The Famous Ritchie Valens Flip Coin

February 3 marks the anniversary of the day Buddy Holly, J.P. Richardson, and Ritchie Valens perished in a plane crash. You probably know the general outline of “the day the music died.” In early 1959, Buddy Holly, J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson, Ritchie Valens, and Dion and the Belmonts toured through the Midwest in what was called “The Winter Dance Party.” Also on the tour was Holly’s new back-up band, Tommy Allsup on guitar, Waylon Jennings on bass, and Carl Bunch on drums. Some of the performers were tired of traveling through the cold in an old bus that kept breaking down and that had resulted in sending Bunch to the hospital with frostbite. So Buddy Holly chartered a small plane for one of the trips. After their February 2, 1959 performance in Clear Lake, Iowa, three of the stars — Holly, Richardson, and Valens — boarded a three-passenger plane that took off in the early morning hours of February 3 for Fargo, North Dakota but soon crashed in a snow storm. All three were killed along with the pilot Roger Peterson, as the young rock and roll music industry lost three of its brightest stars. Although the story is familiar, there is still an ongoing question. Besides Holly, how did Richardson and Valens end up on the plane instead of the other headliner, Dion, or instead of Holly’s band members?

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