Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Day The Music Died

written by Robert Benson


The day is immortalized in the legendary Don McLean song “American Pie.” It was a day that saddened music lovers all over the world and shocked the music industry. It was the day the music died.

We are of course referring to the plane crash in Clear Lake, Iowa, that claimed the lives of rock and roll musicians Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson. The crash, which occurred on February 3, 1959, is now over fifty years old. Let’s explore some of the details of “the day the music died.”

The Winter Dance Party began at the Eagles Club in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on January 23, 1959. It featured the aforementioned stars, Dion Deuce as well as an aspiring teen idol named Frankie Sardou. The tour was set to cover twenty-four Midwestern cities in a span of three weeks. The tour was a logistical nightmare with the amount of travel that was required. Adding to this problem was a tour bus that was ill-equipped to deal with the weather conditions in that part of the country; its heating system broke down shortly after the tour began. In fact, one musician, drummer Carl Bunch, developed a severe case of frostbite to his feet that required hospitalization (Holly and Valens took turns on the drums). It got so cold on the bus that the musicians started burning newspapers in the aisle in a desperate attempt to keep warm.

What’s interesting is that the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake was not intended to be a stop on the tour, but the promoters, hoping to fill an open date, contacted the manager of the establishment and offered him the show. He accepted and the date was set for February 2nd.

However, Holly was so frustrated and tired of the malfunctioning tour bus that he told his fellow musicians that, once the show was over, they should attempt to charter a plane to get to the next stop on the tour; which was Moorhead, Minnesota. So flight arrangements were made with Roger Peterson, who was a local pilot employed at Dwyer Flying Service, based in Mason City, Iowa. The fee was $36 per passenger and the single-engine plane could seat three musicians in addition to the pilot.

But there was a dilemma, who would fly and who would get to the next destination via the tour bus? Obviously, Holly and the pilot were aboard which left two seats open. Dion was approached to buy a seat, but he thought that the price of $36 was way too much. He recalled his parents arguing about the rent, which coincidently was $36 per month and he could not bring himself to pay an entire month’s rent for a short plane ride.

J.P. Richardson had come down with a bout of the flu and asked one of Holly’s band mates, Waylon Jennings, for his seat on the plane and Jennings gave up his seat. Ritchie Valens, who was also feeling the effects of the freezing tour bus, asked Holly’s other band mate Tommy All sup for his seat. Allsup replied that he would flip a coin, with the winner getting the last seat on the plane. Now, contrary to what has been depicted in the biographical movies, the coin toss was not done by Holly; nor did it occur at the airport. The coin toss occurred at the Ballroom shortly before they departed for the airport and was actually done by a DJ who was working the concert that night.

The plane took off at 1 a.m. on February 3, 1959 from Mason City Municipal Airport. Approximately 1:05 a.m., Jerry Dwyer, owner of Dwyer Flying Service could see the lights of the plane start to descend from the sky to the ground. The pilot was supposed to file his flight plan once airborne, but he never contacted the tower. By 3:30 a.m., after multiple attempts to contact his pilot and the fact that the airport in Fargo, Minnesota had not heard from Peterson, Dwyer contacted the authorities to report the plane missing.

The doomed aircraft had just made it a few miles from the airport. The pilot (who was not certified to fly at night) may have been confused by the darkness and the light snow that was falling. The plane hit the ground nose first at an estimated 150mph killing all four men instantly.

crash site


In 1976, when the first Buddy Holly Week was held, Paul McCartney was presented with the cuff links Buddy Holly wore the night of the crash. McCartney purchased the rights to Holly’s song publishing and began organizing the annual celebration five years later.

On February 29, 1980, an old police file containing Buddy Holly’s horn rimmed glasses and a watch owned by J. P. Richardson were located by the Mason City Sheriff. The items were recovered at the crash site.

In the 2000 film Almost Famous, the band's plane is caught in bad weather, at which point one of the band members begins to sing the Buddy Holly song "Peggy Sue.”

Deciding that the show must go on at the next stop, Moorhead, MN, they looked for local talent to fill in. Just across the state line from Moorhead, in Fargo ND, they found a 15 year old talent named Bobby Vee.

