On February 3, 1959, rock and roll musicians Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and “The Big Bopper” J. P. Richardson were killed in a plane crash near Clear Lake, Iowa, along with pilot Roger Peterson.
The event later became known as “The Day the Music Died” after Don McLean referred to it in his song “American Pie”.
Years later, Waylon Jennings returned to the Surf and was interviewed about that day.
He said that show at the Surf was a turning point in his life, and that he doesn’t remember playing any ballroom in the 1950s before it.
“I never even saw a picture of the plane crash until 15 years later. I wouldn’t look at it,” Jennings said. “Never a week goes by that I don’t think of something about Buddy and those guys.”
Waylon recounted the famous story of how he avoided being on the doomed flight.
Rather than take the long, cold bus ride from Clear Lake, Iowa to the next show in Moorhead, Minnesota, Buddy Holly chartered a flight for himself with room for two other members of the band.
“The Big Bopper” J. P. Richardson was suffering from the flu, and so asked Waylon if he could have the seat on the plane.
Waylon agreed. The plane crashed moments after takeoff.