Fifty years today, around 1 a.m. local time, a light plane carrying Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J. P. Richardson ("The Big Bopper") crashed near Clear Lake, Iowa. All on board, including pilot Roger Peterson were killed.
In those days, rock concerts were bus tours with several acts sharing the bus and the stage. The Winter Dance Party covered 24 Midwestern cities in just three weeks. After many days on the road, Buddy Holly was sick of the bus. A plane, a Beechcraft Bonanza B35, was chartered for $36 per person to carry Holly's band to the next stop, Moorhead, Minnesota. Holly's original band, the Crickets, was gone back to Texas. Waylon Jennings gave up his seat to Richardson, who had the flu. Valens had never flown before and Tommy Allsup agreed to flip him for the seat. Dion DiMucci of Dion and the Belmonts was the fourth headliner on the tour and was invited on the plane, but thought that the $36 fee was too much.
The plane took off from the Mason County Municipal Airport at 1 a.m. Around 3:30 a.m., when the pilot had not contacted the Fargo airport, the plane was reported missing. The plane's owner, Jerry Dwyer, took off the next morning to look for them. The wreckage was found in a cornfield just five miles northwest of the airport. Investigators determined that the crash was due to the bad weather conditions and pilot error.
In his epic "American Pie," Don McLean dubbed February 3, 1959, "the day the music died."
American Pie - Don McLean