The crash that ended the lives of Holly, Valens, and Richardson was the break that began the career of Vee.

Tommy Allsup would one day open a club named "The Head's Up Saloon," a tribute to the coin toss that saved his life.

Waylon Jennings would become a hugely popular Country singer.

Dion DiMucci would enjoy a long lived solo career.

Ritchie Valens:

Inscribed on Ritchie Valens' grave are the words, "Come On, Let's Go."

Valens was a pioneer of Chicano rock, Latin rock and was an inspiration to many musicians of Latino heritage. He influenced the likes of Los Lobos, Los Lonely Boys, and Carlos Santana among countless others at a time when there were very few Latinos in American rock and pop music. He is considered the first Latino to ever successfully cross over into Rock mainstream.

"La Bamba" would prove to be his most influential recording; not only by becoming a pop chart hit sung entirely in Spanish but also because of its successful blending of traditional Latin American music with rock. He was a pioneer and was an inspiration for many after his tragic death. Valens was the first to capitalize on this formula which would later be adopted by such varied artists as Selena, Caifanes, Cafe Tacuba, Circo, El Gran Silencio, Aterciopelados, Gustavo Santaolalla, and many others in the Latin Alternative scene. Ironically, the Valenzuela family spoke only English at home, and Ritchie knew very little Spanish. Ritchie learned the lyrics of "La Bamba" phonetically in order to record the song in Spanish.

"Come on Let's Go" has been covered by Los Lobos, The Ramones and "The Paley Brothers”; (jointly, The Ramones on guitar, bass, and drums and The Paley Brothers on vocals), Tommy Steele, The Huntingtons and The McCoys.

"Donna" has been covered by artists as diverse as MxPx, Cliff Richard, The Youngbloods, Clem Snide, Cappadonna, and The Misfits among many others.

Robert Quine has cited Valens' guitar playing as an early influence on his style.

Donna Ludwig, Ritchie's girlfriend, is today still recognized as "Ritchie's Donna.” Her personalized license plate reads "ODONNA.”

Ritchie's nephew, Ernie Valens, has toured worldwide playing his uncle's songs, including a new version of the "Winter Dance Party" tour with Buddy Holly impersonator John Mueller. This tour has taken place at many of the original 1959 venues in the Midwest.

Valens also appeared in biopic films. Valens was depicted in the 1987 biopic film La Bamba, which was about his life. The film's time period was from 1957 to 1959, in which his age was 16 to 17. It introduced Lou Diamond Phillips as Valens and co-starred Esai Morales as his older half-brother, Bob Morales. Los Lobos performed most of the music in the film.

Valens was portrayed by Gilbert Melgar in the final scene of The Buddy Holly Story and Valens will also be depicted in the upcoming 2009 film The Day the Music Died. Valens will be portrayed by Joseph Thornhillas in the 2009 film Lives and Deaths of the Poet.

Big Bopper:

Richardson's son, Jay Richardson, took up a musical career and is known professionally as "The Big Bopper, Jr." He has performed all around the world.

Notably, he has toured on the "Winter Dance Party" tour with Buddy Holly impersonator John Mueller on some of the same stages as his father performed.

In January 2007, Richardson's son Jay requested that his father's body be exhumed and an autopsy be performed to settle the rumors that a gun was fired or that Richardson initially survived the crash. The autopsy was performed by Dr. Bill Bass, a forensic anthropologist at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Jay was present with Dr. Bass throughout the entire autopsy and observed as the casket was opened; both men were surprised to find the remains well enough preserved to be recognizable as those of the late rock star. "Dad still amazes me 48 years after his death, that he was in remarkable shape," Richardson told the Associated Press. "I surprised myself. I handled it better than I thought I would."

Dr. Bass' findings indicated there were no signs of foul play. He was quoted as saying "There are fractures from head to toe. Massive fractures. ... (Richardson) died immediately. He didn't crawl away. He didn't walk away from the plane."

After the autopsy, Richardson's body was placed in a new casket made by the same company as the original, then was reburied next to his wife in Beaumont's Forest Lawn Cemetery. Jay then allowed the old casket to be put on display at the Texas Musician's Museum.

