Tuesday, June 09, 2009

The Day the Music Died, Part One

Location: Clear Lake, IA

A long, long time ago...

I can still remember

How that music used to make me smile.

And I knew if I had my chance

That I could make those people dance

And, maybe, they'd be happy for a while.

But February made me shiver

With every paper I'd deliver.

Bad news on the doorstep;

I couldn't take one more step.

I can't remember if I cried

When I read about his widowed bride,

But something touched me deep inside

The day the music died.

-- Don McLean, American Pie

Part One

February 3, 1959 lives on in legend and lore as one of rock and roll's darkest days. After playing a concert at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, IA, Buddy Holly, J. P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson, and Richie Valens borded a small airplane that would fly them to their next gig in North Dakota. They made it 5 miles before the plane, flying in a blinding snow storm, crashed into an Iowa farm field. The picture to the left was taken the day after, and shows a pitifully small amount of wreckage piled up along a fence in a snowy bean and corn field.

People can easily drive through the Clear Lake area and never realize that this is where "the music died." If they dig a little deeper, they'll find that the crash site and a fan memorial are waiting to be found in that same bean and corn field just north of town. Until recently, the half-mile path from the unpaved road to the crash site was marked only by small orange flags (a nice gesture from an unnamed landowner), but now a huge pair of Buddy Holly glasses has been added to mark the entrance, while the little row of flags continue to run off into the distance. The day we were there was rainy and the ground muddy, but John, Vivian, and I trekked off anyway to visit this memorial to rock and roll (this picture and the previous picture show the fence-line path from opposite ends).

When we reached the site, we found a rain-soaked memorial consisting of a permanent metal marker and temporary "leavings" such as cardboard guitars, poems, grocery store loyalty cards (why?), and even an Hawaiian driver's license!

After we contemplated the event for a while, we hiked back out, shoes covered with mud, happily singing American Pie, Peggy Sue, Chantilly Lace, and LaBamba as we went. Vivian snapped a final picture of John and me looking through the glasses, and we were off to Part Two of the adventure.

Part Two will be posted tomorrow.

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