MIDDLEBURY-For an entire generation that came of age in the mid to late 1950s, the date of Feb. 3, 1959 will be remembered as the day the music died.
The now famous phrase-"the day the music died"-was actually coined 12 years after the fateful day in February by musician-poet Don McLean. McLean's 1971 "American Pie" rock-ballad mega hit told the tragic true tale of three of rock and roll's early heavy hitters. And the aftermath of the sad event forever altered the popular American music scene.
"On a cold winter's night a small private plane took off from Clear Lake, Iowa, bound for Fargo, N.D. It never made its destination," says 1950s enthusiast Candace Rich. Rich created a popular website titled Fiftiesweb.com.
"When that plane crashed, it claimed the lives of musicians Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, J.P. "Big Bopper" Richardson and the pilot, Roger Peterson. Three of rock and roll's most promising performers were gone. As Don McLean wrote in his classic music parable, "American Pie", it was the day the music died," Rich notes.
Rich also says that the young Buddy Holly hit the road on tour that year because he needed the money live performing offered.
Holly planned to headline the Winter Dance Party Tour which would visit 24 cities on a hectic, three-week schedule starting on Jan. 23, 1959.
The now tragic tour was supposed to wrap up on Feb. 15. Musician Waylon Jennings, Holly's longtime friend from Lubbock, Texas, and Tommy Allsup, were scheduled to be on call as Holly's backup musicians. A twist of fate saved Jennings' and Allsup's lives.
"Ritchie Valens, probably the hottest of the artists at the time, the Big Bopper, and Dion and the Belmonts would round out the list of performers," says Rich.
Rich continues her account of the tragic tale: