It was on this date in 1959 that Buddy Holly, J.P. “the Big Bopper” Richardson and Ritchie Valens boarded a plane bound for Fargo, North Dakota, which crashed, killing everyone aboard. The night before, they had given what would be their final concert in Clear Lake, Iowa as part of the “Winter Dance Party” tour.
Still such a massive hit to the music world made this date something no one could forget – but when singer-songwriter Don McLean referred to it as “The Day the Music Died", in his classic song, “American Pie,” the tragedy was officially named.
The irony? Who could have been on the ill-fated flight.
Waylon Jennings was supposed to be on the flight, but Richardson was down with the flu during the tour and asked Jennings for his seat on the plane. When Holly learned that Jennings was not going to fly, he said in jest: "Well, I hope your ol' bus freezes up." Jennings responded: "Well, I hope your ol' plane crashes," a humorous, but ill-fated response that haunted him for the rest of his life.
Valens, who had once had a fear of flying, asked Tommy Allsup for his seat on the plane. The two agreed to toss a coin to decide. Valens “won.”
Dion had been offered a seat, but decided that since the $36 fare (equivalent to $292.20 in today's money) equaled the monthly rent his parents paid for his childhood apartment, he couldn’t justify the indulgence – and passed.
While the music may have died, the show did go on. Jennings and Allsup continued performing for two more weeks, with Jennings taking Holly's place as lead singer.
photo: getty images