The Surf Ballroom 460 North Shore Drive, Clear Lake    (641) 357-6151
One of Clear Lake's premier attractions is the Surf Ballroom.  The ballroom is best known as the site of Buddy Holly's last concert on February 2, 1959.  Holly, along with Ritchie Valens and J.P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson, died in a plane crash north of Clear Lake following their performance at the Surf. 

It was just another Iowa soybean field before the plane carrying Buddy Holly crashed there.  Now, to fans, it's hallowed ground.
Ken Paquette, who lives in Portersfield, Wis., 50 miles north of Green Bay, wanted something permanent at the exact location of the crash.  "People didn't know exactly where it was," said Paquette, a 50's era fan.  "There were flowers scattered all along the fence  line.  I thought there should be something there."
Paquette made a stainless steel guitar and a set of three stainless steel records.  On the guitar are the names Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and The Big Bopper, along with the date of the crash, 2/3/59.  On the records, there are the names of the recording labels and the big hits for the three artists: "Peggy Sue" on Coral,  "Donna" on Del Fi and "Chantilly Lace" on Mercury.
The memorial is located on private property.  Visitors are asked to respect their rights while visiting "The Place The Music Died."
Directions to Crash Site:  From U.S. Highway 18, go north on North 8th Street in Clear Lake for 4.7 miles.  When the paved road (which has turned into Grouse Avenue) turns to your left (west), take the gravel road (310th Street) to  your right (east), then immediately left (north) on Gull Avenue.  Follow Gull Avenue to the north for one-half mile, just past the grain bins to the first fence row on  your left (west).  Walk along the fence row towards the west for just under one-half mile.  A small memorial is located at the place the plane came to rest.  Four trees were also planted along the fence row in 1999, one for each performer and the pilot.

Clear Lake, Iowa 50428
Phone: (641) 357-2481
Fax: (641) 357-7735

Information used from
Clear Lake Chamber of Commerce
web site. 

It was after performing at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake Iowa,
(our home town)
on a cold February night in 1959,
the event happened that changed rock and roll forever.

The small plane carrying Rock and Roll Ledgends
Buddy Holley, Richie Valens and the Big Bopper
crashed into a field shortly after take off and all perished.

Their music will live in the hearts of all those that danced to and sang their music.

The Surf Ballroom 460 North Shore Drive, Clear Lake
(641) 357-6151
One of Clear Lake's premier attractions is the Surf Ballroom.  The ballroom is best known as the site of Buddy Holly's last concert on February 2, 1959.  Holly, along with Ritchie Valens and J.P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson, died in a plane crash north of Clear Lake following their performance at the Surf.
A very interesting site containing information and pictures about the crash.
"Country music legend Waylon Jennings
returned to the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake
in October 1995 for the first time since
1959.  A packed house helped Jennings through an emotional return and shared a night of great music.  Jennings took time backstage at the Surf to sign his autograph on the wall of fame.  Jennings said he remembered being backstage with Buddy Holly, JP 'The Big Bopper' Richardson and Ritchie Valens on the night of their final concert.  It was Jennings who gave his airplane ticket to Richardson following their February 1959 concert at the Surf.  The plane crashed shortly after takeoff from the Mason City Municipal Airport."
(Picture and article copied from the book, 'Clear Lake, Iowa  1851-2006) 

Music is
'That'll Be The Day' 
If you have pictures, clippings or memories of this night in history, please send to
to be posted immediately. 
Autographed records.
From the website-
¬  ®
To explain the interest in this subject and the reason for this page, several of our Clear Lake High School classmates were at this dance that night.  I personally was unable to be there because I was in the hospital.  One of our classmates (noted on her page), had the honor of introducing Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper that night at the Surf Ballroom. 

The concert was not held at the Clear Lake High School auditorium like the movie says but instead held at the Surf Ballroom.  But it was indeed........ the night the music died.

If any of our CLHS classmates from any graduating class wishes to post a memory, please contact  Also see....
Charlie Zirbel (CLHS1963) sent me this beautiful 3D memento of the Surf and the Teen Dance that was held the night of February 2, 1959.  After this dance the plane crashed carrying The Big Bopper, Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens-  killing all plus the pilot.

