On February 3, 1959, rock and roll musicians Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J. P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson were killed in a plane crash near Clear Lake, Iowa, together with the pilot, Roger Peterson. The event later became known as “The Day the Music Died”, after singer-songwriter Don McLean so referred to it in his song “American Pie”.
At the time, Holly and his band, consisting of Waylon Jennings, Tommy Allsup, and Carl Bunch, were playing on the “Winter Dance Party” tour across the Midwest. Rising artists Valens and Richardson had joined the tour as well.
The long journeys between venues on board the cold, uncomfortable tour buses adversely affected the performers, with cases of flu and even frostbite. After stopping at Clear Lake to perform, and frustrated by such conditions, Holly fatefully decided to charter a plane to reach their next venue in Moorhead, Minnesota. Richardson, who had flu, swapped places with Jennings, taking the latter’s seat on the plane, while Allsup lost his seat to Valens on a coin toss.
Soon after take-off, late at night and in poor, wintry weather conditions, the pilot lost control of the light aircraft, a Beechcraft Bonanza, which subsequently crashed into a cornfield, leaving no survivors.