The Day the Music Died
On February 3, 1959, musicians Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and Jiles "The Big Bopper" Richardson all boarded single engine Beechcraft Bonanza airplane at Mason City Municipal Airport in Iowa, following a performance in Clear Lake. The plane had been chartered to take them to Fargo, North Dakota. Originally chartered for Buddy Holly and his bandmates, Valens and Richardson coaxed Holly's band members into giving up their plane seats (Valens won the seat from a coin toss).
Within minutes of its 1:00 am take off, the plane crashed in a cornfield roughly 5 miles Northwest in the city of Clear Lake, Iowa. All three passengers and their young pilot, Roger Peterson, were killed instantly. The cause of the crash has been attributed to the pilot's inexperience with night time flying, and a lack of information about the poor weather conditions.
In 1971 the deaths of Holly, Valens and Richardson were memorialized in Don McLean's song American Pie in which the event was referred to as "The day the music died." Artist Ken Paquette has designed and built two stainless steel memorials to the musicians who died in the crash. The first memorial was built in 1988 and stands at the crash site. The other was erected in 2003 at the Riverside Ballroom - Green Bay, WI; the site of musicians' second to last performance. Each memorial consists of a reproduction of an electric guitar and three records embossed with the names of each musician.