Sunday, February 3, 2019

PEGGY SUE GOT MARRIED NOT LONG AGO

Gentle Readers . . . and Maxwell,

Sixty years ago on this date, a small airplane took off from Mason City Municipal Airport (Iowa). About five miles away from the airport, it hit the ground at full speed near Clear Lake, Iowa, in a cornfield.



The pilot, Roger Peterson, and his three passengers––Charles Holley*, Richard Valenzuela, and J.P. Richardson––were all killed on impact.

Buddy Holly, died at age 22

Ritchie Valens, died at age 17


The Big Bopper, died at age 28



The three musicians were on a tour across the Midwest called the Winter Dance Party. They finished their show in Clear Lake at about midnight. Their flight took off around 1 a.m.


Holly chartered the plane because the troupe's two tour buses were unheated and kept breaking down. His drummer had to be hospitalized because of severe frostbite. He was tired, no one had been paid, and he wanted to get to the next venue in Minnesota ahead of time so he could get some rest and do his laundry.

He planned on taking the two remaining members of his band with him, but his guitarist, Tommy Allsup, agreed to flip a coin with Ritchie Valens for a seat on the plane. Valens "won" the toss.  Waylon Jennings, who played bass for Holly, gave up his seat to Richardson because The Big Bopper had the flu.

Don McLean wrote and recorded a hit song, American Pie, that led to the tragedy being memorialized as "the day the music died." However, McLean has said that the song is about more than the deaths of the three performers; it's about the loss of America's innocence (something we supposedly lose on a regular basis with each new tragedy).

And of course, the music most certainly did not die because of the influence the musicians had––especially Buddy Holly.

The Big Bopper was primarily a radio disc jockey who had a hit with the novelty song Chantilly Lace. He also wrote some successful songs recorded by other artists. He left behind a wife, a daughter, and a son who was born two months after he died.

Valens had a brief career. He had recently dropped out of high school because of his newfound success. He's considered to have started Chicano and Latino rock. He influenced Los Lobos and Carlos Santana. He left behind his mother, several siblings, and a girlfriend named Donna, about whom he had written a hit song. Among his effects was a silver bracelet with her name attached.

And then there was Buddy Holly, known as a rock and roll pioneer. A certain band called The Beatles chose their name because Buddy Holly's band was called The Crickets. Paul McCartney owns Buddy Holly's song catalog. Two nights before Holly died, a young Bob Dylan saw Holly perform in Duluth, Minnesota, and has cited Holly as an important influence in his development as a musician. Mick Jagger also saw Holly perform, albeit not in Minnesota but in England. Other performers who name Holly as an influence include Elton John, Bruce Springsteen, Eric Clapton, and The Clash.

Holly was already such a prolific songwriter and had recorded so many songs that his record label was able to release "new" Buddy Holly music for 10 years after his death. He left behind his parents, three siblings, and a pregnant widow, Maria Elena Santiago-Holly. Her miscarriage the day after learning of his death by hearing it announced on television is allegedly the reason that deaths are no longer broadcast until family has been informed.

Buddy also left behind his trademark horn-rimmed glasses. The farmer who owned the field found them after the snow melted. He gave them to the authorities, who stored them in a courthouse for years before realizing what they had and returning them to his wife.


They're on display at The Buddy Holly Center in Lubbock, Texas.

Today is the day that three musicians died in a plane crash, but they didn't take the music with them. Sing us out, please, Buddy.


Infinities of love,

Janie Junebug





*The correct spelling of the musician's name is Holley. A recording contract misspelled his name as Holly. That's the spelling he used for the rest of his life, but the marker at his grave uses the correct spelling. His nickname had been Buddy since childhood.

Feature films have been made about Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens. Both are filled with inaccuracies, but are entertaining.













43 comments:

  1. Such a tragedy, but as you said, Janie, the music lives on. Interesting article, with details not generally known (the glasses, "Holley" etc.). Thanks!

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  2. Hopefully the music never dies.
    Who knew that innocence was renewable?

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  3. I used to help run Buddy Holly's fan club here in the UK and had the opportunity to stand where the plane crashed on my birthday, the 3rd February, several years ago. The weather conditions were very similar to the ones when the plane crashed. It was a memorable trip.

    Of course at the time even though Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper had died had died, the show must go on and a young Bobby Vee and the Shadows filled in. I ran Bobby Vee's fan club for 10 years here in the UK, and now he's gone too. :(

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    1. Happy Birthday! I was born 20 days after they died.

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  4. Remembering this always makes me sad.

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    1. It is sad--young lives cut short and oh so talented.

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  5. My son used to love that movie with Lou Diamond Philips as Ritchie Valens. I'm just a little too young (haha) to remember them.

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    1. They died shortly before I was born, but I've always enjoyed Buddy's music and Ritchie's version of La Bamba.

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  6. I was only 7, but there is a memory of it. It didn't really hit me until a handful of years later when I understood things better. Sad days.

