Performer Gave Up His Seat On Doomed Flight
Accounts of the legendary "day the music died," and the fatal
plane crash that took the lives of a pilot and three young
performers are many as we look back from 50 years later.
According to the Palm Beach Post, one man's perspective is a bit
more unique than most -- had he not given up his seat, he would
have been on that tragic flight. The man is Dion DiMucci, leader of
doo-wop group Dion and The Belmonts.
In early 1959, Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, the Big Bopper, and
Dion and The Belmonts were on the Winter Dance Party tour, playing
gigs all across the Midwest. "Rock and roll wasn't a business. We
were inventing it," Dion says. "It was very new. We didn't have any
light shows. We just turned on the lights and turned on the
On the night of February 2, Holly was fed up with traveling
around from town to town in freezing cold buses, and arranged to
charter a Beechcraft B35 Bonanza to the next gig. The Big Bopper
was in, too, leaving the third seat up for grabs. Dion says he won
the coin toss, but gave up his seat to Valens.
Dion remembers telling Valens, who was sick and unaccustomed to
the cold Midwest winter, " 'You need to get a hot bath and a warm
room. You go.' I was in a group, and he was alone out there. I
think I'm doing him a favor..." His voice trails off.
As the fated young performers headed to the airport, the rest of
the entourage loaded up on the icy yellow school buses and headed
off to Fargo ND, their next stop along the way.
Tour manager Sam Geller broke the tragic news to the others on
the tour the next morning at a Fargo motel. "He came over to us as
we were walking in with our suits hanging in bags over our
shoulders and said, 'Hey, guys, something terrible happened. Their
plane crashed. They're all gone.' "
"I remember just sitting there alone on the bus, and Buddy's
guitar was on the back seat, Ritchie's outfit was hanging from the
luggage rack ... There was the Big Bopper's hat, just sitting
there," Dion says. "It was baffling to me. You just wonder what
life is about, where you're going, what does it matter? My mind
"They were so much a part of my life," Dion reflected from his
home in Boca Raton, FL. "I didn't realize how much. All I know is,
I still miss those guys."