Just after 1 a.m. February 3, 1959, a three-passenger Beechcraft Bonanza went down about five miles northwest of Mason City Municipal Airport, near Clear Lake, Iowa. The plane crash took the lives of the pilot, Roger Peterson, and three musicians: Charles Hardin Holley, better known as Buddy Holly, 22; Ritchie Valens (originally Valenzuela), 17; and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson, 28 (CNN).
The ages that these three died at is really striking – especially Valens and Holly.
The events of the plane crash and the years that followed were immortalized in the Don McLean classic, American Pie (1971); one of my all-time favorite tunes.
While it is clear that music didn’t die on February 3, 1959, it was forever changed. The plane crash marked the end of an era and the birth of a new one. The early rock & roll dance bands disappeared and in their place British pop bands, jam bands, and electric blues virtuosos emerged and forever changed music.