Although [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Don McLean[/lastfm] has never given a full interpretation behind the lyrics to his famous song “American Pie,” it is largely believed to be a tribute to [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Buddy Holly[/lastfm], [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Ritchie Valens[/lastfm], and the [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Big Bopper[/lastfm] as they tragically died in a plane crash on this day in 1959.
On February 2, 1959, the day before the “music died,” Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and the Big Bopper played in Clear Lake, Iowa at the Surf Ballroom. They were the headliners of The Winter Dance Party tour that traveled throughout the blistering cold, Midwestern states during that winter.
Having already played shows in countless frigid cities, the 3 artists were about ready to climb into a freezing cold bus when an ill-fated decision would change their lives forever.
Buddy Holly decided he wanted to fork over the extra money and pay for a charter flight to get to their next gig in Moorhead, Minnesota. Holly extended the offer to the other artists on tour for $36 per ticket. The plane was supposed to land in Fargo, North Dakota – the closest airport to Moorhead.
[lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Dion[/lastfm] didn’t want to pay the $36 for the plane ticket. Bassist [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Waylon Jennings[/lastfm] didn’t mind flying but was sick, and instead gave his seat to JP Richardson, aka the Big Bopper.
Guitarist [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Tommy Allsup[/lastfm], tired of cold tour buses, wanted in on the flight and flipped a coin with Ritchie Valens to determine who would get the final seat on the plane. Valens guessed correctly.
Holly was so thrilled to be flying to his next destination, he engaged in a cheerful exchange with the ill bassist Waylon Jennings.
Holly said to him, “Well, I hope your old bus freezes up again.”
To which Jennings replied, “Well, hell, I hope your old plane crashes.”
So there they were – Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and the Big Bopper all flying out of Iowa heading north at 1am on February 3, 1959.
Little did they know they were traveling right into the heart of a blizzard. The plane went down and crashed in a cornfield in Mason City, Iowa shortly after take off.
Holly, Valens, Richardson and pilot Roger Peterson all died in the crash.
Their bodies were discovered later that morning at around 9:30am.
The Coroner’s Report Reads:
“The body of Charles H. Holley was clothed in an outer jacket of yellow leather-like material in which four seams in the back were split almost full length. The skull was split medially in the forehead and this extended into the vertex region. Approximately half the brain tissue was absent. There was bleeding from both ears, and the face showed multiple lacerations. The consistency of the chest was soft due to extensive crushing injury to the bony structure.[…] Both thighs and legs showed multiple fractures.”
Dion, who couldn’t afford the plane ticket, would go on to be an accomplished rock n’ roller.
Holly, only 22 at the time of his death, would be immortalized after the tragedy and is still considered by many to be one of the most talented artists in pop music history.