A Look Back at the Day the Music Died: February 3, 1959

BBC

On February 3, 1959, the day the music died, the iconic rock stars Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson were killed when their chartered Beechcraft Bonanza airplane crashed in an Iowa field shortly after takeoff from Mason City on a flight headed to Moorhead, Minnesota.

After some mechanical difficulties with the tour bus, Buddy Hollie chartered a plane for his band, The Crickets, to get to the next city on their Winter Dance Party Tour. By the ill fate of a coin toss, one of Buddy Holly’s band members lost his ticket to Valens. Investigators blamed the crash on bad flight conditions and pilot error.

Holly was only 22 when he died. He began singing country music with his friends in high school before becoming one of the founding fathers of rock and roll. By the mid-1950’s, Buddy Holly and the Crickets held a regular radio show and toured internationally.

Ritchie Valens, born Richard Valenzuela, was only 17 when he died and was growing into a prominent musician on the rock and roll scene.

J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson, 28, began his career as a DJ in Texas and later became a songwriter. The Big Bopper’s made his stage persona based on his radio show and his most popular song was “Chantilly Lace.”

The day the music died, describing the tragedy, was coined by Don McLean in his 1972 hit American Pie.

Buddy and the Crickets dance with the staff from Valentine magazine, 1958, at the Whiskey A Go-Go in London. Time
The Crickets — Jerry Allison (left) and Joe Mauldin — enjoy a moment of fun prior to taking the stage. Time
The March 1958 tour was one of the first to showcase American Rock ‘n’ Roll in the U.K. Among the audience members were two teenagers named John Lennon and Paul McCartney. Time
In 1958 the group toured in the United States, Australia, and the U.K. Time
Ritchie Valens in concert, January 1, 1955. Getty Images
Ritchie Valens. Getty Images
Ritchie Valens with his guitar. Getty Images
Jiles Perry Richardson, Jr., The Big Bopper performs his hit ‘Chantilly Lace’ on stage in 1958. Getty Images
The Big Bopper, 1959. Wikipedia
The Big Bopper performing. learnlatvian