The Day the Music Died

February 3rd, 1959 - The Day the Music Died...

(Dubbed so by Don McLean's song "American Pie.”) Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, J. P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson, and the pilot Roger Peterson were all killed after departing into marginal weather conditions. The wreckage was discovered the next morning, less than six miles northwest of the airport in a cornfield.

The fateful decision to charter an aircraft that evening was due to the distance between venues, and the conditions prevalent aboard the poorly equipped tour buses, adversely affected the performers. Cases of flu spread among the band members, and Holly's drummer was hospitalized due to frostbite. Frustrated by the conditions, Holly decided to charter a plane when they stopped for their performance in the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa, to reach their next venue in Moorhead, Minnesota.

Carroll Anderson, owner of the Surf Ballroom, chartered the plane from the Dwyer Flying Service. Richardson, who was affected by the flu, swapped places with Waylon Jennings, taking the latter's place on the plane, while Tommy Allsup lost his place to Ritchie Valens on a coin toss. Dion DiMucci decided not to board the plane for the $36 fee.

The 1947 Beechcraft Bonanza 35 V-tail departed from the ramp and taxied to then-Runway 17 at around 12:55 a.m. Central Time on Tuesday, February 3. The weather report indicated light snow with a ceiling of 5,000 feet and winds from 29 to 37 mph. Though there were indications of deteriorating weather along the route, the weather briefings Peterson received failed to relay the information. The Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB)—an agency later replaced by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB)—investigated the crash. The results of the CAB investigation suggest that, soon after takeoff, Peterson became disoriented due to the unfamiliar way the attitude indicator in the aircraft functioned, combined with an inability to find a point of visual reference on a starless night with no visible lights on the ground. He lost control of the plane when the tip of the right wing hit the ground. The aircraft tumbled across a bean field belonging to Albert Juhl.

The Bonanza was at a slight downward angle and banked heavily to the right when it struck the ground at around 170 mph. The plane tumbled and skidded another 570 feet across the frozen landscape before the crumpled wreckage came to rest against a wire fence.

The CAB concluded that the probable cause of the accident was "the pilot's unwise decision to embark on a flight" that required instrument flying skills he had not proved to have. At the time of the accident, the pilot had 52 hours of instrument flight logged, and only completed his Instrument written examination, and a failed instrument check ride nine months before the accident. Even if certified to fly in IMC, the company he was flying for (Dwyer Flying Service) was only certified to operate charter flights in visual conditions.

Buddy Holly's pregnant wife, Maria Elena learned of his death via a television news report. A widow after only six months of marriage, sadly, she suffered a miscarriage shortly after.  She did not attend the funeral and has reportedly never visited his gravesite. "I blame myself because I know that, if only I had gone along, Buddy never would have gotten into that airplane."

 


A long long time ago
I can still remember how
That music used to make me smile
And I knew if I had my chance
That I could make those people dance
And maybe they'd be happy for a while

But February made me shiver
With every paper I'd deliver
Bad news on the doorstep
I couldn't take one more step

I can't remember if I cried
When I read about his widowed bride
Something touched me deep inside
The day the music died
So

Bye, bye Miss American Pie
Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry
And them good ole boys were drinking whiskey and rye
Singin' this'll be the day that I die
This'll be the day that I die

Did you write the book of love
And do you have faith in God above
If the Bible tells you so?
Do you believe in rock and roll?
Can music save your mortal soul?
And can you teach me how to dance real slow?

Well, I know that you're in love with him
'Cause I saw you dancin' in the gym
You both kicked off your shoes
Man, I dig those rhythm and blues

I was a lonely teenage broncin' buck
With a pink carnation and a pickup truck
But I knew I was out of luck
The day the music died
I started singin'

Bye, bye Miss American Pie
Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry
And them good ole boys were drinking whiskey and rye
Singin' this'll be the day that I die
This'll be the day that I die

Now, for ten years we've been on our own
And moss grows fat on a rolling stone
But, that's not how it used to be

When the jester sang for the king and queen
In a coat he borrowed from James Dean
And a voice that came from you and me

Oh and while the king was looking down
The jester stole his thorny crown
The courtroom was adjourned
No verdict was returned

And while Lennon read a book on Marx
The quartet practiced in the park
And we sang dirges in the dark
The day the music died
We were singin'

Bye, bye Miss American Pie
Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry
Them good ole boys were drinking whiskey and rye
And singin' this'll be the day that I die
This'll be the day that I die

Helter skelter in a summer swelter
The birds flew off with a fallout shelter
Eight miles high and falling fast

It landed foul on the grass
The players tried for a forward pass
With the jester on the sidelines in a cast

Now the half-time air was sweet perfume
While sergeants played a marching tune
We all got up to dance
Oh, but we never got the chance

'Cause the players tried to take the field
The marching band refused to yield
Do you recall what was revealed
The day the music died?
We started singin'

Bye, bye Miss American Pie
Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry
Them good ole boys were drinking whiskey and rye
And singin' this'll be the day that I die
This'll be the day that I die

Oh, and there we were all in one place
A generation lost in space
With no time left to start again

So come on Jack be nimble, Jack be quick
Jack Flash sat on a candlestick
'Cause fire is the devil's only friend

Oh and as I watched him on the stage
My hands were clenched in fists of rage
No angel born in Hell
Could break that Satan's spell

And as the flames climbed high into the night
To light the sacrificial rite
I saw Satan laughing with delight
The day the music died
He was singin'

Bye, bye Miss American Pie
Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry
Them good ole boys were drinking whiskey and rye
Singin' this'll be the day that I die
This'll be the day that I die

I met a girl who sang the blues
And I asked her for some happy news
But she just smiled and turned away

I went down to the sacred store
Where I'd heard the music years before
But the man there said the music wouldn't play

And in the streets the children screamed
The lovers cried, and the poets dreamed
But not a word was spoken
The church bells all were broken

And the three men I admire most
The Father, Son, and the Holy Ghost
They caught the last train for the coast
The day the music died
And they were singing

Bye, bye Miss American Pie
Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry
And them good ole boys were drinking whiskey and rye
Singin' this'll be the day that I die
This'll be the day that I die

They were singing
Bye, bye Miss American Pie
Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry
Them good ole boys were drinking whiskey and rye
Singin' this'll be the day that I die

Written by Don Mclean • Copyright © Universal Music Publishing Group, Songtrust Ave

 

 


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