Dear Sun Spots: I would like to say thank you for all your help in the past. You’ve been a lot of help for a lot of people. Keep up the good work.

Now I’m asking for help. Could you please get some information on the plane crash that killed Buddy Holly and those in the plane with him? We know that there were four in the plane, plus the crew. We would like to know the date of the crash, the names of those in it, Big Bopper’s real name and what state and town did the plane go down in? – No Name, No Town.

Answer: On a cold winter’s night, a small private plane took off from Clear Lake, Iowa, bound for Fargo, N.D. It never made its destination.

Dwyer Flying Service got the charter, $36 per person for a single engine Beechcraft Bonanza.

Waylon Jennings gave his seat up to J.P. Richardson, who was running a fever and had trouble fitting his stocky frame comfortably into the bus seats. When Holly learned that Jennings wasn’t going to fly, he said, “Well, I hope your old bus freezes up.” Jennings responded, “Well, I hope your plane crashes.” This friendly banter of friends would haunt Jennings for years.

Tommy Allsup told Ritchie Valens, “I’ll flip you for the remaining seat.” On the toss of a coin, Valens won the seat and Allsup the rest of his life.

The plane took off a little after 1 a.m. on Feb. 3, 1959, from Clear Lake and never got far from the airport before it crashed, killing all on board. A cold northeast wind immediately gave way to a snow, which drastically reduced visibility. The ground was already blanketed in white. The pilot may have been inexperienced with the instrumentation.

One wing hit the ground and the small plane corkscrewed over and over. The three young stars were thrown clear of the plane, leaving only pilot Roger Peterson inside. Over the years, there has been much speculation as to whether a shot was fired inside the plane, which disabled or killed the pilot. Logic suggests that encased in a sea of white snow, with only white below, Peterson just flew the plane into the ground.

When that plane crashed, it claimed the lives of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, J.P. “Big Bopper” Richardson and the pilot, Roger Peterson. Three of rock ‘n’ roll’s most promising performers were gone. As Don McLean wrote in his classic music parable, “American Pie,” it was “the day the music died.”

Performing in concert was very profitable, and Holly needed the money it provided. The Winter Dance Party Tour was planned to cover 24 cities in a short, three-week time frame (Jan. 23 to Feb. 15), and Holly would be the biggest headliner. Jennings, a friend from Lubbock, Texas, and Allsup would go on the tour as backup musicians.

Valens, probably the hottest of the artists at the time; The Big Bopper; and Dion and the Belmonts would round out the performers.

The tour bus developed heating problems. It was so cold onboard that reportedly one of the drummers developed frostbite. When they arrived at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa, they were cold, tired and disgusted.

Holly had had enough of the unheated bus and decided to charter a plane for himself and his guys. At least he could get some laundry done before the next performance.

That night at the Surf Ballroom was magical as the fans went wild over the performers. Jiles P. Richardson, known as The Big Bopper to his fans, was a Texas D.J. who found recording success and fame in 1958 with the song “Chantilly Lace.”

Richie Valenzuela was only 16 when Del-Fi record producer Bob Keane discovered the Pacoima, Calif., singer. Keane rearranged his name to Ritchie Valens and, in 1958, they recorded “Come On, Let’s Go.” Far more successful was the song Valens wrote for his girlfriend, Donna, and its flip side, “La Bamba,” a rock ‘n’ roll version of a Mexican standard. This earned the teenager a TV appearance on “American Bandstand” and the prospect of continued popularity.

Charles Hardin “Buddy” Holley (changed to Holly due to a misspelling on a contract) and his band, The Crickets, had a No. 1 hit in 1957 with the “That’ll Be the Day.” This success was followed by “Peggy Sue” and an appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show. By 1959, Holly had decided to move in a new direction. He and the Crickets parted company. Holly married Maria Elena Santiago and moved to New York with the hope of concentrating on songwriting and producing.

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