The Winter Dance Party Tour:
Revisited and Remembered

SYNOPSIS

"A long, long time ago, I can still remember how that music used to make me smile."

- Don McLean, American Pie

In late 1958, General Artists Corporation started putting together a rock and roll tour that would travel through the upper Midwestern states and feature some of music's biggest stars. It was billed the Winter Dance Party tour and featured Buddy Holly and The Crickets, Ritchie Valens, The Big Bopper, Dion and The Belmonts and Frankie Sardo and set off on January 23rd, 1959 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It became one of the most infamous tours in rock and roll history.

Organizationally speaking, the tour was a complete catastrophe. The shows were often scheduled hundreds of miles apart from one another as they zigzagged through one of the deadliest winters the Midwest had seen in decades, in the worst possible transportation available. Throughout all of this, the performances remained electric, lifelong friendships were forged, and the music brought a joy that would remain forever in the hearts and minds of all who attended. Then, the unthinkable happened.

After their performance at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa on February 2nd, 1959, Buddy Holly, 22, Ritchie Valens, 17, and J.P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson, 28, were killed when their plane crashed shortly after taking off from nearby Mason City Municipal Airport.  The flight need not have been chartered had the travel conditions on the tour been even halfway acceptable.

The rest is rock 'n' roll history. That day was forever immortalized as 'The Day The Music Died" by Don McLean in his 1972 anthem American Pie. For many people, that tour, and subsequent crash symbolized the end of a period in both rock and roll and American history. That entire era came to an end as the turbulent sixties approached. The Winter Dance Party tour became the swan song for that era and this documentary will illustrate just how unique a time it was, and just how much has changed since. The innocence, it seems, was forever lost.

This feature-length documentary will revisit the venues that the tour played in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Iowa with the surviving musicians and hear them recount their memories from that tour, fifty years later. What was it all like? How have their lives changed since then? What is it like being there again almost half a century later? This film will also detail the hectic touring schedule, the uncomfortable conditions the tour members had to deal with as well as profiles of each performance. In-depth interviews with the musicians, fans and emcees, on-location filming and several new revelations and surprises will be featured.

This will be a celebration of the music, the fans, and the artists who made it all happen, as well as a look at the heartbreak endured by all when three members of the tour became the victims of Rock and Roll's first great tragedy. Our film will illustrate how the music lives on and how magical a time that golden era was. It will be a walk down memory lane for what many consider to be the most significant tour in Rock and Roll history.








Hi Julie,
I've attached the synopsis of our documentary to this e-mail. You can feel free to forward it (along with the below message) to all the people that you think might have attended that night. You can also post it on your site.
If possible, also add the following message from me as an introduction on your site and on the e-mails that you send out. Thank you!

Hi, my name is Sevan Garabedian and I'm one of the producers (along with Jim McCool and Shawn Nagy) of a documentary film that will revisit and remember the Winter Dance Party tour of 1959. We will be visiting all the stops the tour made before it rolled into Clear Lake, IA to play that fateful show at The Surf Ballroom. We are presently looking to reach out to fans who were witness to the final show on 2/2/59 at The Surf. Any stories, pictures or mementos you might have would mean the world to us. We would love to interview you when we come to town, but even if you don't feel comfortable with that, we would still love to hear from you and listen to your experiences from that very special night. Even the smallest details are encouraged!
You can read a little more about our documentary at www.buddyhollyonline.com. It's also a great site to learn about Buddy Holly and get wonderful insights and pictures from all the stops the troupe made on the Winter Dance Party tour.
Please, if you have any information at all, e-mail me at sevan1@sympatico.ca and I will get back to you as quickly as I can. I can also be reached by phone at 514-931-6959.
We have already secured many of the surviving musicians from that tour (Frankie Sardo, Tommy Allsup of The Crickets and Freddie Milano and Carlo Mastrangelo of The Belmonts) to participate in the film and to have the fans who saw them that night meet them again after 50 years would definitely be worth capturing on film, forever.
Sincerely,
Sevan Garabedian  sevan1@sympatico.ca
This feature-length documentary will revisit the venues that the tour played in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Iowa with the surviving musicians and hear them recount their memories from that tour, fifty years later. What was it all like? How have their lives changed since then? What is it like being there again almost half a century later? This film will also detail the hectic touring schedule, the uncomfortable conditions the tour members had to deal with as well as profiles of each performance. In-depth interviews with the musicians, fans and emcees, on-location filming and several new revelations and surprises will be featured.
CLHS High School Classmates.  I received this email from Sevan Garabedian who is one of the producers of a documentary about the Winter Dance Party of 1959.  I've enclosed all the information that I have received so far.  I know there are many of us who have first hand stories to tell of the Night The Music Died.  The rest of us, I'm sure, want to hear them.
Music is
'American Pie'
Page Last Updated
29 February, 2008
Again,
Sevan Garabedian's email address is
sevan1@sympatico.ca
Stories and Memories from Classmates about 'The Night The Music Died'
*Always hold down ctrl and F5 on your keyboard to see any additions*
Actually that crash happened by where I grew up. Our house (my mom and dad still live there) is about 100 to 150 yards from the end of the fence line. People keep walking down to get to the site. The place just south of the fence line start has been torn down. My mom and dad have met quit a few people because of the traffic going out there.
I wasn't attending Clear Lake schools at the time of the crash. That was the last year I attended the Fertile school system.  If the producers would like to talk to someone they would probably be better off to talk with my mom and dad. The plane woke them up that night. They saved a newspaper page from the crash that shows several people in the field by the plane, one of which is my dad.  Terry Eldridge (CLHS 1965)
I don't know if this will help, but Nelson Breen of NYC began a documentary of this sort in the 90's, but when it was finally completed it had turned into a documentary of the ballrooms of the midwest with little mention of BH (Buddy Holly) and the Surf.  I was quite disappointed. However, since he and his crew stayed in my home, and since he invited me to view the camera work and early production of the original, I could probably find a contact number. . .but it has been a long, long time. Wayne (?), who works at the Surf also gives quite a historical tour including information on that particular night.  I also know him, since he was a student in one of my college classes.  Ted Christensen (1959)"
 
I went to the "winter dance party" in 2002.  Long story..but became acquainted with the guys that were hosting and announcing. Got an invite to go back stage to meet musicians... some of which were there playing "The Night the Music Died".  The artists I met were Tommy Allsup and Carl Bunch. Carl was Holly's drummer and  went on to play with Roy Orbison and Hank Williams Jr. Carl now has his PhD in Psychotheology. (Sevan probably already has this information.) He is a kind and gentle man.  We had a great conversation.  He gave me wonderful advice. Not quite the back stage Surf experience I had always imagined. No getting autographs.... Even more special.
Robyn Krell (1965)