The Day the Music Died: Paying respects to Buddy Holly and early Rock stars in Clear Lake

Surf Ballroom

I have been a fan of Buddy Holly’s music since I was a teen-ager. I’m not sure how that came to be. My guess is I picked it up from my older siblings.

Buddy Holly (real last name was spelled Holley) died in a tragic plane crash Feb. 3, 1959, about five miles northwest of Clear Lake, Iowa. The 22-year-old Texan had performed at the Surf Ballroom earlier that evening. Holly, JP “Big Bopper” Richardson and Ritchie Valens were on the small plane piloted by Roger Peterson. None of the four survived. The Big Bopper was 28 and Valens was 17.

Holly wasn’t supposed to be on the plane that night, but his back-up band member, Waylon Jennings, gave up his seat.

The crash inspired the song “American Pie,” by Don McLean in the early 1970s. It mentions “the day the music died.” This is often referenced because of the influence Holly had on early Rock and Roll.

Surf Ballroom

Lisa and I visited the Surf Ballroom previously when we were passing through the area. But, I’ve always wanted to visit the crash site to pay my respects.

While in North Iowa recently, we were escorted around the area by Sara Broers of Mason City, Iowa. Sara is a national speaker, social media consultant and writes a few blogs, including “Travels with Sara.”

Sara took us to the crash site. It was a GPS challenge on our phones, but we found it. For everyone’s information, it is located near 315th Street and Gull Avenue.

A sign post resembling Buddy Holly’s black-rimmed glasses marks the crash site entrance. The site is on private property, but the owner lets people access the site without issues.

Buddy Holly

The actual crash site is about a quarter-mile into the field. So, be ready for a short walk.

Buddy Holly Crash Site

Fan memorials are located at the site. People really loved and still love these guys. The memorials are well made.

Buddy Holly Crash Site

I thought it was pretty nice that someone created a memorial for the pilot, too.

Buddy Holly Crash Site

As a fan, this was an opportunity to mark off an item on my list of things Buddy Holly. I eventually want to make our way to Lubbock, Texas, Holly’s hometown and where he is buried