This past summer, we visited the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa.
The Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa, was a perfect venue. Huge wooden dance floor. Tropical theme - to warm their spirits in the bitterly cold Midwest winter. Who knew that the evening of February 2, 1959, which held such energy and promise, would end in tragedy?
That night, the Winter Dance Party, would be forever immortalized by the fans who couldn't quite believe they were gone. Fast forward some 50 years later, and their memories have not yet faded away.
Fans of Buddy, Ritchie and the Big Bopper, gathered at Willowbrook Ballroom this January to hear the touring tribute to the Winter Dance Party http://www.winterdanceparty.com/. Two of the artists, representing Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens, are played by musicians who are dedicated to keeping their music and memories alive. Ray Anthony bears a striking resemblance to the very young, good-looking Vallens. Buddy Holly tribute artist, John Mueller, from Los Angeles, captured the angular quirkiness and charm of Holly.
The Big Bopper was represented by his son, Jay Richardson While he never knew his father, Jay was born six months after the plane crash that claimed the life of his father, there were moments when he clearly communicated his dad's deep voice and sense of humor.
He took a rotary dial phone in hand - and told the young people in the audience, "You might not know what this is...it's a telephone." He even explained, tongue in cheek, that you cannot take pictures with it. Then, with the phone ringing, he sang, "Helllllllooooooo baby..." and we were off.
I enjoyed watching the crowd. People smiled at the songs. Couples. danced in the back. And, others recalled the events they associated with the music. I heard several people say they knew someone who knew the person who flew the plane that crashed in the Iowa farm field.
I do know that everyone had a great time. We sat with two men, a father and his son, who are both huge Buddy Holly fans. The son said that everyone teases him about his interest in this "old" musician - but - for him - Holly has a draw that keeps him even attending these tribute shows.
Not everyone appreciates tribute artists. But, whether it is Elvis or Buddy Holly, it gives us an opportunity to hear their music again, performed live, as if it never faded away. Several years ago, at the Green Bay Rockin 50s Fest, we danced to the music of the original Crickets, Holly's band. Last summer, we visited the Surf Ballroom - a place we will never forget. But, this show gave me the chance to imagine that I had been there - in 1959 - to hear the three play their final show.
We had a great time at the Winter Dance Party 2013.
Buddy, Ritchie, and the Big Bopper will never fade away.