Search This Blog

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

February 3, 1959

Welcome to the thirty-fourth day of 2015!  Otherwise known as February 3.

It's also time for another Tuesday Timeline entry, the day of the week in which we take a look at a significant event in pop culture history.  And, when it comes down to choosing a topic for today's discussion, there's really only one event that stood out.

And we'll get to that event a little later in this piece.  But for now, you all know the drill.  It's time to look at what else happened on February 3, as well as the famous faces who are turning another year older today.

1377 - The Cesena Bloodbath takes place which sees Papal Troops kill more than two thousand people in Cesena, Italy

1690 - The colony of Massachusetts issues the first paper money in the Americas

1809 - The Territory of Illinois is created by the 10th United States Congress

1870 - The ratification of the Fifteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution occurs, guaranteeing the right to vote to citizens, regardless of race

1897 - The Greco-Turkish War commences

1913 - The Federal Government of the United States begins to impose and collect income tax from citizens, following the ratification of the Sixteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution

1916 - Fire destroys the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

1924 - Former President of the United States Woodrow Wilson dies at the age of 67

1947 - The temperature of Snag, Yukon dips to a record -83 degrees Fahrenheit - the coldest temperature ever recorded in North America

1961 - The United States begins "Operation Looking Glass", which lasts until the early 1990s

1971 - NYPD Officer Frank Serpico is shot during a Brooklyn drug bust - he would survive his injuries and later testify against police corruption

1984 - John Buster and the Harbor-UCLA Medical Center research team announce history's first embryo transfer

1989 - Actor John Cassavetes dies of cirrhosis of the liver at the age of 59

1995 - Eileen Collins becomes the first female astronaut to pilot the Space Shuttle as mission STS-63 gets underway from Florida's Kennedy Space Center

1996 - Actress Audrey Meadows passes away at the age of 73

2003 - Record producer Phil Spector shoots and kills 40-year-old actress Lana Clarkson

2007 - A bombing incident at a Baghdad market kills 135 people and injures 339

That wraps up the event portion of the Timeline.  Next comes the following birthday wishes to the following people; Henry Heimlich, Shelley Berman, Val Doonican, Bridget Hanley, Blythe Danner, Stephen McHattie, Melanie Safka, Maev Alexander, Morgan Fairchild, Tiger Williams, Nathan Lane, Thomas Calabro, Michele Greene, Gary Webster, Maura Tierney, Dave Benson Phillips, Retief Goosen, Warwick Davis, Elisa Donovan, Eliza Schneider, Isla Fisher, Daddy Yankee, Adrian R'Mante, Alisa Reyes, Jessica Harp, Rebel Wilson, Ryne Sanborn, and Sean Kingston.

And now we get to today's date.  A date that music fans all over the world will automatically recognize.

February 3, 1959.  The Day The Music Died.

Now, most of you have probably heard that saying before.  In fact, that lyric is present in Don McLean's #1 hit single, "American Pie".  But I imagine that some of you in a younger demographic might not quite understand the significance of that statement.

Well, to explain it further, I want to introduce you to three musicians.

First, I want to introduce you to Buddy Holly.  Born with the name Charles Hardin Holley on September 7, 1936, Buddy was inspired to begin singing after seeing Elvis Presley performing in concert.  He was signed to a recording contract in 1956, right around the time he formed his own band, Buddy Holly & The Crickets.  He released a total of three albums in the late 1950s and had a few memorable hits such as the one below from 1957.

ARTIST:  Buddy Holly & The Crickets
SONG:  That'll Be The Day
ALBUM:  The "Chirping" Crickets

The next musician we're going to meet is Jiles Perry Richardson, but many people know him better by his stage name "The Big Bopper".  He was born in Sabine Pass, Texas on October 24, 1930, and initially got his start in radio playing records at KTRM radio in Beaumont, Texas.  Though he was drafted into the United States Army in 1955, immediately after being discharged two years later, he went back into the radio business.  At that time, it wasn't uncommon for disc jockeys to transition from record player to record maker, and in 1958, The Big Bopper (the name came from observing a group of college students performing a dance move known as "The Bop") released the following song, which peaked at #6 on the charts.

ARTIST:  The Big Bopper
SONG:  Chantilly Lace
ALBUM:  Chantilly Lace

TRIVIA:  The Big Bopper is credited with creating the very first music video a full twenty-three years before MTV debuted!

