February 3, 1959 three young men who were flying to their next gig died in a plane crash. Their bodies lay on a frozen field in Iowa. The young pilot who flew the plane was also a fatality.
Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J. P. Richardson aka the Big Bopper met an untimely end that day. Buddy Holly was a gifted song writer and musician whose musical style influenced rock and roll star wannabes across the globe. I remember the Big Bopper as a local hero.
The Bopper had worked at Radio KFDM and his Texas roots rock solid. His uncle was our tv repairman. His first cousin went to school with my sister. We all felt a deep loss. I remember Mama ironed the family clothes and listened to the funeral on the radio as Gordon Baxter became the voice for so many who longed to be there.
The Bopper was laid to rest at Forest Lawn Cemetery. His grave a gentle reminder of the uncertainty of life. In 2006 a historical marker was dedicated beside the grave. The Bopper’s son Jay and his family attended. Other musicians such as Johnny Preston who sang a Bopper song Running Bear and Bobby Vee who had toured with the trio in 1959 also attended. It was a sunny day and the day was filled with memories.
Tributes were offered. I snapped photos and paid my respect to the fallen heros as best I could. I considered the fact Buddy Holly had so influenced rock music by the simple fact – The Beatles honored him by a play on the word Crickets. Another British Group went one further and named themselves The Hollies. Paul McCartney also purchased the Buddy Holly catalog and thus added to his impressive musical library.
The music did not die – but it certainly lost three promising young men and thus etched yet another chapter of what might have been. That day I certainly considered such thoughts as I looked at the grave, the legacy which was intangible – his son, his music. I stood beside the grave and I said thank you J.P.