The Day the Music Died

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On February 3, 1959, a small-plane crash near Clear Lake, Iowa, killed three American rock and roll musicians: Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J. P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson, as well as the pilot, Roger Peterson.[1] The day was later called The Day the Music Died by Don McLean, in his song "American Pie".[2][3]

Contents

Events leading to the crash

"The Winter Dance Party" was a tour that was set to cover twenty-four Midwestern cities in three weeks. A logistical problem with the tour was the amount of travel, as the distance between venues was not a considered when scheduling each performance. Adding to the disarray, the tour bus used to carry the musicians was ill-prepared for the weather; its heating system broke shortly after the tour began. Holly's drummer, Carl Bunch, developed a severe case of frostbitten feet while on the bus and was taken to a local hospital.[4] As he recovered, Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens took turns with the drums.

The Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa, was never intended to be a stop on the tour, but promoters, hoping to fill an open date, called Carroll Anderson, who was the manager of the Surf Ballroom, and offered him the show. He accepted and the date of the show was set for Monday, February 2.

By the time Buddy Holly arrived at the ballroom that evening, he was frustrated with the tour bus and told his bandmates that, once the show was over, they should try to charter a plane to get to the next stop on the tour, which was Moorhead, Minnesota. According to VH-1's Behind the Music: The Day the Music Died, Holly was also upset that he had run out of clean undershirts, socks, and underwear. He needed to do some laundry before the next performance, and the local laundromat in Clear Lake was closed that day.

Flight arrangements were made with Roger Peterson, a 21-year-old local pilot who worked for Dwyer Flying Service in Mason City, Iowa. A fee of $36 per passenger was charged for the single-engined 1947 Beechcraft Bonanza B35 (V-tail), registration N3794N (later reassigned). The Bonanza could seat three in addition to the pilot.

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