Last, but not least, I want to introduce you to Ritchie Valens, born Richard Valenzuela on May 13, 1941.  He first began his recording career in early 1958 when he was just a teenager.  But one could also consider him a sort of a child prodigy of music.  He taught himself how to play the guitar and started singing at a very early age.  Interestingly enough, his recording career almost ended as quickly as it began because of a fear of flying.  A freak accident which sent two planes crashing into a school playground made him fear boarding an airplane.  Eventually he overcame the fear long enough to make scheduled appearances on American Bandstand and other television shows.  Perhaps his two most well known singles were "Donna" and this classic.

ARTIST:  Ritchie Valens
SONG:  La Bamba
ALBUM:  Ritchie Valens
DATE RELEASED:  October 1958

So there you have it.  Three musicians each with a different background with one thing linking all three of them together permanently.

February 3, 1959 - the last day that the three of them would be seen alive.

At that time, the Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens were experiencing success with their latest singles and were in the process of doing promotional tours.  As well, Buddy Holly had just parted ways with The Crickets as well as his manager Norman Lubbock.  He had formed a brand new band which was comprised of Tommy Allsup, Carl Bunch, and Waylon Jennings and was looking at taking his career in a new direction.

As it so happens, all three musicians decided to take part in the "Winter Dance Party Tour" which began on January 23, 1959 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  The tour would last twenty-four days and play in twenty-four different locations throughout the Midwest United States.  In addition, Dion and The Belmonts were also added to the roster of performers.  Remember this for later.

Right off the bat, it seemed as though the Winter Dance Party Tour sustained one setback after another.  The heating system on the tour bus was exactly the most reliable, and after a day and a half of touring, it finally gave out, subjecting everyone inside the tour bus to frigid temperatures.  Several people ended up getting sick with the flu, including Carl Bunch, who was forced into the hospital after suffering terrible frostbite on his feet as a result of the cold temperatures inside of the tour bus.  Eventually a school bus was swapped out for the tour bus, and Holly, Valens, and Dion took turns playing the drums over the next few performances, as Bunch was still hospitalized at the time.

On February 2, 1959, the tour made an unscheduled stop at Clear Lake, Iowa which would be the last time that Holly, The Big Bopper, and Valens would perform in public ever again.  The performance went off without a hitch, but growing increasingly frustrated over riding in the bus, Holly decided enough was enough.  He had the idea to charter a plane to North Dakota.  Then the rest of the band could pick him up there en route to the next gig in Minnesota.  The plane that Holly settled on was a single-engine 1947 Beechcraft Bonanza 35, N3794N, and in addition to Holly and the pilot - 21-year-old Roger Peterson - two more passengers could fit on the plane at a cost of $36 per person (or $215 per person in 2015 funds).

Dion was offered one of the seats, but he could not justify spending so much money on a single plane ticket and opted to stay on the bus instead.  This decision likely saved his life.

Waylon Jennings was also spared, for he agreed to give up his seat so that The Big Bopper (who had been suffering from the flu) could fly instead.  Holly heard of the switch and told Jennings that he wished his bus would freeze up, to which Jennings replied that he wished their plane crashed.

That remark would come back to haunt Jennings.

The third seat was settled with the toss of a coin.  Both Valens and Tommy Allsup wanted seats on the plane and the coin toss gave Valens - once afraid of flying - the final seat on the plane.

So, Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper, and Ritchie Valens were on the plane which departed from the airport just before one in the morning on February 3, 1959, while the others departed by bus.

The plane crashed less than six miles from the airport.  The three musicians, as well as the pilot were killed.  The cause of the crash was attributed to a combination of pilot error (the pilot was only twenty-one and was still taking flight instrumentation tests) and terrible weather (snow was in the forecast that night).

The deaths of Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper, and Ritchie Valens sent shockwaves throughout the music community, and many mourned the loss of the three musicians, cut down way before their time.

J.P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson was 28 at the time of his death.
Buddy Holly was only 22.
And Ritchie Valens was just three months shy of his eighteenth birthday.

Despite the tragic loss, the Winter Dance Party Tour continued on.  Dion and the Belmonts remained on the setlist for the rest of the tour, and Bobby Vee, Frankie Avalon, Jimmy Clanton, and Fabian were added to the roster.  The decision to continue with the tour clearly had some mixed reactions.  Some were upset that the tour continued, believing that it was slap in the face to those who died, but others supported it, saying that the move was exactly what Holly, Valens, and The Big Bopper would have wanted.

Either way, the events of February 3, 1959 left a hole in the heart of music for many decades, and many often wonder what might have been had the accident never happened.  I guess we'll never truly know.

No comments:

Post a Comment