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Who Was With Buddy Holly in the Plane Crash?

The day has been referred to as “The Day the Music Died” due to Don McLean’s famous American Pie song.

Join us between 22nd October and 26th October for a stunning musical celebrating Buddy Holly.

Ritchie Valens

Born Richard Steven Valenzuela, Ritchie Valens was a forefather of the Chicano rock movement and a Spanish-speaking rock and roll pioneer. One of his most famous hits, La Bamba, was adapted from a Mexican folk song. He added both a rock beat and rhythm, making the song a hit in 1958.

Valens was a very accomplished guitarist and singer, having taught himself to play. He was known for regularly improvising lyrics and adding new riffs to famous songs when he played. He travelled through the Midwest on the “Winter Dance Party” tour, a rock and roll multiple-act.

Alongside him were Buddy Holly, J. P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson, Dion and the Belmonts, Frankie Sardo, and Buddy Holly’s new backup band with Carl Bunch on drums, Tommy Allsup on guitar, and Waylon Jennings on bass.


J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson

The Big Bopper, born Jiles Perry Richardson Jr, was an American songwriter, musician, and disc jockey. He started to call himself The Big Bopper when working at the KTRM radio on his own show, having seen college students dancing The Bop.

Richardson broke the continuous on-air broadcasting record by eight minutes in May 1957, by performing for five days, two hours, and eight minutes. He’s also credited for having created the first music video in 1958, having also recorded himself.

Harold “Pappy” Daily launched Richardson’s career as a recording artist. Richardson’s famous song Chantilly Lace spent 22 weeks in the national Top 40, having reached No. 6. The success of the song had him take time off the KTRM radio and joining Ritchie Valens, Buddy Holly, and Dion and the Belmonts on the “Winter Dance Party” tour in 1959.


The Day the Music Died

On the night of the 11th day of the “Winter Dance Party” tour, Buddy Holly chartered a plane for himself and his bandmates, Tommy Allsup and Waylon Jennings. The tour bus they had been travelling on for more than a week wasn’t reliable or warm, having already broken down twice.

The flight would have allowed the three to have a less tiring trip to Minnesota, letting them rest before the next show. 21-year old pilot Roger Peterson agreed to fly them on what were very cold conditions at -8℃.

Ritchie Valens had a friendly wager with Tommy Allsup and they both flipped a coin for a seat on the plane, with Valens winning the flip. On the fateful day of his death, Richardson had the flu and complained that the tour bus was too cold and too uncomfortable. Waylon Jennings voluntarily traded seats with him, allowing Richardson to take his seat on the plane.

Buddy Holly heard about his bandmates giving away their seats on the plane, jokingly saying, “Well, I hope your ol’ bus freezes up again.” Waylon Jennings replied with what would haunt him for the rest of his life, “Well, I hope your ol’ plane crashes.”

At 12.55 am on 3rd February 1959 and just five miles outside of Mason City, the plane carrying Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J. P. Richardson crashed into the ground at full speed. All three musicians and the pilot, Roger Peterson, died instantly.