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On this day in 1959 ...


A plane bound for Moorhead carrying Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J.P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson, crashes near Clear Lake, Iowa, killing the three musical stars and the aircraft's pilot, Roger Peterson.

Fresh off a concert at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, headliner Holly and up-and-comers Valens and Richardson had been traveling by bus through the midwest on their "Winter Dance Party" tour. Their bus had already broken down once due to bitter cold and heavy snow, while members of the tour were stricken with flu due to the less-than-ideal conditions.

With these factors weighing heavily on Holly and the group, he decided to charter a plane despite a blizzard that hit Iowa that night.

Just a few minutes into their flight, the plane would go down in a cornfield, throwing the passengers into the snowy, frigid conditions. There was little evidence of direct cause surrounding the incident, though a mix of brutal conditions and pilot error was believed to have instigated the crash.

Because of the harsh weather, rescue efforts could not reach the plane until morning, and after 10 hours in the cold and snow, all four were pronounced dead.

WCCO-AM legend Charlie Boone (then of KFGO in Fargo) was slated to emcee the concert in Moorhead, but he would never get the chance.

The three would be immortalized by many after their deaths, including the first to do so, Eddie Cochran, with his song Three Stars.

The most recognizable of the musical tributes to Holly, Valens, and Richardson came from Don Mclean, with his nearly nine-minute ode, American Pie.

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