59 Years Later, Fans Remember 'The Day The Music Died'

February 03, 2018 08:22 PM

(ABC 6 News) -- On February 3, 1959, a plane carrying three music legends crashed into a field in rural Cerro Gordo County, killing them and a pilot. Now, 59 years later, fans of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and Big Bopper are marking the anniversary by visiting the site of the crash, which is considered a turning point in music history by many.

Mark Wildhagen, a drummer from Port Washington, Wisconsin, made the more than a six-hour trip to Clear Lake for the Surf Ballroom's annual Winter Dance Party for the ninth time. Saturday, he visited the crash site for the third time.


Wildhagen said he grew up listening to their music on radio stations in Milwaukee and Chicago along with his two older brothers. At the time of the crash, he was 10 years old.

"You wonder always what their music would be like if they were alive today, what their music would be doing," he said.

Christopher Hernandez traveled from Kansas City to visit the site for the first time.

"You just kind of take yourself back to those days, what life was like, the three big headliners all in one plane, gone forever, it’s just hard to explain," he said of the experience.

Stacy Fortenberry from Latimer, Iowa, also made the trip for the first time. She was in Mason City when she heard about a group heading to the site as part of the Winter Dance Party weekend and decided to tag along.

"When I was a kid, my grandma had these tapes we would get as a reward and stuff from cereal boxes, and we had these fancy cases and it was all their music, it had like 60-something tapes on it," she said. "'Chantilly Lace', that was one of my favorite songs of theirs."

All three said they grew up listening to Holley and the gang, and share a bond over the old-time rock 'n roll.

Wildhagen said the trip reunites him with his musical family and allows them to keep the music alive.

"They were so good then when they were just kids, think of how good they would have been as more of an adult," he said.


Logan Reigstad

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