Fifty years ago, February 3, 1959, a plane crash near Clear Lake, Iowa took the lives of three popular music stars. Buddy Holly, J.P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson, Richie Valens, and pilot Roger Peterson. Waylon Jennings gave up his seat to Richardson, who was not feeling well and was running a fever. Valens had reached overnight success with the hits La Bamba and Donna. Richardson's mega-hit, Chantilly Lace, had been all over the radio in 1958. Holly, best known for songs such as Peggy Sue and That'll Be The Day were on a tour to promote their music when tragedy struck.
In his song American Pie that became a huge hit in 1972, singer-songwriter Don McLean referred to the day of the crash as "The day the music died". It was so long that the single version had to be in two halves on the "A" and "B" sides of the 45 RPM record. That song also was one of three that I always kept handy back when I was a radio disc-jockey, as the 8:33 length made it the perfect song if you had to make a lengthy trip to the bathroom before the song ran out. What were the others, you ask? In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida by Iron Butterfly, which ran an amazing 17:05 on the album version; and the rock classic of the 70s, Stairway to Heaven, at 8:02. Stairway is still one of my all time favorite songs.