In the winter of 1959, Buddy Holly set off to the Midwest for the “Winter Dance Party” bus tour, which included shows in Iowa, Minnesota, and Michigan. After a show in Iowa on February 3rd 1959, Holly booked a plane to fly him, along with Ritchie Valens and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson to their next stop in Minnesota. Minutes after its departure the plane crashed in a cornfield, killing all three artists and pilot Roger Peterson. This event was then referred to as “the day music died” in Don McLean’s song, “American Pie.”
Holly was 22 at the time of his death, while Valens was 17 and The Big Bopper was 28. The plane took off in poor weather conditions, and experienced a shaky takeoff. The pilot, Roger Peterson had not passed his instrument test, and was also flying a non-licensed instrument airplane.
Accompanying Holly on tour, Ritchie Valens was a leader of the Chicano rock movement, and inspired many Latino musicians such as Los Lobos and Carlos Santana. Valens was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001. Along also came J.P. Richardson, earning his nickname, “The Big Bopper” after becoming a radio voice personality. The Big Bopper recorded the single, “Chantilly Lace” in 1958, which stayed in the top charts for 25 weeks.
In the span of his short career, Holly was one of the earlier rock and roll artists to write his own pieces and experiment in the studio with double tracking. Holly topped the charts in the U.S. with his band The Crickets and their single, “That’ll Be The Day.” As one of the pioneers for the world of rock and roll to come, Holly influenced artists such as Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, and The Rolling Stones’ first hit, “Not Fade Away.”