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    1. Remember anything specific, Jono? You were quite young.

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  7. I remember reading an interview from Allsup and Waylons stating they felt all sorts of emotions - glad they survived because they didn't go on the ill-fated flight, but guilt at the same time.

    It's crazy that these men would be in their late 70s and late 80s if they would have survived. I hope their music never dies and continues to live on.

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    1. When Waylon Jennings gave up his seat to Richardson, Buddy told Waylon he hoped his tour bus broke down. Jennings said he hoped their plane crashed. He has always felt bad about it.

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  8. Hi Janie - I didn't know the 'full story' - so thank you for enlightening us (me). These sorts of tragedies are terrible to read about ... and it's interesting to know how many they influenced even in their short time on earth. All the best - Hilary

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    1. They're still influential, especially Buddy Holly.

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  9. Sixty years ago? Wow, that seems so long. They were all so very young and talented. What a sad loss of potential.

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  10. I'm old enough that I actually remember that day!!

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    1. Do you simply remember the event, or do you remember anything in particular about it?

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  11. I was almost 8 years old when that happened, but I don't remember hearing about it. My mom was into Perry Como and Andy Williams and I didn't start listening to the radio till I was about ten. Even years later they were still playing the songs by those musicians all the time up here in Minnesota. I remember being surprised to find out they were dead.

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    1. I don't remember hearing their music much when I was young. After the movie about Buddy Holly came out, then I started to hear his music and fell in love with it. Same with Ritchie Valens.

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  12. Of course they died before I was born but of course I know their names and music

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    1. I know Buddy Holly toured in England, but I don't know if he made it to Australia.

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  13. Great post. I didn't know some of those details and the glasses...oh my heart. By the way, Peggy Sue Got Married is one of my favorite movies.

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    1. I love that movie. I haven't seen it in a long time. When Peggy Sue realizes that she still loves Charlie after all she's learned and experienced . . . awwwwww. And I love her starry night with the guy who becomes a writer. I think the title of his book is The Pilgrim Soul, which is from a poem I really love by Yeats. "But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you, / and loved the sorrows of your changing face."

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  14. After watching the video you linked, I fell down the rabbit hole and watched the BBC documentary Rave On. Years ago I saw The Buddy Holly Story with Gary Busey and it made this story stand out in my memory more than it otherwise would have. It's so heartbreaking, even so many years later. He was such a talent (well, they were all talented, the ones who were lost) and it was a preventable crash. Awful.

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    1. I've seen a couple of documentaries about Buddy Holly. His widow was interviewed on one of them. She remarried and had three children. The plane never should have taken off. It was snowing and the pilot wasn't trained to fly using instruments only. No wonder he plowed into the ground.

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  15. Thank you for this post, Janie, even though it always makes me sad to think of that accident. I was only a girl at the time, and I lived in a tiny, isolated village on the Fundy shore in Nova Scotia.; so I didn't know of the crash or of Holly's music until later. It's amazing to think that Buddy Holly died at 22, and yet his music had such an impact on so many artists.

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    1. Yes, he was so young and had already accomplished so much. And Ritchie Valens? Only 17.

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  16. That's one of the saddest stories. I suppose we should be grateful for his influence on the next generation of rockers. That's so sad about his wife and the miscarriage.

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    1. Maria Elena Santiago-Holly is still living. She didn't attend Buddy's funeral and has never visited his grave. It was more than she could handle. They'd only been married for eight months.

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  17. Great post Janie. Buddy Holly's music was so innovative for its time and has stood the test of time.

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  18. Hi Janie,

    Such an in-depth post. It's hard to believe it happened 60 years ago. I had no idea that Buddy Holly was only 22.

    The music does indeed live on.

    Thank you.

    Gary

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    1. Thanks for visiting, Gary. I know you're still grieving for Penny. My Faulkner died in 2010 and although I've adopted other dogs, I've never gotten over Faulkner's death.

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  19. I lived in Sweden then and I didn't know anything about these guys. But when I moved to CA from NJ in 1972, Miss American Pie played continuously or so it seemed on the radio giving me so many good memories of a great trip through our beautiful country. This was such an in-depth account of the accident and of those who were left behind. I had no idea that Waylon Jennings were among them. Or that the farmer found those iconic glasses.

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    1. American Pie was very popular. I still have my American Pie album.

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  20. Odd how some well known people get immortalized just as much by what they did as by the way they left us. I think Buddy Holley is one of them.

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  21. Very informative. I'd never heard about Buddy's glasses! And you were right about the movies. Both very entertaining, both full of inaccuracies.

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  22. Well this is awfully sad. I never knew the story. They were so damn young and so full of more music to share with the world.

    Love you.

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  23. I must have read and heard this story a dozen times, and it never ceases to touch me. Such a tragedy for them and their families, but how wonderful that in their short lives, they managed to influence so many people in the music industry.

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