Posted by: Gregg | February 2, 2009

Winter Dance Party at Surf Ballroom–50 Years Ago

surfposter

This Surf Ballroom poster (top image) promoted upcoming musical performances at the establishment from January 30-February 2, 1959. Prominently displayed at center is a promotion for the Surf’s “Winter Dance Party,” which included the scheduled appearances of popular rock ‘n’ roll musicians Buddy Holly and the Crickets, the Big Bopper, Ritchie Valens and Dion and the Belmonts.

The musicians performed at Riverside Ballroom in Green Bay, Wisconsin on Sunday, February 1. The tour moved to the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa on Monday, February 2. Following the performance, a chartered Beechcraft Bonanza airplane carrying Holly, Valens and the Big Bopper crashed just after midnight (February 3) about eight miles from the Mason City airport, killing all on board. The aircraft was en route to Fargo, North Dakota for the next leg of the Winter Dance Party tour.

Dead were musicians Charles Hardin Holley (Buddy Holly), 22; Jiles Perry Richardson (Big Bopper), 28; Richard Valenzuela (Ritchie Valens), 17.

Three weeks after Holly’s death, his song It Doesn’t Matter Anymore debuted on the Billboard charts and later peaked at #13.

The Big Bopper was best known for his mid-1958 hit Chantilly Lace.

Ritchie Valens’ #22 hit La Bamba charted just four weeks before the accident.

Then-unknown rock ‘n’ roller Bobby Vee (Robert Thomas Velline), 15, and his group, The Shadows, filled in for Buddy Holly’s scheduled spot in Fargo. The Holly sound-alike Vee started a string of Billboard hits beginning in 1960 with his #6 hit Devil or Angel, and # 1 Take Good Care of My Baby in 1961.

Don McLean’s ballad American Pie, which debuted in November, 1971, and later spent four weeks on top of the charts, was inspired by the death of Buddy Holly–”The Day the Music Died.”

The bottom image shows Holly’s signature glasses and his wristwatch, items recovered by police following the crash. The typed description of the victims seen above Holly’s glasses mistakenly identifies fellow Winter Dance Party musician J.P. Richardson as “Big Booper.”

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