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Today, 1959 (the Wednesday post about the music that died) February 5, 2021

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Uncategorized.

[My apologies for this very late Wednesday the 3rd post. You can request an audio recording of Wednesday’s practices via a comment below or (for a slightly faster reply) you can email me at myra (at) ajoyfulpractice.com.

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Check out the “Class Schedules” calendar for upcoming classes. *** DON’T FORGET THERE’S A “FIRST FRIDAY NIGHT SPECIAL! ***]


“Everyone deserves music, sweet music”


– quoted from the song “Everyone Deserves Music” by Michael Franti & Spearhead


“For years, [Dr. Mike Miller], a research cardiologist, has been studying the effects of happiness — or things that make people happy — on our hearts. He began his research with laughter, and found watching funny movies and laughing at them could actually open up blood vessels, allowing blood to circulate more freely.


Miller thought, if laughter can do that, why not music? So, he tested the effects of music on the cardiovascular system. ‘Turns out music may be one of the best de-stressors — either by playing or even listening to music,’ said Miller.


The setup was basically the same as with the laughter study: Using high-tech imaging, Miller measured blood vessel size as people listened to music.


The results did not surprise Miller. ‘The inner lining of the blood vessel relaxed, opened up and produced chemicals that are protective to the heart,’ he said.


But when participants listened to music they didn’t particularly enjoy, Miller said, ‘the vessels actually began to close up.’”


“But be careful what you listen to. Whether you like Beyoncé or the B-52s, Chopin or Johnny Cash, Miller found that listening repeatedly to the same tune diminished the music’s effects on the body. ‘You just don’t get that boost if you listen to the same song over and over again,’ he said. ‘You need to vary your songs, so when you hear the song fresh, it brings back the sense of joy and opens up the system.’”


– quoted from a 2009 CNN Health segment entitled, “The power of music: It’s a real heart opener” by Val Willingham, CNN Medical Producer


From Dr. Oliver Sacks to Dr. Teppo Särkämö and from Arthur C. Clarke to Friederick Nietzsche, medical practitioners, researchers, authors, philosophers, and anthropologists have shown that music affects us in multiple ways. It can touch our minds and hearts – and change our hearts and brains; it can change our moods; it can tell our stories; and it can affect our bodies on multiple levels. We may not all agree on what we like (or even what constitutes “music”), but it is hard to deny the benefit of music in general.

But, what if there was no music? What if it just stopped, or ceased to be? What if it died?

How long would you carry the music in your heart and your mind? How long would you carry it in the muscles of your body? Would you experience great longing? Would you be inspired to make more music?

I ask these questions not to be overly deep, but because today (February 3rd) is “The Day the Music Died.” It is the day in 1959 when a plane carrying Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J. P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson crashed just outside of Clear Lake, Iowa. The three stars and the pilot, Roger Peterson, all died in the crash that happened as they were traveling to Moorhead, MN.

The three singers were young and successful. Holly was 22 and a newlywed expecting his first child. Valens was 17. At 28, “The Big Bopper” was the oldest of the three chronologically, but had started writing and singing later than the others. He had already made a name for himself as a Texas DJ and was capitalizing on his earlier success. He had a wife, a daughter, and another child on the way. (Peterson, 21, was also married.) All three of the singers were popular on the charts, had hit singles, and were on the precipice of even more greatness.

The accident happened during the “Winter Dance Party” tour, which featured the three stars plus Buddy Holly’s band, the Crickets, and Dion and the Belmonts. The Crickets, at the time, consisted of Waylon Jennings, Tommy Allsup, and Carl Bunch, with Frankie Sardo has an opener for Holly. Dion and the Belmonts were Dion DiMucci, Angelo D’Aleo, Carlo Mastrangelo, and Fred Milano. In my theatre days, we would have called the tour “snake bit,” but the musicians had a more specific moniker: “the tour from hell.”

“[Holly historian Bill] Griggs, who long ago moved to Holly’s home town of Lubbock, Texas, from Connecticut, estimates they had used five different buses before driving into Clear Lake – ‘reconditioned school buses, not good enough for school kids.’


The tour started in Milwaukee on Friday, Jan. 23, 1959. It then zig-zagged during the next 11 days from Wisconsin to Minnesota to Wisconsin to Minnesota to Iowa to Minnesota to Wisconsin to Iowa to Minnesota.


There were no roadies to help set up and pack up, and only icy two-lane highways to get from town to town.”