I want to share it with you all because that was 'The Night The Music Died' and history was made in Clear Lake Iowa.
Interesting History About The Surf
(as written in the box with the ornament).
Legendary Surf Ballroom

     After fire completely destroyed the original Surf Ballroom on April 20, 1947, a 27,000 square foot building was constructed directly across the street on North Shore Dr.
Renamed the Surf Ballroom, the new venue featured a beautiful tropical theme complete with large palm trees and floating clouds.  A Grand Opening Gala was held on July 4, 1948 and in the years following, many notable performers graced it's stage.  Guy Lombardo, Lawrence Welk, Duke Ellington, Glenn Miller, Harry James, Tommy Dorsey, Benny Goodman, Count Basie, Les Brown, Del Shannon, Bill Haley & The Comets, Carl Perkins, Rick Nelson, Bo Diddley, Santana, REO Speed Wagon, Ted Nugent, Tommy James and the Shondelles, Waylon Jennings and Paul Rever & The Raiders, Willie Nelson are just some of the famous names to appear on the marquee.  Tragically the Surf Ballroom was the site of the last performance of Rock-n-Roll legends Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson.  The trio died when their small plane crased in a farm field just north of Clear Lake on February 3, 1959, following their performance at the Surf.  A memorial honoring them and their pilot Roger Peterson, stands in front of the building.

The modern Surf Ballroom still maintains the 'Wall of Fame' where performers continue to sign their names.  No matter the weather, on the first weekend of February, fans gather from around the world to celebrate the legends of Rock-n-Roll at the Surf's annual tribute.  One of the few ballrooms left in the counry, it is "The Legendary Surf Ballroom".


These three pictures were submitted by
Charlie Zirbel
CLHS Class of 1963
This is a link to a good video about the writing of 'American Pie' and what it may have meant.
(Mavis Whelan and Cherly Glenn (both CLHS 1963) sent it in.)
Barb Potts Matson was introduced to Buddy Holly, Ritchy Valens and The Big Bopper the night of their last performance.

"I was Miss Cerro Gordo County in 1959 and one of the one of the duties was to help the MC on stage give away records and other prizes.   I was there in February 1959 when Buddy Holly and the others entertained, working on stage helping to give away things and was introduced to him and the whole band.
I can remember thinking that Buddy Holly was a little "stuck up" because he didn't talk to me much.   But years later I realized that his wife had not wanted him to go.   She was pregnant and had also had nightmares about him in a big fire ball.   No wonder he didn't feel like talking.   However, he did sing really well.   Richie Valens, the Big Bopper & the others were really nice.
I have never gone back to a reunion (at the Surf) but may do that this coming year."
Barb (Potts) Matson  Class of 1960

Another very interesting article
Another interesting link about the crash site:
Bob Hale (MC) and Barb Potts
a week before the final concert.
Attached is the one and only poster created from Feb 2 1959. Because we booked the show so late in the tour, this was THE newspaper ad, store poster, and Surf Ballroom poster. There are posters even on the wall of the Surf that are not authentic...they've been around so long many people believe they are the legit thing. Only the one attached is the legit poster!   :)
       (Same as the one at the top of this page) 

Last Updated
2 October, 2009
One other item: No one gave anyone their "ticket." The plane was a tickets are issued for chartering small private four-seaters as was this one. It was all done in a phone call...and payment was made by Buddy at the airport!   Cash!
Additional item: The meaning of "Miss American Pie". There are several versions floating around as to the "real meaning." A few years ago I
talked with Don McLean about that. He chuckled and said, "Well, it all rhymes...and that was all I cared about. If people want to debate the 'meaning,' well that's OK with me - it helps sell more records."  In other words, McLean, himself, does not have a list of meanings that are encoded in the song.  Bob Hale  9 November, 2008

Hans' Buddy Holly Fan Pages
Buddy Holly Lives
Submitted by Hans Werner Finking from Germany
and also submitted by Bob Hale.
Bob Hale
Tommy Allsup
His link page and where the link
to our Clear Lake Remembered site is listed
From the Clear Lake Mirror-Reporter,
September 16, 2009 edition, page 5.
September 16, 2009