The Surf Ballroom opened its doors in Clear Lake, Iowa in 1937. During a time of war, in the middle of the Great Depression, it provided a refuge. This new venue gave music lovers a place to go to dance and artists a place to showcase their music. Its an American Cultural icon. For just $1.00 you could experience music like never before. Tourists still flock to The Surf, they still sell out concerts weekly and they received a huge honor as they were inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. To me, its more personal. The Surf was once owned by my late grandpa.
February 2, 1959 the most infamous concert tour in history was making a stop at The Surf Ballroom. Never before had this many big names come together on one stage. Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, The Big Bopper, Waylon Jennings, Tommy Alsup, Carl Bunch, Dion and the Belmont and Frankie Sardo were all set to play. This iconic concert was electric and impressionable. The all star line up played the hottest songs of that time and quite possibly changed the face of music forever in young minds.
The tour had not been arranged well with 24 cities in all corners of the US. They were exhausted. The weather was awful, it began storming and Buddy Holly decided to charter a plane for himself and a couple friends. Tommy Allsup ended up losing his seat to a coin toss to Valens. Waylon Jennings unselfishly gave us his seat for The Big Bopper, who was sick with the flu. When Holly learned Jennings wasn’t going to fly he jokingly said “Well, I hope your ol bus freezes up”. Waylon returned, also kidding “well, I hope your ol plane crashes”. This would go on to haunt him for the rest of his life as minutes after take off the small plane crashed killing 3 of the greatest musicians that ever lived.
This infamous night was forever immortalized as “The Day the Music Died” in a song by Don McClean, American Pie. Each year The Surf Ballroom hosts The Winter Dance Party just like they did that fateful day. There is a 3 day party filled with music, dancing, and good times with albeit a steeper price tag. Either way its good to know fans still show up and the music really didn’t die after all.
Upcoming country music concerts:
Dustin Lynch: January 17
Scotty McCreery: February 8
The Day the Music Died, so dubbed by a lyric in the Don McLean song "American Pie," is a reference to the deaths of rock and roll musicians Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J. P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson, in a plane crash nearClear Lake, Iowa, on February 3, 1959. Pilot Roger Peterson was also killed.
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