Buddy Holly:

Buddy Holly Monument

Contrary to popular belief, teenagers John Lennon and Paul McCartney did not attend a Holly concert, although they watched his TV appearance on "Sunday Night at the London Palladium"; Tony Bramwell, a school friend of McCartney and George Harrison, did. Keith Richards attended one of the gigs, where he heard "Not Fade Away" for the first time. Bramwell met Holly, and freely shared his records with all three. Lennon and McCartney later cited Holly as a primary influence. (Their band's name, The Beatles, was chosen partly in homage to Holly's Crickets.) The Beatles did a cover version of "Words of Love" that was a close reproduction of Holly's version.

McCartney owns the publishing rights to Holly's song catalogue.

A young Bob Dylan attended the January 31, 1959 show, two nights before Holly's death. Dylan referred to this in his 1998 Grammy acceptance speech for his 1997 Time out of Mind winning Album of the Year.

Various rock and roll histories have asserted that the singing group The Hollies were named in homage to Buddy Holly. According to the band's website, although the group admired Holly (and years later produced an album covering some of his songs), their name was inspired primarily by the sprigs of holly in evidence around Christmas of 1962.

After the death of Buddy he would leave a trail of followers from Bob Dylan, to Elvis Costello, Paul Simon, and The Beatles. Also, one of The Rolling Stones early hits was a cover of "Not Fade Away.”

Eddie Cochran, good friend and fellow rock 'n' roll pioneer was so distraught by the deaths of Holly, Valens, and The Big Bopper that he recorded the song "Three Stars" as a tribute. The song was not released until after Cochran's own premature death, because he was too upset to allow it to be issued in his lifetime.

The Smithereens' song "Maria Elena" is a Buddy Holly tribute as sung to his widow.

Blink-182 has a song named "Peggy Sue" which is a tribute to Holly.

Buddy Holly on the Arthur Murray Dance Party 12/29/57

Phil Ochs famously sang a long tribute to Buddy Holly on the infamous Gunfight at Carnegie Hall album.

Mike Berry released a 1961 single called "Tribute to Buddy Holly.” It was written by Geoff Goddard and produced by Joe Meek, who was a great Buddy Holly fan. In the USA, it was released on Coral, Buddy Holly's label.

Weezer's self-titled debut album features the band's popular single "Buddy Holly.”

Musician Albert Hammond, Jr. has a cover of "Well... Alright" on his 2007 album Yours To Keep.

Don McLean's popular 1971 ballad "American Pie" is inspired by the day of the plane crash. He has also covered "Everyday.”

(What the song is talkin' about!)
By Rich Kulawiec

The entire song is a tribute to Buddy Holly and a commentary on how rock and roll changed in the years since his death. McLean seems to be lamenting the lack of "danceable" music in rock and roll and (in part) attributing that lack to the absence of Buddy Holly et. al. (Verse 1)

A long, long time ago...

"American Pie" reached #1 in the US in 1972, but the album containing it was released in 1971. Buddy Holly died in 1959.

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

One of early rock and roll's functions was to provide dance music for various social events. McLean recalls his desire to become a musician playing that sort of music.

But February made me shiver,

Buddy Holly died on February 3, 1959 in a plane crash in Iowa during a snowstorm. The news came to most of the world on the morning of February 3, which is why it's known as The Day The Music Died.

With every paper I'd deliver,

Don McLean's only job besides being a full-time singer-songwriter was being a paperboy.

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

Holly's recent bride, Maria Elena, was pregnant when the crash took place; she had a miscarriage shortly afterward.

But something touched me deep inside,
The day the music died.

The same plane crash that killed Buddy Holly also took the lives of Richie Valens ("La Bamba") and The Big Bopper ("Chantilly Lace"). Since all three were so prominent at the time, February 3, 1959 became known as "The Day The Music dies”.

So... (Refrain)
Bye bye Miss American Pie,

Miss American Pie *is* rock and roll music. Don McLean dated a Miss America candidate during the pageant. (unconfirmed)

Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry
Them good ole boys were drinkin' whiskey and rye
Singing "This'll be the day that I die,
This'll be the day that I die."

One of Holly's hits was "That'll be the Day"; the chorus contains the line "That'll be the day that I die"

Ask Mr. Music by Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: I have an unusual question for you in honor of your 25th year of Mr. Music.

