The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary






The Day The Music Died

Monument at Crash Site, September 16, 2003
Monument at Crash Site, September 16, 2003
The Day The Music Died refers to the events of February 3, 1959. Early that morning, Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper (J. P. Richardson) were killed when the plane they were on crashed en route to a gig in Fargo, North Dakota. Don McLean's famous 1971 ballad, "American Pie", contains many references to this day, including the phrase itself.

On February 2, Buddy Holly chartered a Beechcraft Bonanza from Dwyer Flying Service to take him and his new Crickets band (Tommy Allsup and Waylon Jennings) to Fargo, North Dakota. Richardson came down with the flu and didn't feel comfortable on the bus, so Waylon gave his plane seat to him. Valens had never flown on a small plane and requested Allsup's seat. They flipped a coin, and Ritchie called heads and won the toss.

Following a performance at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa, the small four-passenger Beechcraft took off into a blinding snow storm and crashed into Albert Juhl’s corn field several miles after takeoff at 1:05 a.m. Also killed in the crash was pilot Roger Peterson .

N3974N is the name and registration number of the airplane which crashed outside Clear Lake, not "American Pie" as manythink.

In 1988, Ken Paquette, a Wisconsin fan of the ‘50s era, erected a stainless steel monument depicting a steel guitar and a set of three records bearing the names of each of the three performers. It is located on private farmland, about one quarter mile west of the intersection of 315th Street and Gull Avenue, approximately eight miles north of Clear Lake, Iowa. He also created a similar stainless steel monument to the three musicians near the Riverside Ballroom in Green Bay, Wisconsin. That memorial was unveiled on July 17, 2003. Holly, the Big Bopper and Valens played at the Ballroom on Feb. 1st, the day before the fateful flight.


  • In the 1987 movie La Baba, about the life of Ritchie Valens, they swapped the circumstances behind The Big Bopper and Ritchie getting on the plane. In the movie, it was The Big Bopper that did the coin toss, and Ritchie that had the flu.
Last updated: 09-12-2005 02:39:13