It has been exactly 60 years since the bulletin came across the wire February 3, 1959 that Buddy Holly, J.P. Richardson (The Big Bopper) and Ritchie Valens had died in a plane crash near Clear Lake, Iowa. This was the first great tragedy of the rock and roll era. The irony, for me, was that Ritchie had just played Vancouver on a booking I had arranged. Here, a mere number of weeks later, he had perished. He was a wonderful young man with a great deal of talent. The Stripes, the Vancouver band who backed him up, became personal friends with the star. He was here during a horrific snowstorm and the planes couldn’t get out so he stayed at the band’s house in Vancouver.
Buddy Holly had played in Vancouver in October 1957 and I had one of my friendliest get togethers with him backstage, which I recorded for posterity. It was like two high school buddies having a talk. In listening I realize how high both our voices were. Hell, I shaved once a week in those days!
Regardless, it is something that lives in my memory to this day. J.P. Richardson, The Big Bopper, was the only one of the three performers that I had never met. Like me, he was a deejay but had this yearning to be a performer. He wrote his hit Chantilly Lace and also Running Bear for singer Johnny Preston, which became a major hit.
Buddy Holly’s potential cannot be calculated. His legacy lives on, as so many rock and rollers who followed admired him so. Paul McCartney was a huge fan and now owns Holly’s music publishing company. A great British band, The Hollies, were named in honour of Buddy and some say The Beatles name was a compliment to Buddy’s band, The Crickets. The years have passed and for many of us it is hard to believe that it was over half a century ago when the three died. It is a testament to the power of Rock and Roll that the memory — and the music — lives on.