Has there ever been a commercial 78 rpm recorded in stereo? I believe both technologies were mutually exclusive, but I could be wrong.
—Scott Vroegindewey, Kansas City, Mo.

DEAR SCOTT: How could the answer be no, which it is, along with your being wrong regarding the mutual exclusivity of the two technologies?

Strange but true.

Knowing your question pertains only to records from the true 78 era — pre-1961 in the USA — we shall dismiss microgroove 78 rpms made years later, either as a gimmick or for 78 rpm juke boxes. All but a few of those are monaural, and they play using a modern-era stylus made for vinyl and polystyrene record play.

Manufacturing a multi-channel (binaural) shellac disc was impossible, but even if it could have been made, no one could faithfully reproduce it with the existing, horizontal-only tracking, 78 needle pick-up systems. Stereo requires both horizontal and vertical pick-up.

Necessity is so often the mother of invention, but in this matter there was no need, and no demand.

Regardless, during a Duke Ellington and His Famous Orchestra session (February 3, 1932) at the Victor studio in New York City, the two technologies had a close encounter of the enduring kind.

Ellington's only recording that day would be a lengthy (7:46) three-song instrumental medley, combining “Mood Indigo”; “Hot and Bothered”; and “Creole Love Call.”

In what today's technicians might consider an antediluvian experiment, engineers set up two separate lathes, or disc-cutting machines, with each one picking up the sounds on its side of the studio. A brilliant idea at the time.

There is very little separation and nearly all of the mid-room audio is heard on both recordings, but some instruments are more noticeable on the left and right sides. That qualifies as true stereo, though they didn't call it that at the time.

Unfortunately, hearing both the left and right recordings required two separate players, and the playing of both discs at the exact same time. Definitely not something a consumer would ever consider, but they managed somehow and the events of that day provided something historic for remastering in 1999.

That's when the complete STEREO “Mood Indigo-Hot and Bothered-Creole Love Call” medley appeared on “The Best of the Duke Ellington Centennial Edition” compact disc (RCA Victor 090266345922). This 18-track sampler is easily available from all the usual outlets.

Oh yes, thank you for the silver anniversary nod.

DEAR JERRY: When Margaret Whiting died earlier this month, it reminded me of a list you ran several years ago, of the living top Pop stars of the pre-rock era.

Now, how many on that short list are no longer with us?
—Sue Catchings, Evansville, Ind.

DEAR SUE: Since the list first appeared (October 2006), we have lost four of the original 10: Frankie Laine (March 30, 1913 - February 6, 2007); Jo Stafford (November 12, 1917 - July 16, 2008); Margaret Whiting (July 22, 1924 - January 10, 2011); and Eddie Fisher (August 10, 1928 - September 22, 2010).

That leaves us with Tony Martin (December 25, 1912); Kay Starr (July 21, 1922); Doris Day (April 3, 1924); Tony Bennett (August 3, 1926); Patti Page (November 8, 1927); and Vic Damone (June 12, 1928).

Still performing are: Tony Martin (98); Kay Starr (88); Tony Bennett (84); and Patti Page (83).

IZ ZAT SO? Here is a list we have not previously compiled, of 31 more living singers and musicians, each of whom is at least an octogenarian:

George Beverly Shea (102 as of February 1, 2011)
Johnny Wright (96)
Ralph Stanley (94)
Patty Andrews (92)
Pete Seger (91)
Kitty Wells (91)
Dave Brubeck (90)
Ravi Shankar (90)
Little Jimmy Dickens (90)
Jimmy McCracklin (89)
Johnny Otis (89)
Kitty Kallen (88)
Slim Whitman (87)
Bonnie Guitar (87)
Earl Scruggs (87)
Roger Williams (86)
B.B. King (85)
Ray Price (85)
Ferlin Husky (85)
Stan Freberg (84)
Chuck Berry (84)
Ed Ames (83)
Andy Williams (83)
Jimmy C. Newman (83)
Fats Domino (82)
Sonny James (81)
Leroy Van d**e (81)
Bobby Bland (80)
Joni James (80)
Jan Howard (80)
Liz Anderson (80)

Jerry Osborne answers as many questions as possible through this column. Write Jerry at: Box 255, Port Townsend, WA 98368 E-mail:  Visit his Web site:  

All values quoted in this column are for near-mint condition.

