Buddy Holly decided to go back on tour after terminating his association with The Crickets.

The tour was formed as he needed cash from the Crickets’ manager stealing money from him, and he wanted to raise money to move to New York City with his new, pregnant wife.

He had recently also signed to the General Artists Corporation (GAC), as they were planning to head on a British tour soon.

His new tour, “Winter Dance Party,” featured Waylon Jennings on bass, Tommy Allsup on guitar, Carl Bunch on drums, and opening vocals of Frankie Sardo.

The tour was set to cover 24 Midwestern cities in the same number of days, with no days off. Other artists such as Ritchie Valens and J.P. Richardson also joined the tour to promote their work.

The 1959 tour started in Milwaukee, WI, on January 23rd, and the performance in Clear Lake, IA, on February 2nd, being the 11th of the 24 scheduled concerts.

However, travel between the cities soon became a problem, as the tour was not systematically planned with the venues being close together.

Instead, they had to drive 10-12 hours some days to make it to the next venue.

After their eleventh concert, however, heading to the next concert would prove fruitless as the plane carrying Buddy and his band members crashed, killing everyone aboard.

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10 /10 Plane Crash

Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and “The Big Bopper” J.P. Richardson. On February 3rd, 1959, a tragedy struck when multiple American rock and roll musicians died in a plane crash.

The crash was near Clear Lake, Iowa, and the pilot Roger Peterson also died. The event was later called “The Day the Music Died” in the song “American Pie” by Don McLean in 1971.


9 /10 Dealing With Her Husband’s Death

After finding out about Buddy’s death through a TV news report, Maria Elena Holly suffered a miscarriage shortly after. This was dubbed due to “psychological trauma.”

She became a widow after only being married for six months. His mother also screamed and collapsed after learning of her son’s death over the radio in Lubbock, Texas.

8 /10 Funeral Processions

The funerals for the victims were held individually. Buddy and Richardson were buried in Texas, Valens in California, and Peterson in Iowa. Buddy’s widow did not attend the funeral.

Instead, she blamed herself for his death as it was the first time she had not traveled with him and did not stop him from getting on the plane.

However, she was two weeks pregnant and was not feeling well when he left for his scheduled tour.

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7 /10 Issues With Tour

Buddy had several band members, including Waylon Jennings, Tommy Allsup, and Carl Bunch.

On the “Winter Dance Party” across the Midwest, other musicians joined, including Valens, Richardson, and the Belmonts.

Traveling between venues was difficult as the tour buses were cold and uncomfortable, resulting in many performers coming down the flu and even frostbite.

6 /10 Deciding To Charter A Plane

After coming to Clear Lake to perform, Buddy decided to charter a plane to reach their next venue in Moorhead, Minnesota, as he was sick of dealing with the conditions.

Richardson suffered from the flu and swapped places to Jennings to take his place on the plane, and Allsup and Valens did a coin toss, with Valens winning.

As the plane took off late and night and in poor winter weather conditions, the pilot soon lost control of the Beechcraft Bonanza, killing all four people on board.


5 /10 Details Of The Crash

After the show, Buddy, Valens, and Richardson were driven to the Mason City Municipal Airport. At the time of takeoff, there was light snow and winds from 20-30 mph.

However, the weather was set to get worse along their route. However, the weather briefings Peterson received did not relay this information sufficiently.

The plane successfully took off on the runway, but the plane was wrecked less than six miles away. The plane was found in a cornfield belonging to Albert Juhl.

4 /10 Finding The Wreckage

The sheriff’s officer was alerted by the owner of the flying service, Hubert Jerry Dwyer, to the location of the crash site.

Dwyer knew something was wrong when Peterson failed to make regular radio contact, and when they tried to establish contact, it was unsuccessful.

Dwyer later that morning decided to trace the plane’s route and found the wreckage around 9:35 am.

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3 /10 Plane Wreckage

The impact with the plane was at high speeds and was estimated to be around 170 mph. The right wing tip struck the ground first and settled against a wire fence on the edge of the field owned by Juhl.

Buddy’s and Valens’ bodies lay near the plane’s wreckage as they had been ejected from the fuselage. Richardson’s body was thrown over the fence and into a neighbor’s field. Peterson’s body was entangled in the wreckage.

Due to the entourage on route to Minnesota, the person who dropped them off had to identify the bodies.

The County coroner, Ralph Smiley, determined they all died instantly, and the cause of death was “gross trauma to the brain” for the musicians and “brain damage” for Peterson.

2 /10 Official Aeronautics Investigation

An official investigation was carried out by the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB). Peterson had over four years of flying experience, one of which was with Dwyer Flying Service.

While he had passed a written examination for flying with instruments, he was not yet qualified to operate in weather solely required by flying using instruments.

Thus, he was not certified to operate under visual flight rules, which required the pilot to see where he was going. Thus, on the night of the flight, the visual flight was impossible due to low clouds.


1 /10 Remembering Buddy

Monuments were constructed for the three members of the band. A monument depicting a guitar and set of three records and the names of the three musicians killed in the plane crash.

The monument is located five miles north of Clear Lake, and there is an access point to the crash site as well.

A similar stainless steel monument was also located outside the Riverside Ballroom in Green Bay, WI, where their penultimate show was played.

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