Meanwhile in Portsmouth – Circa 1959

By Bob Boldman

It was on February 3, 1959, American rock and roll musicians Buddy Holley, Ritchie Valens, and “The Big Bopper” J. P. Richardson were killed in a plane crash near Clear Lake, Iowa, together with pilot Roger Peterson. The plane crashed in a cornfield near Clear Lake, within minutes of takeoff from the Mason City Airport in Iowa; at around 1:00 AM CST, the chartered Beech-Craft Bonanza airplane Number N3794N. The crash was according to some the combination of weather and possible pilot error. No matter the cause the plane took off and crashed nose first into the frozen Iowa farmland. As Don McClean wrote in his song, “American Pie,” – “…the night the music died!”

The three rock and roll stars had a dream and in one fateful night the dream was shattered! So who were they? “Charles Hardin Holley was known professionally as Buddy Holly, he was an American musician and singer-songwriter who was a central and a pioneering figure of mid-1950s rock and roll. He was born in Lubbock, Texas, to a musical family during the Great Depression, and learned to play guitar and sing alongside his family.”

“Richard Steven Valenzuela, known professionally as Ritchie Valens, was an American singer, songwriter, and guitarist. A rock and roll pioneer and a forefather of the Chicano rock movement; Valens was killed in that plane crash eight months into his recording career.”

“Jiles Perry “J. P.” Richardson Jr., known as The Big Bopper, was an American musician, songwriter, singer and disc jockey. His best known compositions included “Chantilly Lace” and “White Lightning,” the latter of which became George Jones’ first number-one hit in 1959.

The end of an era, some rock and roll aficionados would say. Time would tell, on a distant shore in Liverpool, England, four lads from there were ready to invade America. Rock and Roll was the intro to what was to come. Yes by golly, the Beatles were coming. If not for those three early rockers (Buddy, Richie and J.P.) – as the Beatles would share; who knows what path they might have followed. Luckily they choose to ply their talent sing and playing rock and roll.

Meanwhile in Portsmouth

It was March 12, 1959 barely a month after the crash and in Portsmouth a day of dancing aimed at combating crippling diseases and supporting children’s services, was being planned by a dozen area civic and labor organizations. Local 482 of the American Federation of Musicians announced that it will donate the services of four bands for this benefit; dances on April 25th (1959,) in the Elks city club auditorium.

At least 10 organizations would conduct ticket sales for a teen-age hop from 1 – 5 p.m. and a ball for adults from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. Each of the organizations was to retain full proceeds from its ticket sales to support its particular charity or youth program. John R. Russell, president of Local 482, said the dance plan was proposed by his organization so that it could make a material contribution to the charitable organizations in spite of its small number of members. He said plans call for music to be provided at the benefit hop and benefit ball by the bands of Bob Waddell, M.K. Rapalee, the Ivy Leaguers and the Teen Tones. These were popular groups ready and willing to help. Ticket sales are to be handled by Local 4372 of Communications Workers of America on behalf of the muscular dystrophy fund, Knights of Columbus, for multiple sclerosis, Portsmouth and New Boston Kiwanis Clubs, Civic From, Lions, Heart Association, Venture Club, and West End Business Association.

Rock and Roll was here to stay and go on and on and on. The days of the sock hop are gone and the live bands are few in this area. There was a day back in fifty-nine up into the sixties that good bands were abundant in Portsmouth. The local bands are gone the music no longer fills the air on a Friday or Saturday night. The moral to the story is that some of us kept the music of those days filed away in our minds. We can relive over and over that magical rock & roll adventure with a flick of switch, push of a button or an app and bring back that rock and roll music!

By Bob Boldman

Reach Bob Boldman at [email protected]

Reach Bob Boldman at [email protected]