Saturday, July 21, 2012

A Visit to Buddy Holly/Ritchie Valens/Big Bopper's Crash Site

You know the story of "The Day the Music Died." In the American Pie song it is the date that Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, the Big Bopper, and pilot Roger Peterson died in a plane crash following their concert at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa on February 3, 1959. Today's trip was to see the crash site and a few of the places tied to the story.

Several people were present while I visited the crash site for the first time. The young and old hailed from California, Minnesota, Georgia, Nebraska and Iowa. A memorial has been put together over the years consisting of laser cut plaques, money, candles, flowers, toys, photos, clothing, a windmill, many eye glasses and printed material placed in Ziplock bags. A man in a white shirt brought three people. He is somehow connected to the Surf Ballroom and showed where Big Bopper's son had visited the site about a decade or so ago. Bopper Jr. crossed the wire fence, lit a Marlborough cigarette and said, "this is where my daddy died."

The memorial also consists of three 45 record replicas of the songs made famous by the trio. Access to the crash site is just a few miles north of Clear Lake, Iowa. Once you park along a gravel road, a giant pair of iconic Buddy Holly glasses mark the trail's entrance. Be prepared to walk along the fence line about a half mile into a working cornfield. 

Several miles away is the Mason City airport where the music legends rented a plane and took off after their show at the Surf. 

Today the Surf Ballroom still packs crowds in to see national acts along the shore of Clear Lake. Each February 3rd there are well attended Rock and Roll shows recalling the Winter Dance Tour that Buddy and company were a part of in 1959.

Looks like on Tuesday, July 24th the Surf will host Merle Haggard and Kris Kristofferson to its famous stage. White shirt guy says they try annually to get Paul McCartney to perform at the Surf. The famous ex-Beatle owns the publishing rights to Holly's music and often talks about getting to Clear Lake. White shirt guy thinks that Paul may show up privately someday, sing a few Buddy songs and leave without drawing  thousands of people. That'll be the day!

1 comment:

  1. Interesting! I didn't know the crash site could be visited.