We go back to 1959, you and your significant other just pull up to the 1959 Winter Dance Party in Madison City Iowa. Headlining it is Buddy Holly with his number one hit at the time, " Crying, Waiting, Hoping". Ritchie Valens is a 17 year old rockstar who just became known due to his number 1, “La Bamba” Ritchie also has a number 2 hit, “Donna” last to perform is the headliner, J.P Richardson “The Big Bopper” his famous “Chantilly Lace” brings a great sound to the hall. After a couple of hours the show is over, you and your significant other head home, the weather is not the best. Clouds are about 3,000ft and its snowing.
While you are driving home, Buddy Holly has chartered a Beechcraft 35 Bonanza V tail, N3794N, to fly the three from Iowa to South Dakota to continue on with the show. Four of the passengers show up to the aircraft but it can only fly three,Big Booper Richardson had came down with the flu and made a deal with another band member for a seat, they flipped the coin and Richardson won, in a joking manner Buddy tells Jennings, “Well, I hope your ol’ bus freezes up!” in a response back Jennings said in a joking manner “Well, I hope your ol’ plane crashes!” (this joke haunted him).
At 12:55am local the aircraft departs with the three men and heads to the next show. During the five minutes the controller was in contact with the aircraft until 1:00 am when they lost radio contact with the aircraft, any attempt to contact them was a fail. The next morning there was no call from the pilot, the controller decided go flying that morning and at 9:30am he found the wreckage of the Banaza aircraft. The Bonanza had impacted terrain at high speed, estimated to have been around 170 mph anked steeply to the right and in a nose-down attitude. The right wing tip had struck the ground first, sending the aircraft cartwheeling across the frozen field for 540 feet before stopping on the edge of some property.
The Civil Aeronautic Board (Prior to NTSB) investigated the accident. It emerged that the pilot had over four years of flying experience, of which one was with Dwyer Flying Service, and had accumulated 711 flying hours, of which 128 were on Bonanzas. He also had 52 hours of instrument time logged. although he had passed only his written examination, and was not yet qualified to operate in weather that required flying solely by reference to instruments. He and Dwyer Flying Service itself were certified to operate only under VFR conditions. 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.
The start of Rock and Roll started off with death, but the three names lived on. Don McLean wrote a song in their honor “American Pie”
The day the music died happened this day, 61 years ago today