KCTV5 news reporter Amy Anderson transports you back to the Surf Ballroom and the Winter Dance Party.
Kansas City news reporter Amy Anderson and producer Zoe Brown interview two ‘teenagers’ who were at the Surf Ballroom on February 3, 1959 and then travel to Clear Lake, Iowa to file this exceptional story about ‘The Night The Music Died.’ Also, the story includes a connection to original Cricket rhythm guitar player, Niki Sullivan.
The Day the Music Died , The Start of a New Career
Robert Thomas Velline (April 30, 1943 – October 24, 2016), known professionally as Bobby Vee.
Bobby Vee’s career began in the midst of tragedy. On February 3, 1959, “The Day the Music Died,” three of the four headline acts in the lineup of the traveling Winter Dance Party—Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and the Big Bopper—were killed in the crash of a V-tailed 1947 Beechcraft Bonanza airplane, along with the 21-year-old pilot, Roger Peterson. (Dion DiMucci, the second headliner, had opted not to travel on the plane.) The plane crashed near Clear Lake, Iowa, en route to the next show on the tour itinerary, in Moorhead, Minnesota. Velline, then 15 years old, hastily assembled band of Fargo schoolboys (including his older brother Bill) calling themselves ‘The Shadows’ volunteered for and were given the unenviable job of filling in for Holly and his band at the Moorhead engagement. Their performance there was a success, setting in motion a chain of events that led to Vee’s career as a popular singer.
February 2, 1959
The Winter Dance Party Arrives in Clear Lake, Iowa
On this frozen night in 1959 the Winter Dance Party, featuring headliners Buddy Holly and the Crickets, arrived at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa. The show also included Frankie Sardo, Dion and the Belmonts, J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson, and new teen sensation Ritchie Valens.
By the time the tour bus pulled into Clear Lake, Buddy Holly was frosted by the bitter Mid-West weather, and frustrated by all the breakdowns along the way. To avoid another long cold bus ride after the show, Holly decided to charter a plane to take himself and the Crickets to the next stop in Moorhead, Minnesota.
The Surf Ballroom had not been a scheduled stop on the tour, but show’s promoters, hoping to fill an open date, called Surf Ballroom manager Carroll Anderson and offered him the show.
The photo above is of Buddy Holly performing his last show on the stage of the Surf Ballroom. Also pictured here are Waylon Jennings on bass guitar and Tommy Allsup on rhythm guitar.