Today marks 55 years since Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper, and Ritchie Valens got on board a plane in Clear Lake, Iowa to get to their next concert date in Fargo, North Dakota. It was all a part of a 24 city tour called the “Winter Dance Party Tour” and the shows included Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper, Ritchie Valens (only 17 years old at the time), and Dion and the Belmonts. It also had a very young Waylon Jennings and Tommy Allsup along for the ride as back-up singers.
On the tour, they had all been riding on a tour bus. The tour bus had problems with the heater and by the time they got to Clear Lake, Buddy had enough and hired a plane to take them to the next stop on the tour in Fargo. After the show in Clear Lake they were all getting ready to travel. Buddy got on the plane. Dion did not want to pay $36 to fly so he gave up his seat. Waylon Jennings gave his seat to J.P. Richardson because he was not feeling well. Tommy Allsup flipped a coin with Ritchie Valens for the last seat. Ritchie said “Heads” and won the toss to fly.
The plane took off at around 1am in a very bad snowstorm and crashed only a few minutes later. Because the snow was so bad people could not see it off in the distance as it took off. When it crashed, it did not catch fire, so there was no way to tell. It was only the next morning the crash was noticed only a short distance from a country road.
Don McLean put it into word in his song “American Pie”. It is said that when Don was young he had a paper route. He heard about Buddy Holly’s death while he was out on his paper route, thus the line “February made me shiver with every paper I’d deliver…”.