DAY(S) THE MUSIC DIED

The Day the Music Died

This is a Blog Posting from 2014

Gee, it’s been 56 years since Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, and the Big Bopper finished a concert at The Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa. Their next gig was in Moorhead, Minnesota. They never made it. Their plane crashed shortly after take-off. February 3, 1959 – ‘The day the music died’, as Don McLean proclaimed in his song/poem ‘AMERICAN PIE’.

Their deaths really didn’t affect me as much as it affected others my age. I was in the Army at the time. Although I kept up with popular music before I went into the Army, I pretty much lost track of the Top 40 hits during my Army stint.

At the time I was in Headquarters Company, 82 Airborne, Signal Battalion At Fort Bragg. Unlike the men in the two line companies, who lived in squad rooms, we in Headquarters Company had two-man rooms. My roommate, Patricio Menes, and I were into ‘cool’ jazz, Brubeck, Kenton, etc.. I had a small hi-fi phonograph and the two us had a number of LPs. Neither of us had a radio or a car with one . And I didn’t have one on my motorcycle. We heard some of the music of the day when we were shooting pool in the day room and American Bandstand was on TV. And we heard a lot of the music on juke boxes when we went to Fayetteville.

The first I heard of the plane crash was the next night when Patricio came in  the room and told me, ‘Richie was killed in a plane crash.’ I thought he was talking about some friend of his, but Pat put me straight. ‘Richie Valens! ‘ LA BAMBA!’

I knew the song because Pat played it often on juke boxes. Valens came from L.A. just like Patricio. Pat and the other Latinos from the L.A. barrio thought Valens was one of their own, and liked to sing the Mexican folk song, LA BAMBA, which Valens, not only made a hit out of it, but sang it in Spanish. I often wondered how Pat and his friends felt when they found out that Valens didn’t come from the barrio, but from a suburb of L.A., and his Spanish was limited to ordering from a menu and reading the lyrics of his hit from a cue card.

And it was several days after I heard Valens was killed in a crash that I learned Buddy Holly and The Big Bopper were also killed in that crash.

Over the years I learned the back stories like Waylon Jennings, a member of The Crickets, gave up his seat in the plane to the Big Bopper, who was sick, and went by bus with the other Crickets as well as Dion and the Belmonts. Waylon took off on his own shortly afterwards and went ‘outlaw’.

Then there the story of how the concert promoter in Moorhead filled out the bill as best he could and brought in a local boy, Bobby Vee, as one of the acts. Vee followed up that appearance with several hit singles, and when the time came for Vee to record his first album, he hired a young Bobby Dylan to play guitar on the album.

And over the years, I began to appreciate the talent  of Buddy Holly.

Since that crash took place before I became a stage hand, I never had the pleasure of working those three. I saw the movies based on the lives of Holly and Valens. And I worked BUDDY THE MUSICAL several times. But it’s not the same as seeing them in person.

As far as the others in the back story, I had the pleasure of working them all many times. The name of Bobby Vee may not be familiar to most people but he was very talented and fun to work, especially in the later years when he and his sons put on their shows. Sadly, I read the other day that Bobby Vee has Alzheimer’s.

A few years later, Patsy Cline, Cowboy Copas, and Hawkshaw Hawkins were killed in a small plane crash. And the list of musicians killed in light plane crashes goes on and on. The two that hit me the hardest was Ricky Nelson and Jim Croce.

Although he is largely ignored today, Ricky Nelson was big, big, big in the early days of rock and roll. For several years, only Elvis outsold him. And then he let his addictions grand his career to a screaming halt.

I had just worked Nelson shortly before his death. He was so excited. His concerts were selling better than he had hoped; his all time hits album had just been remastered, and he felt maybe his career would take off again. He was also high. They figured out that fire from cocaine freebasing on the plane caused the ‘Travelin Man’ to have his ticket punched.

The two favorite front acts of Sue Wiel, promoter at the Guthrie, were James Taylor and later, Jim Croce. Taylor was so thankful for Sue’s faith in him when he was trying to bust the big time, that he promised to come back and play two shows at the G when he did make it. And what shows they were! He also brought along his wife at the time, Carly Simon, who sang some duets with James and a few solos. Two big acts for the price of one. At that time, he was so big he could have easily sold out an arena show, but he had made Sue a promise.

I got to know Jim Croce during his front act performances at the Guthrie. After he finished his act, he would come up to the lighting booth and sit next to me to watch the main act. He was interesting, a good story teller, and he made no bones about loving his wife and his newborn baby. A nice person and a great talent.

Like James Taylor before him, Jim also planned to do a couple thank you shows for Sue, when he made it big. And like James Taylor, he was good to his promise. He was booked to play the Guthrie, even though he was hot enough to play a much larger venue in the Twin Cities, on the tour that took his life. Killed in a small-plane crash. What a loss!

