Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Something Touched Us Deep Inside

Magnet # 159:  Branson Guitar

Material: Metal, Plastic

Purchased By: The Kibby Family

Yesterday's post started with a plane crash, and so does this one. It's the anniversary of the terrible "Day the Music Died," when Buddy Holly, Richie Valenz, and J.P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson all perished in 1959. Interestingly enough, it has one other tie with Lost - Holly's song "Everyday" is one of the few actual songs that has been played on the show, in connection with John Locke's birth. I guess it's just another example of the timelessness and enduring popularity of the music he left behind.

Taking that plane sure seemed like a good idea at the time. Even though Buddy Holly was a rising star in the music industry, he was not getting the royalties he was due, so he decided to go on a tour to bring some money in. He arranged to headline The Winter Dance party, a three week tour traveling around the Midwest that featured other noteworthy entertainers such as Ritchie Valens, and Dion and the Belmonts, and the Big Bopper. Holly hired his own backup musicians and headed out on the road. Unfortunately, preparations had been poorly made and they had been booked to play in 24 cities (I don't imagine Branson was among them) with no regard to distance between the locales, which gave them very little time between shows.  Even worse was the tour bus.  It was unsuitable for the job and its heating system soon broke.  The temperatures on the bus were so terribly cold that Holly's drummer developed frostbitten feet and had to drop out of the tour.  Fed up with these terrible conditions and irritated that he couldn't clean his clothes, as the local laundromat was closed that day, Holly had an idea - he'd charter a plane to the next venue.  That way, he wouldn't freeze and could arrive at their next stop, Moorhead, Minnesota, with enough time to do his laundry.  He arranged the trip with a young pilot, and invited his bandmates to join him for $36.  His bass player, the then-unknown Waylon Jennings, gave his seat to the Big Bopper out of compassion, as the other man had developed the flu and his large frame was cramped in the tour bus.  And a coin toss saved Holly's guitarist, Tommy Allsup, from joining them.  Ritchie Valens wanted to fly in a small plane for the first time, and asked him for his seat, and Allsup suggested they flip for it.  Dion DiMucci, the tour's final headliner, passed on the flight because when he'd grown up, it was the cost of a month's rent for his parents and he couldn't justify spending that amount on one single flight.  Holly and his fellow travelers left for the airport, but not before he'd jokingly told Jennings he hoped his bus would freeze up since he wasn't going with them.  Jennings shot back that he hoped Holly's plane would crash, words that would haunt him the rest of his life.

As we all know, the trio of musicians never made it to their destination.  Poor weather conditions and an inexperienced pilot were attributed for the crash that killed all four men traveling in the plane.  Some claim that Holly's gun went off in the plane, but there really is no evidence to prove it.  The tour continued, and a young local singer named Bobby Vee was added to the lineup, as so many of the other performers were gone.  Vee would go on to become a star in the music industry and perform memorial concerts for his hero, Holly.  Because they were still committed to the tour, Jennings and Allsup were unable to attend Holly's memorial.  Allsup continued his career in music and later opened a bar he dubbed the "Head's Up Saloon," a nod to that fateful coin toss.  Jennings, of course, became a country music legend.  And Dion had a successful solo career.  People all over the world were shocked and grieved by the loss of three such talented, young musicians.  And Holly's widow, who had been married to him for less than a year, was so upset that she miscarried what would have been his only child.  The event left a permanent mark on the music industry and 12 years later, Don McLean released his song "American Pie," which was centered around it and forever gave it the name "The Day the Music Died."  But it's clear the music of these three men hasn't died, as it persists to this day.  Countless musicians, including the Beatles, have been greatly influenced by these artists.  And last year, on the fiftieth anniversary, memorial events were held in Clear Lake near where the plane crashed, and drew in both high profile acts and throngs of fans.  Yes, today, we still grieve the loss of Holly, Valens, and Richardson - even those of us who weren't born then - but we also celebrate their lives and how their legend lives on.

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