Books and Beyond
“The Day the Music Died: The Last Tour of Buddy Holly, the ‘Big Bopper,’ and Ritchie Valens,” c 1997, is sure the book to help me remember my teenage years. Marshall-Lyon County Library has this book, plus “Rave On: the biography of Buddy Holly,” by Philip Norman, c 1996, and the DVD “The Buddy Holly Story: Music Never Felt This Good,” c 1978. Several years ago I bought the CD “Buddy Holly & The Crickets: Greatest Hits”; it was recorded in 2008 in Ireland.
My shelf of 45s includes six with Buddy Holly and the Crickets. My favorite is “Oh Boy.” “That’ll Be The Day,” recorded in 1957, was his first big hit.
It took author Larry Lehmer 19 years to write “The Day the Music Died.” He traveled all over Minnesota, Iowa, and Wisconsin to visit with people who could remember the Winter Dance Tour in these states in January and early February 1959.
In the first section of the book, “Coming Together,” we read about each of the three singers who were killed in the Feb. 3, 1959, plane crash in northern Iowa. J.P. Richardson and Ritchie Valens were well-known individually before they joined Buddy Holly for the Winter Dance Tour in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Iowa.
Buddy Holly was born in 1936 in Texas. As a teenager he was in high school in Lubbock, and he was already playing country music on his guitar. In February 1955, Elvis Presley made an appearance in Lubbock, and Holly and Bob Montgomery were the opening act. This helped Holly move from country music to “rock ‘n’ roll” (p. 7). During these early years, Holly also played with Marty Robbins and with Bill Haley and his Comets.
Holly is with the Crickets, and they perform on Dick Clark’s “American Bandstand.” Then they were in concerts with Fats Domino, the Everly Brothers, and Chuck Berry in Pittsburg. They did a 17-day tour in the northeast, and were on the Ed Sullivan show for the second time. After that they had a 25-day tour in England. Waylon Jennings was often in the band, too.
Holly married Maria Elena Santiago, a native of Puerto Rico, in August 1958. He had proposed to her on their first date.
The first well-known recording for J.P. Richardson, “The Big Bopper,” was “Chantilly Lace,” in 1958. He was a well-known disc jockey in Texas by the time he was 22 years old. He is known for doing a continuous broadcast for 122 hours and eight minutes. The last record he played before he was taken to the hospital was Presley’s “All Shook Up.”
Ritchie Valens was born in Los Angeles in 1941. His father died when Ritchie was 10 years old, and he went to live with his mother, who had remarried. There were ups and downs in his life as a teenager. People, though, knew that he was a good guitar player. In 1957 he played with The Silhouettes. The first song he is well-known for is “La Bamba.”
On the East Coast, Valens was on “American Bandstand” and other television shows. Then back to California he performed at many places with different groups.
The next section of the book is “The Winter Dance Party.” It begins with a map of Minnesota, Iowa, and Wisconsin, showing the places on the tour. It began in Milwaukee on Jan. 23, 1959, and ended in Clear Lake, Iowa. It was winter, and the weather was cold and snowy. They would have a concert at night, usually sleep at a motel in that town, and the next day travel in a bus for their next concert. On the night of Jan. 27, their concert was at Fiesta Ballroom in Montevideo.
In the Jan. 27, 2019, issue of the Montevideo American-News, there was an article about the 1959 concert –he 60th anniversary. It starts out: “This Sunday, Jan. 27, marks the 60th anniversary of the Winter Dance Party tour stop at the Fiesta Ballroom in Montevideo.
My journal for 2009 tells of two presentations we went to that either focused on Buddy Holly or included him. On May 18, Howard and I attended “Jukebox Rock,” the 2009 Pop Concert at Lakeview High School in Cottonwood. We recognize the names of the students who played in the bands or sang.
On Friday, Oct. 9, 2009, we went to “The Buddy Holly Story,” a History Theatre Production in Saint Paul. I remember where we sat in the balcony.
Then in 2014 we went to the Surf Ballroom, and the photo you see of us dancing was taken there on July 21, 2014. I have a dozen photos we took that day in Clear Lake and will always cherish them.
Your Marshall Lyon County Library has many music documentaries featuring a variety of artists including Linda Ronstadt (a patron favorite), Glen Campbell, Fleetwood Mac, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, Bob Dylan, ABBA and more! Find them in the 780s in the DVD section.
Library hours are Monday-Friday 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Drive-up window open Monday-Friday 4 -5:30 p.m. and Saturday 9 a.m.-noon, marshalllyonlibrary.org