Today in 1959, a few hours after their concert at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa, Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson got on a Beechcraft Bonanza in Mason City, Iowa, to fly to Fargo, N.D., for a concert in Moorhead, Minn.
The trio, along with Dion and the Belmonts, were part of the Winter Dance Party Tour, a 24-city tour over three weeks, with its ridiculously scheduled tour dates connected by bus.
Said bus, whose heater broke early in the tour, froze in below-zero temperatures two nights earlier between the scheduled concert in the Duluth, Minn., National Guard Armory, and the next scheduled location, the Riverside Ballroom in Green Bay.
Holly’s drummer had to be hospitalized with frostbite in his feet, and Valens also became ill. The tour got to Green Bay, but its scheduled concert in Appleton that evening was canceled.
After the concert in Clear Lake, Holly decided to rent an airplane. Holly’s bass player, Waylon Jennings, gave his seat to the Big Bopper because he was sick, and Valens won a coin flip with Holly’s guitarist, Tommy Allsup. Dion DiMucci chose not to take a seat because the $36 cost equaled his parents’ monthly rent.
As he was leaving, Holly told Jennings, “I hope your ol’ bus freezes up,” to which Jennings replied, “Well, I hope your ol’ plane crashes!”
Shortly after the 12:55 a.m. takeoff, the plane crashed, instantly killing Holly, Valens, the Big Bopper and the pilot.
The scheduled concert that evening went on, with organizers recruiting a 15-year-old, Robert Velline, and his band the Shadows. Bobby Vee went on to have a good career. So did a teenager in the audience, Robert Zimmerman of Hibbing, Minn., who became known a few years later as Bob Dylan.
The number one single today in 1968:
The number one single today in 1973:
The number one album today in 1979 was the Blues Brothers’ “Briefcase Full of Blues”:
Birthdays begin with one of Dion’s Belmonts, Angelo D’Aleo:
Dennis Edwards of the Temptations:
Eric Haydock played bass for the Hollies:
Dave Davies of the Kinks:
Two-hit wonder Melanie Safka:
Tony Butler played bass for Big Country:
Lol Tolhurst played keyboards for the Cure:
Who is Richie Kotzen? You know him as Mr. Big, whose career really wasn’t, having one hit: