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The Day The Music Died

Buddy Holly Gravesite (Getty Images)

In the Don McLean song “American Pie”, it’s known as the “day the music died.” It’s the day in 1959 when Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and “the Big Bopper” J.P. Richardson were killed when their plane crashed during a snowstorm in an Iowa cornfield.

The pilot was untrained and uncertified in instrument-only flight, but even with a stormy forecast, he just didn’t want to turn down Buddy Holly.

Holly was 11 days into a 23-stop tour, and he didn’t want to spend another night in their unheated tour bus that already sent his drummer to the hospital with a suspected case of frostbite. So he and his two guitarists hired a pilot and a plane for a two-hour flight to Minnesota. But just before the flight, one of the guitarists gave up his seat to the Big Bopper, who was tired and wasn’t feeling well. That guitarist was future Country Music Hall of Famer Waylon Jennings.

That left one more seat, and Holly’s other guitarist, Tommy Allsup, flipped a coin with Ritchie Valens, and Valens won. That left three of the four stars of the Winter Dance Party Tour to board the ill-fated plane. The other star of the tour, Dion di Mucci, joined Jennings, Allsup and the other musicians on the freezing bus ride.

Years later, Jennings remembered and regretted his final conversation with Buddy Holly. When Holly found out he gave up his seat on the plane, Holly told Jennings he kiddingly said, “I hope your bus freezes over.” Jennings responded, “I hope your plane crashes.”

It was on this date, February 3, 1959, that “the music died.”

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