February 3rd 1959
Three young rock ‘n’ roll stars have been killed in a plane crash in the United States.
Buddy Holly, 22, Jiles P Richardson – known as the Big Bopper – 28, and Ritchie Valens, 17, died in a crash shortly after take-off from Clear Lake, Iowa at 0100 local time.
The pilot of the single-engined Beechcraft Bonanza plane was also killed.
Early reports from the scene suggest the aircraft spun out of control during a light snowstorm.
Only the pilot’s body was found inside the wreckage as the performers were thrown clear on impact.
Holly hired the plane after heating problems developed on his tourbus.
All three were travelling to Moorhead, Minnesota, the next venue in their Winter Dance Party Tour
Holly had set up the gruelling schedule of concerts – covering 24 cities in three weeks – to make money after the break-up of his band, The Crickets, last year.
Born Charles Hardin Holley – changed to Holly after a misspelling on a contract – he had several hit records, including a number one, in the US and UK with That’ll be the Day in 1957.
A singer and guitarist, he was inspired by Elvis Presley after seeing him at an early concert in his home town of Lubbock, Texas.
With Presley serving in the Army, some critics expected Holly to take over his crown.
Richard Valenzuela was the first Mexican American to break into mainstream music, after being discovered by record producer Bob Keane, who changed his name to Ritchie Valens.
He had made three albums and achieved a number two chart position in the US with his composition Donna – about his girlfriend – in 1958.
His rock ‘n’ roll re-working of the traditional Mexican song La Bamba – on the B-side of Donna – has also received acclaim.
The Big Bopper had been a record-breaking radio DJ – with a 122-hour marathon stint – and reached number six in the American charts with his record Chantilly Lace.
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