Episode 3: The Day the Music Died

We describe Rock N Roll as an “enfant terrible,” then an unruly toddler, then a hyperactive kid. When Buddy Holly breaks out in late 1957, we see Rock N Roll has stepped out into the world as a confident young adult.

Our story begins on a snowy two-lane highway in rural Iowa, on February 2nd, 1959: the fateful last day of the Winter Dance Party tour.

The shows are going well, but the tour is a real grind. Cold, tired, and fed up, Buddy Holly decides to charter a small plane after the show that night in Clear Lake, Iowa.

We meet the Big Bopper, Ritchie Valens, and Dion DiMucci.

We discuss how Ritchie Valens was the first Latino crossover artist, and his 1957 release “La Bamba” is the first Spanish-language pop hit.

We then devote a good chunk of the show to Buddy Holly’s life and musical career. We emphasize his giant influence on future Rock N Roll legends, and talk about The Crickets’ groundbreaking tour of the United Kingdom in early 1958.

We meet “The Killer,” Jerry Lee Lewis. Great musician and performer, but not at all a nice guy, to put it mildly.

We come back to Buddy’s story: the relentless grind of touring with The Crickets, business disputes with his manager Norman Petty, his courtship of and marriage to Maria Elena Santiago. Out on the road Buddy meets Phil and Don Everly, and they become fast friends.

We profile the Everly Brothers, and we ask you to hold a picture in your mind.

The last chapter: a terse and tense account of the incident outside Mason City, Iowa, in the early-morning hours of February 3rd, 1959.

We close with a few words about loss and friendship.

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email: rocknrollarchaeologyproject@gmail.com


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Songs from Episode Three

Buddy Holly and the Crickets: “Oh Boy!” single released 1957, Brunswick Records

Big Bopper: “Chantilly Lace,” single released 1958, Mercury Records

Ritchie Valens: “Come On, Let’s Go,” single released 1958, Del-Fi Records

Ritchie Valens: “La Bamba,” single released 1958, Del-Fi Records

Buddy Holly and the Crickets: “It’s So Easy,” single released 1958, Brunswick Records

Dion: “Runaround Sue,” single released 1961, Laurie Records

Buddy Holly and the Crickets: “Not Fade Away,” single released 1957, Brunswick Records

Waylon Jennings: “Are You Ready for the Country?” (Written by Neil Young), from Are You Ready for the Country, released 1976, RCA Records

Buddy Holly and the Crickets: “That’ll Be the Day,” single released 1957, Brunswick Records

Buddy Holly and the Crickets: “Peggy Sue,” single released 1957, Coral Records

Billy Lee Riley: “Flying Saucers Rock N Roll,” single released 1957, Sun Records

Jerry Lee Lewis: “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin On,” single released 1957, Sun Records

Jerry Lee Lewis: “Great Balls of Fire,” single released 1957, Sun Records

Blind Faith: “Well All Right” (Written by Buddy Holly), from Blind Faith, US release 1969 on Atco Records

Buddy Holly and The Crickets: “True Love Ways,” single released 1960, Coral Records

Everly Brothers, “Wake Up Little Suzie,” single released 1957, Cadence Records

Everly Brothers, “Bye Bye Love,” single released 1957, Cadence Records

Linda Ronstadt: “It Doesn’t Matter Anymore” (Written by Paul Anka), from Heart Like a Wheel, released 1974, Capitol Records

Don McLean, “American Pie,” from American Pie, released 1971 United Artists Records

Note: Buddy Holly tracks are listed as “Buddy Holly and the Crickets.” If it was released as a Crickets single, it’s on Brunswick; Buddy Holly solo releases are on Coral Records. Except for “True Love Ways,” (issued posthumously in 1960) Buddy and the Crickets played on all of them.


Guralnick, Peter (1999). Feel Like Going Home: Portraits in Blues and Rock ‘N’ Roll.

Guralnick, Peter (2015). Sam Phillips: The Man Who Invented Rock ‘N’ Roll.

Gordon, Robert (2001). It Came From Memphis

Lehmer, Larry (2012). The Day the Music Died: The Last Tour of Buddy Holly, the Big Bopper, and Ritchie Valens.

Morrison, Craig (1996). Go Cat Go!: Rockabilly Music and Its Makers.

Norman, Phillip (2014). Rave On: The Biography of Buddy Holly.

The Rolling Stones (2009). According to The Rolling Stones.

Movies, Television Shows, and Radio Programs

La Bamba, directed by Luis Valdez, 1987 Columbia Pictures

Behind the Music, “The Day the Music Died,” Season 2, Show 19, VH1 Television (Retrieved from TV.Com)

The Ronnie Wood Show, Interview with Paul McCartney. Retrieved from Ronnie Wood’s Official YouTube channel:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=st3c8UTw-6Q

40th Annual Grammy Awards, Broadcast on Feb. 25th, 1998. Bob Dylan’s acceptance speech. Retrieved from:http://www.grammy.com/videos/40th-annual-grammy-awards-album-of-the-year

The Buddy Holly Story, directed by Steve Rash, 1978 Columbia Pictures

The Real Buddy Holly Story, (Documentary); directed by Richard Spence and produced by Paul McCartney, 2004 White Star Pictures

Ed Sullivan Show, December 1st, 1957, retrieved from the official Ed Sullivan YouTube channel:https://www.youtube.com/user/TheEdSullivanShow

All Things Considered, “Whole Lotta Shakin Goin On,” aired October 28th, 2006, National Public Radio, retrieved from:http://www.npr.org/2006/10/28/6388855/jerry-lee-lewis-whole-lotta-shakin-goin-on

Online Sources, By Topic in Order of Appearance

Quote from Connie Valenzuela:


Background on Lubbock, Texas:


“More Churches than Trees” quote is from the Dixie Chicks song, “Lubbock or Leave It,” from Taking the Long Way, released 2006, Columbia/Nashville Records

Buddy Holly Timeline: http://www.buddyhollyarchives.com/2009/03/everyday-a-timeline-of-buddys-life/

Rolling Stone Interview with the Everly Brothers:


Time Magazine Article on the February 3rd Crash:


(Note: the original article we quoted is “paywalled;” it was retrieved from the Time.com archives. The link above is to a 2009 article on the crash that synopsizes the original.)

Civil Aeronautics Board Report:


Photos of the Crash, and a Link to Scans of the Original Autopsy Reports:


Sound by John Michael Berry 

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