Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Clear Lake, Iowa: Buddy Holly Crash Site

You could argue that rock and roll music changed forever on February 3, 1959. That was the day the music died, in Don McLean's memorable phrase in "American Pie."

Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper were in a chartered plane going from their last gig in Clear Lake, Iowa, when conditions turned ugly. A combination of bad weather and pilot error forced a crash, killing all aboard.

It's more than 50 years later, and the location is something of a shrine -- even though it's in the middle of a working farm.

Getting there was a bit of an adventure in the summer of 2013. An Interstate is nearby the Northern Iowa location, but it takes a little work on dirt roads to get there. Construction on the usual route to the site didn't help either. But eventually we found it. A pair of huge glasses, like Holly's distinctive style, greet visitors at the entry.

Then comes a quarter-mile walk, surrounded by crops, through the field. Finally, visitors are greeted with a makeshift memorial, as trinkets have been left by fans over the years. Even the pilot is remembered. You can see a cleared out area behind the memorial. It's tough to say if the land was damaged by the crash, or if the owner just hasn't grown anything there.

A popular trivia question centers on who didn't go on that plane trip. Two famous musicians on that tour who stayed on the ground were Waylon Jennings and Dion DiMucci of Dion and the Belmonts. Holly was well ahead of his time musically, and was only 22 when he died. We can only guess what he might have done in the years to come.

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