Thursday, January 31, 2013

Buddy Holly and the Winter Dance Party in Duluth three days before "the day the music died"

Today is the 54th anniversary of three days before "the day the music died" when Buddy Holly, the Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens died in a plane crash in Iowa. Three days prior to their death–January 31, 1959–these pop stars of the fifties performed at the Duluth Armory in a memorable appearance from my youth. A small private plane carrying these performers crashed following their final performance in Clear Lake Iowa, claiming their lives. The plane was heading to Fargo, North Dakota. As Don McLean wrote in his classic music parable, American Pie, the plane crash resulted in "the day the music died."

I, Bob Dylan and other area youths packed the Duluth Armory on January 31, 1959 to take in the performances of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. “Big Bopper” Richardson, three of Rock and Roll’s most promising musicians of that era. “The Winter Dance Party Tour” began on January 23, 1959 with performances scheduled for 24 cities. The Duluth appearance took place three days before the tour tragically ended.

My friend, Lew Latto, was the producer and MC of the Armory show that also included Dion and the Belmonts. Lew was a precocious teen who became a popular disc jockey as a youth and continued on with a successful career in radio until his death in 2011. (The poster advertising this Armory event is above and on your left left.)

I've written about my recollections while attending that event in the past and you can read about it HERE. Also check out Zenith City Online HERE for more about that memorable event, some fun photos and some interesting comments from readers.


Jon said...

About a year ago my mom mentioned to me she went to a concert in Duluth and saw Buddy Holly. She's in her 70's now and had never told me this before. How her dad drove her and a friend to Superior and they took a bus over because her dad (my grandfather) didn't like driving in the big city of Duluth. I found it interesting that she was there and saw this historic concert. Why she never mentioned this before, or maybe she did and I wasn't listening.

Jim Heffernan said...

Hi Jon,
Your mom and I attended this concert along with so many teens from the area. At the time, we were there just to enjoy the music, not realizing the significance. It's interesting and fun to look back and appreciate what we experienced. It's great your mom shared this experience with you. Thanks for sharing here and for reading the blog!