Winter Dance Tour


Dion and the Belmonts had several hits beginning with "I Wonder Why" in 1958.  On the strength of their early success, they were brought along on the Winter Dance Party with Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and The Big Bopper.  At one stop, Holly chartered a plane to get to the next date on the tour; but Dion turned down the offered ride, saying that he couldn't afford the $36 cost.  On February 3, 1959, the plane crashed in a cornfield in Iowa, killing Holly, Valens, the Big Bopper, and the pilot.  (Waylon Jennings, who was in Buddy Holly's band at the time, also decided against getting on the plane). 
(September 2012)
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Buddy Holly split from both the Crickets and Norman Petty in the fall of 1958 and was thus free to pursue his new musical visions.  Unfortunately, he got only a meager settlement when Norman Petty's books were found to be in hopeless disarray – probably Petty took a big slice of the pie for himself, though there was no way to prove it. 


With a new, pregnant wife, and short on money, Buddy Holly signed on for the "Winter Dance Party" package tour of the Midwest.  It was during this tour that Holly was killed in the airplane crash in February 1959, along with Ritchie ValensThe Big Bopper. and the pilot Roger Peterson.  Buddy Holly was just 22 years old. 


Bobby Vee (not to be confused with Bobby Vinton) launched a successful musical career by taking Buddy Holly's place in the Winter Dance Party tour.  Holly's influence is clear in Bobby Vee songs like "Rubber Ball" and "Run to Him".  


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Ritchie Valens' follow-up single, "Donna" was completely different and became a bonafide hit, peaking at #2 on the charts at the end of 1958.  "Donna" inspired a host of other songs addressed to female loves, most directly Dion's "Donna the Prima Donna" (Dion and the Belmonts were also along on the Winter Dance Party), but also Neil Sedaka's "Oh, Carol!" and "Denise" by Randy and the Rainbows (later covered by Blondie as "Denis"). 

(June 2013/1)
Last edited: March 22, 2021