So many, many musicians had their careers cut short because of small-plane crashes. So many, many days that ‘music died’.

DAY(S) THE MUSIC DIED

The Day the Music Died

This is a Blog Posting from 2014

Gee, it’s been 56 years since Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, and the Big Bopper finished a concert at The Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa. Their next gig was in Moorhead, Minnesota. They never made it. Their plane crashed shortly after take-off. February 3, 1959 – ‘The day the music died’, as Don McLean proclaimed in his song/poem ‘AMERICAN PIE’.

Their deaths really didn’t affect me as much as it affected others my age. I was in the Army at the time. Although I kept up with popular music before I went into the Army, I pretty much lost track of the Top 40 hits during my Army stint.

At the time I was in Headquarters Company, 82 Airborne, Signal Battalion At Fort Bragg. Unlike the men in the two line companies, who lived in squad rooms, we in Headquarters Company had two-man rooms. My roommate, Patricio Menes, and I were into ‘cool’ jazz, Brubeck, Kenton, etc.. I had a small hi-fi phonograph and the two us had a number of LPs. Neither of us had a radio or a car with one . And I didn’t have one on my motorcycle. We heard some of the music of the day when we were shooting pool in the day room and American Bandstand was on TV. And we heard a lot of the music on juke boxes when we went to Fayetteville.

The first I heard of the plane crash was the next night when Patricio came in  the room and told me, ‘Richie was killed in a plane crash.’ I thought he was talking about some friend of his, but Pat put me straight. ‘Richie Valens! ‘ LA BAMBA!’

I knew the song because Pat played it often on juke boxes. Valens came from L.A. just like Patricio. Pat and the other Latinos from the L.A. barrio thought Valens was one of their own, and liked to sing the Mexican folk song, LA BAMBA, which Valens, not only made a hit out of it, but sang it in Spanish. I often wondered how Pat and his friends felt when they found out that Valens didn’t come from the barrio, but from a suburb of L.A., and his Spanish was limited to ordering from a menu and reading the lyrics of his hit from a cue card.

And it was several days after I heard Valens was killed in a crash that I learned Buddy Holly and The Big Bopper were also killed in that crash.

Over the years I learned the back stories like Waylon Jennings, a member of The Crickets, gave up his seat in the plane to the Big Bopper, who was sick, and went by bus with the other Crickets as well as Dion and the Belmonts. Waylon took off on his own shortly afterwards and went ‘outlaw’.

Then there the story of how the concert promoter in Moorhead filled out the bill as best he could and brought in a local boy, Bobby Vee, as one of the acts. Vee followed up that appearance with several hit singles, and when the time came for Vee to record his first album, he hired a young Bobby Dylan to play guitar on the album.

And over the years, I began to appreciate the talent  of Buddy Holly.

Since that crash took place before I became a stage hand, I never had the pleasure of working those three. I saw the movies based on the lives of Holly and Valens. And I worked BUDDY THE MUSICAL several times. But it’s not the same as seeing them in person.

As far as the others in the back story, I had the pleasure of working them all many times. The name of Bobby Vee may not be familiar to most people but he was very talented and fun to work, especially in the later years when he and his sons put on their shows. Sadly, I read the other day that Bobby Vee has Alzheimer’s.

A few years later, Patsy Cline, Cowboy Copas, and Hawkshaw Hawkins were killed in a small plane crash. And the list of musicians killed in light plane crashes goes on and on. The two that hit me the hardest was Ricky Nelson and Jim Croce.

Although he is largely ignored today, Ricky Nelson was big, big, big in the early days of rock and roll. For several years, only Elvis outsold him. And then he let his addictions grand his career to a screaming halt.

I had just worked Nelson shortly before his death. He was so excited. His concerts were selling better than he had hoped; his all time hits album had just been remastered, and he felt maybe his career would take off again. He was also high. They figured out that fire from cocaine freebasing on the plane caused the ‘Travelin Man’ to have his ticket punched.

The two favorite front acts of Sue Wiel, promoter at the Guthrie, were James Taylor and later, Jim Croce. Taylor was so thankful for Sue’s faith in him when he was trying to bust the big time, that he promised to come back and play two shows at the G when he did make it. And what shows they were! He also brought along his wife at the time, Carly Simon, who sang some duets with James and a few solos. Two big acts for the price of one. At that time, he was so big he could have easily sold out an arena show, but he had made Sue a promise.

I got to know Jim Croce during his front act performances at the Guthrie. After he finished his act, he would come up to the lighting booth and sit next to me to watch the main act. He was interesting, a good story teller, and he made no bones about loving his wife and his newborn baby. A nice person and a great talent.

Like James Taylor before him, Jim also planned to do a couple thank you shows for Sue, when he made it big. And like James Taylor, he was good to his promise. He was booked to play the Guthrie, even though he was hot enough to play a much larger venue in the Twin Cities, on the tour that took his life. Killed in a small-plane crash. What a loss!

