Saturday, November 20, 2010

Famous Sites in Popular Music -- Part Two: The Day the Music Died

In 1971, singer Don McLean released the seminal song and album, American Pie. Although written in a cryptic, poetic style, it was easy to see that the subject of the song was the plane crash death of three American rock and roll singers -- Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J. P. Richardson, AKA The Big Bopper. McLean referred to to the February 3, 1959 tragedy as The Day the Music Died.

The biggest star to perish that fateful night was Buddy Holly, a unique guitar player and vocalist from Lubbock, Texas. Buddy Holly and the Crickets had a number of popular hits including Oh Boy!, Peggy Sue, and That'll Be the Day.

The youngest performer to die was Ritchie Valens, a 17-year-old singer and guitar player from southern California. Although only 17, Valens was already making a name for himself across America with hits like LaBamba and Donna.

The final performer to die in the tragic flight was Texan J. P. Richardson, known as The Big Bopper. Richardson was famous for his song Chantilly Lace.

The evening before, the performers played at a popular spot, the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa.

After the concert, the musicians boarded a plane in nearby Mason City, Iowa. Shortly after take off, the plane crashed just north of Clear Lake, killing the three musicians and the pilot.

I had always wanted to visit the site of the plane crash and pay homage to the singers, so I made a road trip last June with my youngest daughter. We drove up to Clear Lake, Iowa, got directions, and immediately headed out to the crash site. Where along the country road to stop to find the site? Just look for the Buddy Holly marker!

Next step: Walk through a corn field. The memorial is located on private property, and the owners graciously allow pilgrims to visit.

A marker lets you know that you are almost there.

Then ... you are there. The memorial is small, with all kinds of small tributes, and frankly, junk all around.

A small memorial to the pilot was recently added.

Although the memorial is not aesthetically pleasing, just being at the site that changed the rock and roll music landscape forever is a powerful, and yet sad feeling that I will never forget.

And since this is a blog that purportedly is about poker and gambling, I have included a video of a related story -- the true version of how a coin flip right before the fateful flight changed music history, sparing one man and dooming another.

A long, long time ago...
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.

But February made me shiver
With every paper I’d deliver.
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,
But something touched me deep inside
The day the music died.

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Blogger Josie said...

Great post. Your daughter is adorable! She must take after her mom...

4:34 AM  
Blogger crafty said...

Good post lad - but let's remember that McLean meant for his song to be a repudiation of the then-current rock and roll scene; he was a bit of a prick.

But I think that Buddy Holly could have been anything he wanted to be; I'd bet his music would have matured much like the Beatles' did.

As always, well-written.

12:14 PM  
Blogger lightning36 said...

Gary, I saw Don McLean perform a free concert at a public park one time. "Bit of a prick" would be an understatement. : o )

3:25 PM  
Blogger Memphis MOJO said...

Good post. I love the Buddy Holly glasses thing.

10:23 PM  
Blogger PokahDave said...

This is a very cool series Light...very cool...

9:16 PM  

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