– quoted from the February 3, 2009 Star Tribune article entitled, “Buddy Holly: The tour from hell – The story of the long, cold nights on the road before the Day the Music Died, 50 years ago.” by Pamela Huey

Typically on a bus and truck tour, the order of venues is based on proximity, i.e. geographical nearness in space and time. A group might perform more than one show in a day, but those shows would typically be in the same venue. Typically, at least on the tours I did back in the day, the artists have a little down time between being on the road and actually performing (and vice versa), because the crew has to unload, set-up, and then after the performance breakdown and load out. But these things didn’t happen on the “Winter Dance Tour” of 1959.

To add to the abnormality of it all, it was super cold, snowy, icy, and windy. The temperature swung from 20° F (-7° C) to -36° F (-38° C) – and the buses weren’t always heated. At least one bus, the one between the ninth show (in Duluth, MN) and the tenth and eleventh shows (in Appleton and Green Bay, Wisconsin) was not only not heated, it broke down; leaving the musicians stranded on the side of the freezing cold road – trying to stay warm with blankets and a trash bonfire made out of newspapers. Then, they had to perform. Carl Bunch, Buddy Holly’s drum at the time, had frostbite on his feet. J. P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson had the flu. And, to add to all that, Buddy Holly was bickering with his manager.

Everyone was tired, cold, and frustrated – but they still had shows… and the show must go on.

The twelfth show, the show in Clear Lake, Iowa, was not on the original schedule. It was scheduled by Holly’s manager when the musicians arrived in Clear Lake on Monday, February 2nd. Which just added to the headliner’s frustration – especially since the thirteenth show, in Moorhead, MN, would require them to drive 365 miles, passing by the previous two stops along the way. Fed up, Buddy Holly decided to charter a plane from the Iowa venue (the twelfth show) to the next Minnesota stop (the thirteenth show). He was going to cover himself and his band, and was willing to split the cost with any of the other musicians that wanted to skip the road trip, and possibly have time to sleep in some place warm and soft instead of in a cold bus seat).

Dion DiMucci said he couldn’t afford the $36 for him and the Belmonts. He was later quoted as saying that the cost was the same amount as his parents paid in rent in New York; so, ultimately, he couldn’t justify the expense. During the investigation into the crash, DiMucci gave a slightly different explanation of how things transpired than Jennings and Allsup; however, the most accepted sequence of events is that: (1) As an act of compassion, since “The Big Bopper” was so sick, Waylon Jennings gave up his seat to the former DJ. (2) Carl Bunch was in the hospital (because of the frostbite) and would be out until the tour swung back to Iowa on February 5th. (3) Ritchie Valens and Tommy Allsup flipped a coin which, in theory, Allsup lost.

“The next thing I know, Buddy sends me over to get a couple of hot dogs. He’s sitting there in a cane-bottomed chair, and he’s leaning back against the wall. And he’s laughing.

‘Ah,’ he said. ‘You’re not going with me tonight, huh? Did you chicken out?’

I said no, I wasn’t scared. The Big Bopper just wanted to go.

‘Well,’ he said grinning, ‘I hope your damned bus freezes up again.’

I said, ‘Well, I hope your ol’ plane crashes.’


That took me a lot of years to get over. I was just a kid, barely twenty-one. I was about halfway superstitious, like all Southern people, scared of the devil and scared of God equally.

I was afraid somebody was going to find out I said that, and blame me. I knew I said that. I remember Buddy laughing and then heading out to the airport after the show. I was certain I caused it.”


– quoted from “Chapter 2: Buddys” of Waylon: An Autobiography by Waylon Jennings and Lenny Kaye

After the crash, “The Winter Dance” tour went on. Robert Velline (who would make a name for himself as Bobby Vee) was a fifteen-year old singer, songwriter from Fargo, North Dakota, who put together a band called the Shadows, with his older brother and some school friends. They answered a call for talent and performed in Moorhead, MN. Vee would go on to release a single “Suzie Baby” (1959), which was an homage to Buddy Holly’s “Peggy Sue;” release a tribute album (I Remember Buddy Holly (1963); and regularly performed at the Winter Dance Party memorial concerts in Clear Lake, Iowa. Waylon Jennings, Tommy Allsup, and Carl Bunch would all continue, with Jennings eventually singing lead. However, Jennings and Allsup would only continue the tour for two additional weeks. Jennings would ultimately leave Buddy Holly’s guitar and amplifier in a locker at Grand Central Station, and mail the keys to Holly’s widow.

