My girlfriend, Catherine, her mother, and I were all excited to see Micky Dolenz perform at the iconic Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, IA on Friday, May 24th. It was set to be a kickoff for a great Memorial Day weekend at a venue that is of legendary status. Unfortunately, however, Dolenz had to cancel the show last minute due to illness.

It was a devastating blow, but our night was far from ruined. After all, we were in a town that is indelible for its music history. We took a 10-minute ride from the Surf Ballroom to one of the most famous plane crash sites in the world. In a cornfield on the outskirts of Clear Lake, IA is where three of music's biggest names at the time — Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, and "The Big Bopper" J. P. Richardson — perished in a plane crash in what would become known as "The Day the Music Died."

Photo Credit: Steve Pulaski
Photo Credit: Steve Pulaski

Don McLean's "American Pie" is one of my favorite songs of all-time, so to see this crash-site in person was equal parts inspiring and sobering.

Following their performance at the Surf Ballroom on February 3rd, 1959, Holly elected to charter a plane for his team after being frustrated by the conditions on the tour buses. J. P. Richardson swapped places with country music legend Waylon Jennings, while another band-member lost his seat on the plane to Valens on a coin toss. Soon after takeoff, the pitch-black wintry conditions led to pilot Roger Peterson losing control of the small aircraft and crashed into a cornfield, killing all four passengers on board.

Following our stop at the crash site, we enjoyed a complementary concert at the Surf Ballroom. It wasn't Micky Dolenz, but the northern Iowa band the Sweet Nuthins admirably took the stage and played cover songs from everyone from Jim Croce to Santana and even The Monkees to assure those who were already in-town got treated to a great show.

Take a look at some photos from the Buddy Holly Crash Site and the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, IA below! Also, take a listen to my interview with Don McLean here!

The Buddy Holly Crash-Site and Legendary Surf Ballroom

Views from the Buddy Holly Crash-Site and the legendary venue known as the Surf Ballroom, both located in Clear Lake, IA

Gallery Credit: Steve Pulaski

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