5 Things You Didn't Know About The Day The Music Died

February 3, 1959 is forever known as 'The Day the Music Died,' when an airplane carrying rock legends Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. 'The Big Bopper' Richardson crashed in a field in Fargo, North Dakota.  Here are 5 shocking facts you probably didn’t know about "The Day the Music Died."


The Musicians' Tour Bus Had Mechanical Problems A combination of mechanical problems with their bus, the terrible weather and a long drive ahead to their next gig in Fargo, Minnesota, convinced singer Buddy Holly that chartering a plane to get there was a good idea. The three-seater Beechcraft Bonanza they hired crashed around five miles from Mason City, Iowa, killing the three musicians onboard. Because a flight plan had not been filed for the flight, their bodies weren’t discovered until the following morning.

Waylon Jennings Was Supposed to Be on The Plane Waylon Jennings was only 22 years old and an up-and-coming entertainer when he was hired by Buddy Holly to play at the Winter Dance Party Tour at the Surf Ballroom. Waylon Jennings had originally intended to be on the plane that evening, but he gave up his seat to J.P. Richardson who was suffering from the flu. Holly and Jennings joked around prior to take-off, with Jennings jesting that he hoped the plane crashed. That remark would haunt Jennings for the rest of his life, causing him to feel responsible for the crash.


A Coin Toss Decided What Other Musician Died That Day Ritchie Valens, popular for his hit song “La Bamba” asked band member Tommy Allsup for his seat on the plane. The two musicians agreed to toss a coin to decide. Bob Hale, a disc jockey with Mason City's KRIB-AM, was working the concert that night and flipped the coin in the ballroom's side-stage room shortly before the musicians departed for the airport. Valens won the coin toss for the seat on the flight and Tommy Allsup never got on the plane. Years later, Allsup opened a saloon and called the bar the Head's Up Saloon. This would remind him in the future how a simple coin toss had saved his life.

The Cause of the Plane Crash Error on the part of the plane’s pilot, Roger Peterson, who also died in the accident, was determined to be a cause of the plane crash. The 21-year-old pilot had not undergone the instrument training that would have been needed when flying in bad weather. Unfortunately, Peterson was also unaware that a weather advisory had been issued before he took off with his passengers. The final investigation blamed the accident on pilot error and the poor weather conditions.

Singer Don McLean Recorded a Song that Mentions the Accident The death of the three music legends was immortalized in the song “American Pie” by Don McLean. The song was released in 1971. The lyrics, “February made me shiver” and “The day the music died” are believed to refer to Buddy Holly, “The Big Bopper” and Ritchie Valens and the terrible accident that took their lives. The original recording of the song was chosen by the Library of Congress to be preserved in 2017 as being a significant contribution historically, culturally or artistically.