Thursday, February 2, 2017
58 Winters Later-Buddy, JP, Richie Remembered
There's a old picture of a plane crash that was taken on a barren and snowblown field in Iowa. You may have seen it on the web but it is perhaps the most unsettling reminder of the day that the music died. In reality the music didn't die in 59 on a cold windy day in Iowa, after Buddy Holly, tired of cold buses with no heaters decided to rent a airplane to catch up on some laundry and get ready for another show in the barren of winter. Sad to say that night at the Surf Ballroom turned out to be the final showing of what could have been something that could have changed the face of rock n roll. Buddy along with Richie Valens were on their way to bigger and better things and JP Richardson had a hit with Chantilly Lace, but also The Big Bopper was also a very good songwriter and producer. Sadly that night, an Alberta Clipper was coming from Canada and bringing the chill of a quick snowfall and heavy winds and big drop in temps and with a pilot too eager to please and not enough expierence, it all led to the final finale.
It's a sad feeling beyond knowing when you see the up and coming rock stars laying face down in a cornfield, hoping they didn't suffer upon impact. Being thrown out of the plane, I'm sure that may have been the cause but Roger Peterson the unlucky pilot fared worse, to the point that he was tangled inside the plane. In front of the plane laid Richie, while Buddy was to the side and wearing a lighter coat. The Big Bopper, got thrown across the fence. All the promises of a new and exciting rock and roll laid in the wasteland of some cornfield northwest of Mason City. And so the story begins.
Driving home tonight from work, I felt the weather that Buddy and JP and Richie may have gone through. We had a Clipper go through, had a bit of a snowstorm, and felt the winds blow stronger and the skies cleared off to reveal a chilly half moon. Not unlike when they boarded the plane and headed into the teeth of a Alberta Clipper, if only they would have waited.......
In my band's I always wanted to be more like Buddy than Elvis, but also growing up with the sounds of The Who, I wanted to make something that sounded like Buddy leading The Who and probaly failed at that attempt. I wondered tonight as I try to type this out, what made Buddy decide to take a winter tour through the midwest, into the dead of winter when before global warming, the winters were just as a bitch as they are today. It was the dark ages back then, no internet, no cds and no My Space to showcase the happenings. Would have been wonderful had it was possible. I suppose the great debate remains if Richie Valens would have been the new king of rock and roll, or Buddy would have continued his path with his general ideas from the Apartment tapes. Perhaps Richie Valens would have defined rock and roll more so but with Buddy and Richie passing away, rock and roll didn't die but it certainly was in critical condition. Elvis Presley would go into the Army and never would return to the wild rockabilly rock he did in the mid 50s, Jerry Lee Lewis would marry his 13 year old cousin and piss off the world and Little Richard gave up rock and roll at that time to be a preacher against the devil music. And the only ones who carried on the rock and roll spirit were Frankie Avalon, or Fabian or the gastly Paul Anka and their sanatized bubblegum rock.
It has been said that Elvis was the king of rock and roll and Buddy Holly may not have not known it at the time, but the British kids across the pond took his music to heart and they started coming up with what would be known as the British Invasion four years later with The Beatles leading the way and The Hollies with their close knit harmonies to which you can hear in Buddy's songs. But Buddy himself did follow the lead of Elvis Presley by covering his songs out in his garage in Lubbock with Jerry Allison. But although Elvis did choose great cover versions, Buddy stood out by writing his own material which might led him to be into rock royality and so did Richie Valens. One of these two had they live may well replace Elvis to the throne but in the course of history, Elvis did return from the Army and still have the ladies and a fired up performaces but most of his music after was not the same as it was in the wild 50s.
50 years later, there was a sold out crowd at the Surf Ballroom to celebrate the fifty years since Buddy's last performance and even some of the guys that were there did show up to be there. Tommy Allsup, Dion, Bobby Vee, they returned and so does the fans of the music, braving the 5 degree weather just like it was back then. Funny place about Iowa, it's paradise in the fall but hell in the wintertime with the frozen fire that is snow and the biting winds from the northwest that could turn your skin to frostbit blue in minites. I hope someday that I could make a pilgrimmage to Mason City and retrace the steps from the Surf to the cornfield that became the next to last resting place for three up and coming musicians whose lives were cut short before their time. Best I can do right now is to celebrate their memory by playing their music and remembering how good they were and still are today.
Because, if you think about it the music never did die. It lives forever. R.S.
"The fans, they come over there from all over the world, even though it's very cold out there. You really have to love somebody to do that. The Surf has always been more for the music, celebrating his music, not his death." Maria Elena Holly
Appendix: Notes on the plane crash and aftermath.
"The wreckage lay about 1/2 mile west from the farm home's of the Albert Juhl's and the Delbert Juhl's. The main part of the plane lay against the barbed wire fence at the north end of the stubble fields in which it came to earth. It had skidded and/or rolled approximately 570 feet from point of impact directed northwesterly. The shape of the mass of wreckage approximated a ball with one wing sticking up diagonally from one side.
The body of Roger Peterson was enclosed by wreckage with only the legs visible sticking upwards. Richard Valenzuela's body was south, lying prone, head directed south 17 feet from the wreckage. Charles Holley's body, also in the prone position, was lying southwest, head directed southwest, 17 feet from the wreckage. J.P. Richardson's body, lying partly prone and partly on the right side, was northwest of the wreckage, head directed south 40 feet from the wreckage, across the fence in a cornfield. Fine snow fell lightly after the crash had drifted slightly about the bodies and wreckage. Some parts of each body had been frozen by ten hours' exposure in temperature reported to have been near 18 degrees during that time.
Among the wreckage was a large brown leather suitcase with one catch open, lay near one leg of Charles Holley, and about 8 feet north of the same body lay a travel case with brown leather ends, and sides of a light plaid color. A Deputy Sheriff inspecting the ground near the wreckage discovered a billfold containing the name of Tommy Douglas Allsup and a leather pocket case marked with the name "Ritchie Valens."
On Friday Feb 6, 1959, Roger Peterson was buried in the
Buena Vista Memorial Cemetery, in his hometown of Alta.
Richardson's wake was held in the Broussard's Funeral Home, in Beaumont, and he was buried in Beaumont, Texas. Private Soldier Elvis Presley and Colonel Tom Parker sent yellow roses to his funeral.
On Saturday the 7th, Ritchie Valens' body was taken from the Noble Chapel Funeral Home in the San Fernando Valley, to San Fernando Mission Cemetery. His body was driven in a copper colored hearse.
Buddy was also buried on the 7th. Services were held in
Lubbock, Texas, at the Tabernacle Baptist Church. Over a
thousand mourners attended the service, but his widow did not. She later lost the baby.
In 1988, Buddy fan Ken Paquette built a monument to the
singers, from stainless steel, and placed it at the crash site. The current owners of the land also planted 4 trees in memory of the victims, but they all died
While it's been said that had Buddy lived he would have been considered the true king of rock and roll, the fact was that Richie Valens would have been more well known since he's considered the king of Latino Rock and Roll. Buddy had a few albums out whereas Richie only had a handful of singles and an hastily couple albums put together by Del Fi (later reissued on Wounded Bird), Both would have made a decent two fer. To be only 17 years old and thrown out into the cold Iowa snow is not the way to go out of this world. Even in his young way Richie influenced many a Latino bands, most notably Los Lobos and to a lesser degree The Loud Jets. Even in his young age, Richie Valens remains a true rock visionary and would be a real big star had he lived.
JP Richardson or the Big Bopper listening to his songs I believe he would have gone down the same novelty country rock road like Homer And Jethro and Ray Stevens
(Photo: Mary Gerber)