Copyright 2010 Osborne Enterprises- Reprinted By Permission

Vinyl Record News & Notes, Did You Know?

HEAVY METAL FILM FESTIVAL: Official Artwork Revealed

Los Angeles-based painter/cartoonist Tom Neely has dedicated his talents to creating the official artwork for the first annual Heavy Metal Film Festival, set to take place at the Downtown Independent Cinema in Los Angeles, California this coming March 31 through April 3.

Festival organizer and long-time metalhead Samuel Douek states the following about his collaboration with Neely: "Hollywood has certainly seen a fair amount of film festivals, but none as heavy as this! The artwork celebrates the heavy arrival of metal in Hollywood and I'm very happy with Tom Neely's fingerprints being all over this soon-to-be historical event."


Fireforce Uploads "March On" Cover Art

Belgium's Fireforce has uploaded the cover artwork for the band's new album "March On." Fireforce also recently commented on the album:

"Be prepared for 12 tracks of pure true heavy metal with a monster wall of sound! The recordings for the new Fireforce album 'March On' are already done under the supervision of R.D. Liapakis (Mystic Prophecy, Suicidal Angels, Orden Ogan, Eldritch, etc.). Guest guitars solos by Constantine, guitar player of Mystic Prohpecy (follower of GUS G) and Decsending.

"Eric Philippe, well known for his work with Rhapsody, Riot, Mob Rules, TNT and many others, created and realized the Fireforce logo and artwork. Release Date: 25th March 2011 over the 7HARD label. Watch out for big promotion in magazines like Rock Hard, Heavy, Rock Tribune, Terrorizer, Rock It, etc."

Great album cover art!


Metallica Planning To Enter The Recording Studio In Spring

In a recent interview with the Danish tabloid newspaper, Ekstra Bladet, Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich said that the band is looking to enter the recording studio this Spring to start work on the band's next studio album, its first since 2008's 'Death Magnetic.'

"There is a really good vibe in the band at the moment. Previously, Metallica would hang us by the throat when we came home from a mammoth world tour, but this time it's different. Therefore it does not appear to be a long time before we start work on a new album. I think we'll be ready in March and April - when the creative process reaches a boil we'll go into the studio.

"We really enjoy it now. It has helped in our relationship that we all have families and that we have children who work well together. There were some bad years when we never really talked together, we just hopped in a vodka bottle and went out to look for ladies. It meant we did not share our feelings with each other. Today we talk a lot about our children and our families, and it has helped that we have something else to talk about than what setlist is tonight."


Junos To Honor Neil Young

Canadian singer-songwriter Neil Young is scheduled to receive the 2011 Allan Waters Humanitarium Award during the March 27 Juno Awards telecast in Toronto. The award recognizes "a Canadian artist whose humanitarian contributions have positively enhanced the social fabric of Canada."

"We are thrilled to salute Neil Young's committed and compassionate legacy," said Melanie Berry, president/CEO of the Junos. "As a driving force behind one of music's most successful fundraising events, Farm Aid, and a key participant in Live 8 right here at home, his tenacity and spirit is highly regarded among his peers, and serves as an inspiration to all of us."


Video for R.E.M.'s "My Smells Like Honey"

R.E.M. have just released the song "Mine Smells Like Honey" as the first single from their upcoming album 'Collapse Into Now,' which is due out on March 8. Check out more at remhq


Foo Fighters Announce New Album Release Date

Foo Fighters have recently announced that their as-yet-untitled seventh studio album will be released in the UK on April 11. The LP will be their first of new material since 2007's 'Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace' topped the UK Album Charts. It was also nominated for five Grammy Awards.

Long labelled as one of the "nicest men in rock," the group's modest front man Dave Grohl has had the band recording their new output in his garage with Nirvana's 'Nevermind' producer Butch Vig. It's the first time the pair have worked together since that album, and is far from the only renewed link to Grohl's previous band.