So many, many musicians had their careers cut short because of small-plane crashes. So many, many days that ‘music died’.

WAILING CUZ A WAYLON

@The Guthrie

When the original Byrds were breaking up, people figured that Roger McGuinn would be a big solo act. Sue Weil, the promoter for the Walker, was one of the first to book him. She booked him for 2 shows at the Guthrie, and as a front act, she booked Waylon Jennings. Later she confided to me that she had never heard of Waylon when she booked him.

Well, I had heard of him and so did most of the people who bought tickets, especially those wearing cowboy boots. In fact, most of the people who bought tickets had never heard of Roger McGuinn, the main act.

Waylon put on a show and a half during that first show. I liked it, and so did the audience. The first act usually played just half hour, forty five minutes, but the audience didn’t want Waylon to quit. I got an order over the backstage squawk box to bring up the house lights. It came from McGuinn. I told him I only take orders from the promoter. Sue came on and told me to bring up the lights as soon as Waylon finished the song.

When McGuinn came out for his set, the first thing he did was make a crack about how the front act must think he was the main attraction. Some people stood up and left. McGuinn just stood and stared at them. More people walked out. Finally he started to sing. A lot more people walked out. The more he sang, the more people walked out. By the end of his show, there was only about a quarter of a house. He didn’t bother to do an encore.

Between the two shows, I went backstage. I could hear McGuinn screaming in his dressing room. Waylon’s manager was standing in the hallway listening. When he saw me, the manager smiled and invited me out to the bus to have a beer. Tour buses were still scarce. First one I was ever in. The manager told everybody who I was and gave me a beer. Waylon offered me drink of tequila, I declined. Somebody passed a joint to me, I declined. Waylon hadn’t bothered to stay backstage to watch McGuinn’s set but a couple who did had already told Waylon what had happened.

Waylon’s manager filled him in the discussion between McGuinn and  Sue, the promoter. McGuinn had demanded that Waylon not play for the second show. Sue said no. If he played he could only play for 15 minutes. Sue said no. He couldn’t take any encores. Sue said no again. The second show would be just as the first show. McGuinn said if that’s the case, he wouldn’t go on. Sue said fine with her. The audience seems to like Waylon better than McGuinn anyway. She was sure Waylon could do the show by himself. And, she pointed out, she would sue McGuinn for breach of contract. Sue said it would be a win-win situation for both the audience and her. Everybody in the bus laughed and hoped McGuinn would stick to his threat about not going on.

The second show of the night was no different than the first show. The cowboy-booted audience stomped and cheered Waylon on. McGuinn called the booth again and told me to bring up the houselights. I again told I only would take orders from Sue. Waylon did his gig, did one encore, and left the stage. He called the booth and thanked me, said he was leaving right away and would see me someplace down the road.

Just prior to going on, McGuinn called up the booth yet again. He told me to leave the houselights full on so he could bad mouth anybody who left early. I once again told him that I would take orders only from Sue. She came on and told me to do just the way we always do.

When McGuinn came out, instead of just going into a song, he started out by saying he was tired of listening to shit-kicking caterwauling, and asked the audience if they were in the mood for real music. Now I never heard anybody yell ‘Fire’ in a theater, but McGuinn’s words came close to it. And once again, instead of just going into a song, he bad mouthed the people leaving, which only served to have more people stand up and leave. He just stood there staring. Finally the people that wanted to leave had left, and the few that stayed waited for him to start performing. His second show was shorter than his first. Again, no encores. He just stomped off stage.

I worked Waylon many times over the years, both as main act, and as a  member of the Highwaymen. The last time I worked Waylon was at Mystic Lake Casino. The sound man tried but he couldn’t resurrect the old fullness of Waylon’s voice. And Waylon didn’t bother to play the mean guitar that got him his start in show business. He just strummed it. It was obvious that the ‘good times’ had caught up with him. He never announced it but it was his last tour. The press announcement was he quit the touring to be close to his family, not that his health was failing. In the few years he had left he lost a leg to diabetes, but he showed his children the value of education. He went and got his GED diploma. He died way too young, but he left a us good music and memories.

I did work McGuinn again, once. He was front act for Bob Dylan. He behaved himself. Maybe he had finally matured. He did have some success over the years, but nothing like Waylon’s. For that matter, nothing like David Crosby whom he personally fired from the Byrds. And his personal legacy probably will never equal that of Gram Parsons, whom he  also personally fired from the Byrds. Now the biggest thing going for him is his web site called FOLK DEN. I enjoy it. He is trying to keep a lot of folk songs from being forgotten. Now, I might forget some of the songs that he sings on his site; but I will never forget working him at the Guthrie, when he tried to get Waylon Jennings fired, and the two audiences fired him instead.