The Day The Music Died

The Day The Music Died ~


I am sure that many of you have heard the Don McLean song, “American Pie,” but do you know what it is referencing? If you haven’t heard of “The Day The Music Died” then you have missed a huge piece of music history. On February 3rd, 1959, Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper were all killed in a single plane accident along with their pilot, Roger Peterson. McLean’s song about this tragedy, political change, war and the supposed death of America’s innocence, has become a fixture in American pop culture.

Fateful Decisions And Things We Can’t Take Back

The Day The Music Died – Ritchie Valens won a coin toss which landed him a seat on the flight. Waylon Jennings {who was Buddy Holly’s base player at the time} was also supposed to be on that flight, but J.P. Richardson {aka The Big Bopper} was feeling sick so he took Jennings’ seat. Waylon Jennings then jokingly told Richardson that he hoped his plane crashed – a comment that he would regret making until he died.

Buddy Holly



Buddy Holly’s mother found out that her son was killed when she heard it on the radio and his widow found out about his death when she saw it announced on TV. Holly’s widow was pregnant and miscarried the following day. Because of this, authorities adopted a policy of not announcing victim’s names in the media until family is notified. Buddy Holly was only 22 when he died and was probably best known for “Peggy Sue” and “That’ll Be The Day.”


Buddy Holly and his band, The Crickets, made popular the two guitar, one bass, one drum lineup that the Beatles and other bands {like Weezer} later adopted. In 1978, Gary Busey played Buddy Holly in “The Buddy Holly Story,” for which Busey was nominated for an Oscar for Best Actor In a Leading Role. The movie did win an Oscar for Music {Adaptation Score}.

Ritchie Valens


Ritchie Valens and The Day The Music Died were immortalized by Lou Diamond Phillips in the movie, “La Bamba,” which launched Phillips’ career. “La Bamba” was also one of Valens’ most popular songs. Other hits by Valens were “Donna” and “Come On, Let’s Go.” He was a founder of the Chicano music movement even though his recording career was extremely short. Ritchie Valens was only 17 when he died.


The Big Bopper


The Big Bopper was probably most well known for “Chantilly Lace,” which was one of the most played songs of 1958.

In 1957, he broke the record for continuous on-air broadcasting by playing 1,821 records, spanning 122 hours and 8 minutes. That was five days, two hours and eight minutes that he spent at his mike.

He is also credited as penning the term “music video.” Richardson was 28 when he died.

The Winter Dance Party Tour

Aftermath of The Day The Music Died – All of the musicians were currently on tour together for “The Winter Dance Party” tour and the tour continued after their deaths with Waylon Jennings singing lead and teen sensation Frankie Avalon joining the tour.

More Important Days in February

Do You Remember The Day The Music Died?


About Dawn McAlexander

Dawn is a full time travel and lifestyle blogger. Besides Cheap Is The New Classy, she also owns and writes for, an entertainment site. Her interests include traveling, home decor, DIY projects, organizing her home and enjoying a nice cup of coffee {or two}. She currently resides in North Carolina with her dog, Daisy.


  1. Very interesting twists of fate. Nice to revisit some old classics.

  2. Jenna M Wood says

    What a great look at some iconic artists in memory of the Day The Music Died. We will always miss Boddy Holly here!

  3. So much crazy history on that one day right?? thanks for reminding us.

  4. Heather martin says

    My mom says that one of the days she began to hate listening to the radio.

  5. Wow, thanks for sharing that.

  6. Oh Dawn, thank you so much for posting this! I knew the anniversary was coming up, I just couldn’t remember the exact date. Tomorrow I’m going to spend it watching La Bamba and The Buddy Holly Story.

    • I had taped La Bamba last week on my DVR because I had never seen it – with no idea that the anniversary is today. I will watch it sometime today as well. I still need to find The Buddy Holly Story.


  7. gotta love the classics!

  8. sandra davis says

    i remember playing american pie over and over when i was younger. brings back lots of memories. thanks for sharing about the anniversary

  9. One of my all time favorite songs. I knew the story already but no, I wasn’t alive the day it happened. It always brings tears to my eyes.

  10. Thanks for sharing. Truly a tragedy to have lost great musicians so early.

  11. Such a tragedy. I knew of the accident but there were details in your article that I hadn’t known about. Such a sad day.

  12. I love the music from this time span. I remember my parents talking about this.

  13. Such a tragic ending to sooo much talent, love the movies no matter how many times we see them both. American pie a classic ! So many great artist’s have been lost before they should have been, very sad.

  14. Oh wow, I never knew that. How sad!

  15. I’ve heard some of that story before but not the details. This song is definitely iconic and has so much back story.

  16. amanda whitley says

    wow, i didnt know who any of those artists were but that is so weird how that happened. ive heard that line in american pie several times and its nice to know what it means.

  17. I had never heard the history behind the song, I just remember my oldest sister listening to it over and over and unfortunately I never wanted to hear it again thanks to here. It is a beautiful song though.


  1. […] was the anniversary of one of the most tragic events in music history. Infamously known as “The Day the Music Died,” this date in 1959 was when three legendary young rock and roll musicians were killed in a […]