Tragically, María Elena Holly suffered a miscarriage – due to the compounded trauma of losing her husband and finding out about the accident over the radio. Waylon Jenning’s family would also report being traumatized by hearing on the radio that “Buddy Holly and his band had been killed.” Subsequently, public officials decided not to release the names of victims until after the families had been notified.

J. P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson’s son, Jay Perry Richardson, was born two months after the accident. He grew up to become a musician known as “The Big Bopper, Jr.” in honor of his father. For a while, including in 1999, he toured with Jay Mueller, a Buddy Holly impersonator whose tribute show attempted to recreate the 1959 schedule in 1999 (for the 40th anniversary).

“John Mueller, who plays Buddy Holly in a traveling road show called ‘Winter Dance Party,’ has rare insight into what the ’50s performers endured. In 1999, Mueller and the other musicians tried to replicate ’59 tour. It was the 40th anniversary of the plane crash, and he wanted to honor the ’59 tour by going back to the original cities and original venues.


‘By the time we got to Clear Lake, I had lost my voice, I had lost about 10 to 15 pounds, I was just physically exhausted, as was everybody in the group. The grueling nature of the tour, following the exact geographic routing, it really hit me in the head why they chartered the plane,’ said Mueller, whose group traveled in warm, comfortable minivans.”


– quoted from the February 3, 2009 Star Tribune article entitled, “Buddy Holly: The tour from hell – The story of the long, cold nights on the road before the Day the Music Died, 50 years ago.” by Pamela Huey


I asked the questions: But, what if there was no music? What if it just stopped, or ceased to be? What if it died?

But, we know what we would do because people did it. We carry the music in our hearts and minds. We carry it in the muscles of our bodies and in every fiber of our being. We are inspired to make more music, more dance, more poetry, more stories, and even statues.

There have been many songs, books, movies, reenactment concerts, and even a musical written in honor of the musicians and music that were lost in 1959. Perhaps the most famous tribute song about the three stars is Don McLean’s 1971 hit “American Pie” – which established February 3rd as The Day the Music Died. I have been told that Madonna covered the song (but if you’ve never heard the original, you’re missing out).

In April 1959, Tommy Dee recorded “Three Stars,” which offers personal glimpses into the singers’ personality and lives. Eddie Cochran, who was friends with Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens, actually recorded “Three Stars” before Dee recorded it. Tragically, he would be killed in a car accident while on tour in England. He was the only fatality. (I believe his version of “Three Stars was released posthumously.)

Eddie Cochran’s death resulted in another wave of tribute songs, including Waylon Jennings “The Stage (Stars in Heaven),” which was a tribute to the Holly, Valens, “The Big Bopper,” and Cochran. Interestingly, Buddy Holly arranged for Waylon Jenning’s first recording session in December 1958. During that session, Jenning’s recorded his first single, “Jole Blon” – which is sometimes called “the Cajun national anthem” and is on my playlist for the day. It features Buddy Holly and Tommy Allsup, and would be released in March 1959 – so, in some ways, it is also a tribute.

“In a vision I can see, the stars that meant the world to me
Ana din the vision it’s the same as long ago
I see a stage beyond compare and all the stars were settled there”


“We’ve had the final curtain call and if you have seen any of my vision at all
Then you have truly seen, The greatest show of all”

– quoted from the song “The Stage (Stars in Heaven) by Waylon Jennings

Wednesday’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify.

(NOTE: The YouTube playlist has the Tommy Dee version of “Three Stars” during the practice and the Eddie Cochran version in the before/after music. The Spotify playlist has Cochran’s version during the practice and Charlie Gracie’s song “I’m Alright,” a tribute to Eddie Cochran, in the before/after music.)


“Look up in the sky
Up toward the North
There are three new stars
Brightly shining forth


They’re shining so bright
From Heaven above
Gee, we’re gonna miss you
Everybody sends their love”


– quoted from the song “Three Stars” by Tommy Dee


IT’S TIME! During tonight’s “First Friday Night Special” (7:15 – 8:20 PM, CST) we will be “observing the conditions” of the heart. This practice is open and accessible to all. Additional details are posted on the “Class Schedules” calendar! The relevant post is coming.




1. muckth - February 5, 2021

The History Theatre in St Paul (one of our favorites) did a very good play on Buddy Holly a few years ago. 😊 t

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