The BBC revealed that, in a series of news snippets leaked on their social networking accounts including Facebook and Twitter, the group have revealed that Nirvana co-founder and guitarist Krist Novoselic will make a cameo on the new album, while their former touring guitarist Pat Smear will formally join the "Foo Fighters core."


Ghost Heart – The Tunnel LP

Grand Rapids, Michigan quartet Ghost Heart have just released their stunning debut full-length, 'The Tunnel,' via Friction Records.

Available on both CD and 12″ vinyl (clear + pink / amber), The Tunnel features accessible yet expansive rock songs that synthesize electronica, American folk, samples, tribal percussion, shoegaze guitar sounds and layered vocals to produce an effect that is at once joyously communal and deeply personal. Ghost Heart’s sound has been described by the Detroit Metro Times as “a little of Animal Collective and Vampire Weekend, only with more heart.” Instantly gratifying in some moments, challenging in others, The Tunnel is a unique listening experience.


Chaz Martenstein of Bull City Records

At 1916 Perry St., in Durham, N.C., Bull City Records hangs above a video-rental store. Together, the businesses are an anachronistic presence on the Durham side-street within spitting distance of Duke University’s campus. Other neighbors sell burritos, dance lessons and jewelry. But here, in the midst of it, two shops fight to give their customers an opportunity to see and hear things they won’t likely find by perusing the iTunes Store. Chaz Martenstein, Bull City’s proprietor, treats his station like a pharmacist’s, dispensing cures for what ails ya, whatever it might be.

But, this is the age of the Internet. Music and movies are omnipresent, available for the cost of a few minutes and the occasional virus. And as the record industry continues its much-publicized fall, Martenstein’s perch over Perry Street might seem a perilous one.

But from where he sits, things don’t seem so bleak. Bull City records is celebrating its fifth anniversary this month......

Read the rest HERE Bull City Records/


Did You Know?

more stuff everybody should know...

There are over 58 million dogs in the U.S!

Dogs and cats consume over $11 billion worth of pet food a year!

Some ribbon worms will eat themselves if they cant find any food!

To "testify" was based on men in the Roman court swearing to a statement made by swearing on their testicles.

Dolphins sleep with one eye open!

One gallon of used motor oil can ruin approximately one million gallons of fresh water!

More money is spent on gardening than on any other hobby!


In Tennessee, it is against the law to drive a car while sleeping.

and in music today:
Frankie Avalon's "Venus" was released in 1959.

The Coasters song, "Charlie Brown," was released i 1959.

In 1959, Buddy Holly, Richard Valens and The Big Bopper all appeared at the Surf Ballroom, Clear Lake, Iowa. This was all three acts last ever gig before being killed in a plane crash the following day.

In response to a storm of controversy in 1964, Max Firetag, the publisher of The Kingsmen's hit, "Louie Louie", offers $1,000 to anyone who can find suggestive lyrics in the song. The reward is small change considering that the disc cost less than $50 to record and has sold millions of copies.

The Rolling Stones released "19th Nervous Breakdown" in 1966.

In 1968, Simon and Garfunkel record "Mrs. Robinson", which will become their second US number one and win a Grammy Award for Record Of The Year.

The Midnight Special premieres on NBC-TV with Helen Reddy as host. Wolfman Jack would later take over for an eight-and-a-half-year run.

In 1979, Sex Pistols bassist Sid Vicious died of a heroin overdose in New York City. There had been a party to celebrate Vicious’ release on $50,000 bail pending his trial for the murder of his former girlfriend, Nancy Spungen, the previous October. Party guests, said that Vicious had taken heroin at midnight. An autopsy confirmed that Vicious died from an accumulation of fluid in the lungs that was consistent with heroin overdose. A syringe, spoon and heroin residue were discovered near the body.

Foreigner started a two-week run at #1 on the US singles charts in 1985 with "I Want To Know What Love Is."
In 2007, US keyboardist Joe Hunter, a veteran session musician as one of the Funk Brothers who helped craft the distinctive Motown sound, died in Detroit, Michigan, at the age of 79. Hunter performed with such legendary Motown acts as Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson and Martha and the Vandellas.

Born on this day In 1942, Graham Nash, guitar, vocals, with The Hollies who he left in 1968. Member of Crosby Stills Nash & Young