Rock idols die in plane crash 50 years ago this morningMASON CITY, Iowa — Fifty years ago, the calendar was exactly the same as this year. The legendary Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa was jam-packed on Monday evening, Feb. 2, 1959 to hear three rock’n roll stars — Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. Richardson, known as the “Big Bopper” — perform in concert as part of the famous Midwest Winter Dance Tour.
By: Les Knutson, Worthington Daily Globe
MASON CITY, Iowa — Fifty years ago, the calendar was exactly the same as this year.
The legendary Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa was jam-packed on Monday evening, Feb. 2, 1959 to hear three rock’n roll stars — Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. Richardson, known as the “Big Bopper” — perform in concert as part of the famous Midwest Winter Dance Tour.
Holly, 22, was the most famous of the three. The Lubbock, Texas native had hit the charts big in ’57 and ’58 with “That’ll Be The Day,” “Peggy Sue,” “Oh, Boy,” “Maybe Baby” and “Rave On.”
Valens, 17, was from Los Angeles and was just rising to fame with his recently released hits “LaBamba” and “Donna” — which legend says he sang to his girlfriend over the telephone. “Donna” would get as high as No. 2 in the country later in 1959.
The “Big Bopper” was the oldest of the trio at 28. His most famous song was “Chantilly Lace,” which was on the charts for 22 weeks, beginning Aug. 4, 1958.
While “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes” by the Platters was the top song in the nation the night of the concert, Buddy Holly’s “It Doesn’t Matter Anymore” was climbing Billboard.
It must have been quite a show that night in Clear Lake, and now — every year there is a memorable concert at the Surf the first weekend in February.
For on that “ground hog” day evening 50 years ago, those three rock idols sang for the last time. Scheduled to play in Moorhead the next night, the trio opted not to take the long bus ride northwest, but chose to fly instead.
But shortly after take-off from the Mason City airport, the small plane crashed in the early morning hours of Feb. 3rd — the day “the music died” Don McLean would sing later in his 1972 classic “American Pie.”
Here is something else that happened later that same day.
While the nation was hearing the tragic news of the small crash in northern Iowa, a big crash happened in New York City’s East River.
“Airliner Plunges into Icy NY River, 65 Perish” ran the banner headline in the Wednesday, Feb. 4, 1959 issue of the Daily Globe.
Unlike, the recent (Jan. 15) plane which went down on Manhattan’s west side — in the Hudson River — with all 155 aboard surviving, this “glistening new turboprop American Airlines plane with 73 persons aboard plunged into the chilling, fog-covered waters of the East River with a shattering crash late Tuesday night. Sixty-five apparently perished despite rescue efforts by harbor craft.”
A day earlier — Tuesday, Feb. 3 — a front page headline had read:
“3 Rock ‘n’ Roll Idols Killed in Plane Crash”
“Find Wreckage on Iowa Farm” was the sub headline.
With the temperature at 18 degrees and blowing snow being driven by a 35 mph southerly wind, the Beechcraft Bonanza crashed in a field 15 miles northwest of Mason City shortly after 1:00 a.m., killing the pilot and all three passengers.
It is hard to imagine both those crashes happening less than 24 hours apart, and how could it have been 50 years ago already?
Slayton, Fulda gearing for Friday “Goat” game
Among the area events happening on the local sporting scene that first week in February of 1959 was the upcoming basketball game between the Fulda Raiders and the Slayton Wildcats in the battle for “Mr. Goat.”
Daily Globe sports editor Corky Brace had a feature story in Wednesday’s paper about the upcoming clash between the two rivals. Since 1929, the winner of this game retained an old “stuffed” goat that originally had just three legs and a set of horns.
An updated version still had the horns and was given four legs — and that “Mr. Goat” had been claimed for 14 consecutive seasons by Slayton.
In area high school games on the night following the “Buddy Holly” plane crash, Ellsworth improved to 13-1 with a 73-38 victory over Chandler, Harris (Iowa) rolled past Round Lake (76-31), Okabena edged Storden (56-52) and Fulda became 12-1 with a 74-70 overtime win against Pipestone.
LeRoy Visker (14), Daryl Heikes (13), Junior Boelman (12) and Jerry Matthiesen (11) all had double figures for Ellsworth.
Dennis Vogel scored 24 points for Harris and Brian Coyer netted 15 points for Round Lake.
Dale Peters (22), Lynn Schmidt (17) and Dale Aden (11) tallied double figures for Okabena, while Chuck Madson (14) and Gordy Thompson (11) were Storden’s top scorers.
Dennis Lemburg, who made a late-game steal and a shot to send the game into overtime, scored 26 points to lead Fulda. Kenny Koestler (16), Dick Overlees (12), Edward Kellen (10) and Simon Koning (10) also notched double figures for the Raiders, while Bob Glasrud poured in 25 points for Pipestone.
SW Conference wrestling champions
Windom scored 105 points to win the ’59 Southwest Conference wrestling championship, finishing ahead of Worthington (99), Pipestone (71) and Luverne (55).
The Eagles had six individual champions, while the Trojans won four titles and the Arrows claimed two.
Individual champions were (95) Wayne Paulsen, Worthington; (103) Larry Wipf, Windom; (112) Ken Droegemueller, Windom; (120), Jim Perkins, Worthington; (127) Richard Werner, Windom; (133) Mike Manion, Pipestone; (138) Bob Janssen, Worthington; (145) Eldon Brand, Windom; (154) Juhl Hartberg, Windom; (165) Eldon Moon, Windom; (175) Lee Johnston, Worthington and (Hwt.) Jerry Demars, Pipestone.
Droegemueller would later become Worthington’s head wrestling coach for many years during the 1960s and 1970s.
Heron Lake Lakers play Galloping Gophers
In the paper 50 years ago today was this brief:
HERON LAKE (Special) — The Heron Lake Lakers, this area’s finest independent basketball team, will play the Galloping Gophers Thursday night at Mountain Lake.
The Gophers are a team of former University of Minnesota stars. Their roster includes some players with professional experience.
Brewster’s Rod McNab Tops 1,000 points
In a 90-70 victory over the Currie Sheteks, Brewster senior Rod McNab fired in 47 points and surpassed the 1,000 point mark for his varsity career.
Bulldog classmate Dave Garmer contributed 21 points.
Fulda Claims Goat, Kleven leads Westbrook
Once again winning in overtime, Fulda claimed “Mr. Goat” with a 64-62 triumph at Slayton.
Lemburg scored 30 points to lead the Fulda victory, while Overlees and Kellen added 19 and 10 points, respectively.
Dick Swenson netted 24 points for Slayton and Ed Frerk (12) and Ken Schwartz (11) also scored in double figures for the Wildcats.
Meanwhile at Westbrook, the Wildcats improved to 13-1 as high-scoring Gary Kleven tallied 30 points in a 95-73 victory over Butterfield.
Look for more on Kleven and Westbrook’s ’59 Region 2 runner-ups in an upcoming “Blast.”