Just about everyone knows the song “American Pie” by Don McLean which frequently refers to, “The day the music died.”
That day was Feb. 3, 1959 when the chartered aircraft containing Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. Richardson, also known as “Big Bopper” on the radio, crashed in Iowa, killing all three musicians. They were performing in the Winter Dance Party Tour of the Midwest, grew tired of riding in the tour bus, and decided to charter a plane from Clear Lake, Iowa, to their next gig in Moorhead, Minnesota, according to Rolling Stone.
Unfortunately, their Beechcraft crashed a few minutes after taking off, killing everyone on board.
Rolling Stone referred to Buddy Holly as, “a rock & roll pioneer, as well as one of the genre’s first great singer-songwriters.” Holly, born Charles Hardin Holley, had his first hit, “That’ll Be the Day,” after two years of recording, although he had been performing music since the age of five, according to Rolling Stone.
His blossoming music career was cut short at the age of 22.
Ritchie Valens was known for “Donna,” a single which rose to number two on the Billboard’s singles chart, and that single’s B-side, “La Bamba,” which struck number 22 on the chart. The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame said in their biography on Valens, “This double-sided smash is one of the greatest rock and roll singles of the Fifties.” Born Richard Steven Valenzuela in Pacoima, a suburb in Los Angeles, he joined a dance band in his hometown at the age of 16, according to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. One year later, he auditioned for Bob Keane, the owner of the Del-Fi label, and subsequently began recording sessions. His second session resulted in the production of “Donna” and “La Bamba.” When the plane went down in 1959, Valens was only 17 years old.
Some might know J.P. Richardson as “The Big Bopper,” his radio persona at KTRM, according to Legacy.com.
At the age of 25, he married Adrianne Joy Fryou and together they started a family.
When Richardson left for the Winter Dance Party Tour at the age of 28, they had one daughter, Debbie, and his wife was pregnant with another child.
According to Legacy.com, although he had less than $100 to his name and would never get the chance to pick up his gold records, he would achieve three number-one hits posthumously.
Abbygail Vasas can be contacted at email@example.com