Friday on My Mind: The Day the Music Died - Celebrating Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper, & Ritchie Valens

Every week we bring you Friday on My Mind, a collaborative effort with King 5 News which explores musical subjects with focus on three artists or bands.

February 3rd is the anniversary of what people refer to as “The Day the Music Died” when Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper, and Ritchie lost their lives in a plane crash. Today for the Friday on My Mind feature, we choose not to focus so much on the horrible tragdey of that day in 1959, but to celebrate and reflect upon the longstanding impact these young artists made within the music world.

Buddy Holly:

Born Charles Hardin Holley on September 7, 1936, in Lubbock, Texas, Buddy Holly was an early star of rock music. He is considered one of the most influential figures in rock and roll, having been cited as an influence on such artists as Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, and Paul Simon. Some of his most famous songs included, “That’ll Be the Day” and “Peggy Sue” just to name a few. Holly entered into rock ‘n’ roll from a background in country and western music. He was barely out of high school when he opened for Elvis Presley in 1955. He played the guitar and sang, and also had an interest in recording and studio production. He is credited with being the first to use overdubbing and double-tracking techniques. Buddy Holly is also credited with popularizing the two guitars, one bass, and one drum band lineup.  His backing band was known as the Crickets, as is said to have inspired Paul McCartney and John Lennon to name their band the Beatles. During his lifetime, he recorded so much material that his record label was able to release new Buddy Holly music for 10 years after his death. He was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1986.

From a 1957 performance on the Ed Sullivan Show, “That’ll Be the Day”:


The Big Bopper:

The Big Bopper was born Jiles Perry Richardson Jr., October 24, 1930 in Sabine Pass, Texas.While he was in college, he found a job at a radio station in Beaumont, Texas. In 1957, while working as a deejay for KTRM in Beaumont, he coined the name “The Big Bopper” a stage name he would use for the rest of his life. In May of ’57, he broadcast for six days straight, spinning 1,821 records and established a world record for continuous broadcasting. He had been writing some songs, and was soon discovered as a performer and artist. It was in 1957 when J.P. recorded his most famous song, “Chantilly Lace”, which became the 3rd most played song of 1958. Throughout ’58, J.P. signed onto many tours to promote his record, with his last tour being the ill fatedWinter Dance Party of 1959. The tour was scheduled to play in remote locations throughout mid-west United States, and the mid-west was suffering a harsh winter. At the time of his death, J.P. was 28 years old. His wife, Adrian, was pregnant with their second child. Jay P. Richardson would be born 84 days after his father’s death.

From 1958, a performance of “Chantilly Lace” during American Bandstand:


Ritchie Valens:

Richard Steven Valenzuela was born on May 13, 1941, later became known as Ritchie Valens. He is considered the first Latino to cross over into mainstream music and revered as a pioneer of the Chicano Rock movement. He showed an interest in music as a child and members of his family started teaching him the guitar at the age of 11.His recording career only lasted eight months and he only released a total of 3 albums. His biggest hit was “La Bamba”, which was released in 1958 as the B-side to the song “Donna”; a song he wrote for his high school sweetheart, Donna Ludwig. “La Bamba” was his rock and roll variation on a traditional Mexican folk song. “La Bamba” has made Rolling Stone magazine’s list of 500 greatest songs of all time, coming in at 345. In addition to “Donna” and “La Bamba”, his songs included, “Come On, Let’s Go”, “Ohh, My Head”, and “We Belong Together”. The words “Come On, Let’s Go.” Valens has been cited as an influence by Carlos Santana and Los Lonely Boys and his songs have been covered by The Ramones, Clem Snide, and the Misfits. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001.

Playing the song “Ooh! My Head” in the movie Go Johnny Go from 1958:

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One Comment

  1. Courtney
    Posted February 7, 2012 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

    I wish I had known this earlier, I would have shared this tribute song, “One for Buddy Holly,” by local Seattle band, French Letters: http://frenchletters.bandcamp.com/track/one-for-buddy-holly

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