off your shoes.
Man, I dig those rhythm and blues.

I was a lonely teenage broncin’ buck
With a pink carnation and a pickup truck,
But I knew I was out of luck
The day the music died.

I started singin’,
"bye-bye, miss american pie."
Drove my chevy to the levee,
But the levee was dry.
Them good old boys were drinkin’ whiskey and rye
And singin’, "this’ll be the day that I die.
"this’ll be the day that I die."

Now for ten years we’ve been on our own
And moss grows fat on a rollin’ stone,
But that’s not how it used to be.
When the jester sang for the king and queen,
In a coat he borrowed from james dean
And a voice that came from you and me,

Oh, and while the king was looking down,
The jester stole his thorny crown.
The courtroom was adjourned;
No verdict was returned.
And while lennon read a book of marx,
The quartet practiced in the park,
And we sang dirges in the dark
The day the music died.

We were singing,
"bye-bye, miss american pie."
Drove my chevy to the levee,
But the levee was dry.
Them good old boys were drinkin’ whiskey and rye
And singin’, "this’ll be the day that I die.
"this’ll be the day that I die."

Helter skelter in a summer swelter.
The birds flew off with a fallout shelter,
Eight miles high and falling fast.
It landed foul on the grass.
The players tried for a forward pass,
With the jester on the sidelines in a cast.

Now the half-time air was sweet perfume
While the sergeants played a marching tune.
We all got up to dance,
Oh, but we never got the chance!
`cause the players tried to take the field;
The marching band refused to yield.
Do you recall what was revealed
The day the music died?

We started singing,
"bye-bye, miss american pie."
Drove my chevy to the levee,
But the levee was dry.
Them good old boys were drinkin’ whiskey and rye
And singin’, "this’ll be the day that I die.
"this’ll be the day that I die."

Oh, and there we were all in one place,
A generation lost in space
With no time left to start again.
So come on: jack be nimble, jack be quick!
Jack flash sat on a candlestick
Cause fire is the devil’s only friend.

Oh, and as I watched him on the stage
My hands were clenched in fists of rage.
No angel born in hell
Could break that satan’s spell.
And as the flames climbed high into the night
To light the sacrificial rite,
I saw satan laughing with delight
The day the music died

He was singing,
"bye-bye, miss american pie."
Drove my chevy to the levee,
But the levee was dry.
Them good old boys were drinkin’ whiskey and rye
And singin’, "this’ll be the day that I die.
"this’ll be the day that I die."

I met a girl who sang the blues
And I asked her for some happy news,
But she just smiled and turned away.
I went down to the sacred store
Where I’d heard the music years before,
But the man there said the music wouldn’t play.

And in the streets: the children screamed,
The lovers cried, and the poets dreamed.
But not a word was spoken;
The church bells all were broken.
And the three men I admire most:
The father, son, and the holy ghost,
They caught the last train for the coast
The day the music died.

And they were singing,
"bye-bye, miss american pie."
Drove my chevy to the levee,
But the levee was dry.
And them good old boys were drinkin’ whiskey and rye
Singin’, "this’ll be the day that I die.
"this’ll be the day that I die."

They were singing,
"bye-bye, miss american pie."
Drove my chevy to the levee,
But the levee was dry.
Them good old boys were drinkin’ whiskey and rye
Singin’, "this’ll be the day that I die."

Buddy's Birth name is,Charles Harden Holley, not Harding !!

Bobbie_, The airman's report was in quotation marks, indicating not that Jennings was a victim, but that the reporter believed at the time that Jennings, not Valens, was among the "famous" people on board the flight. It might well have been that Jennings was still on the flight manifest...as it was Jennings who at the last moment gave up his seat for the ailing, "Big Bopper" who had difficulty fitting the bus.

Bobbie_, The airman's report was in quotation marks, indicating not that Jennings was a victim, but that the reporter believed at the time that Jennings, not Valens, was among the "famous" people on board the flight. It might well have been that Jennings was still on the flight manifest...as it was Jennings who at the last moment gave up his seat for the ailing, "Big Bopper" who had difficulty fitting the bus.

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