The Day The Music Died is the subtitle of songwriter (Don McLean’s) infamous song, American Pie, which recounts an aviation tragedy that occurred on February 3, 1959, in a farm field near Clear Lake, Iowa. It was there that three popular rock-and-roll singers (Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, J. P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson) and the pilot (Roger Peterson) perished in an horrific plane crash. The one who did survive that scenario, Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame Member (Dion DiMucci) is the story I want to share with you.
On January 23,1959, a twenty-four-city/twenty-four-days music tour was planned for the mid-west. Besides the four stars (DiMucci, Holly, Richards, Valens) there were also the band members. But the record company had not prepared for the bitter cold weather. The heat on the tour bus gave out and the replacement school bus wasn’t much better. The performers were catching the flu and one band member had to be treated for frostbite. Finally, Buddy and J.P. had enough and they chartered a plane for the next stop. The problem was, there were four stars but only three seats, besides the pilot’s. So a coin-toss was held and Dion beat out Ritchie for the final spot. However, when DiMucci heard the charge for the charter ($36 each), he backed out. He did so because that was the exact amount of rent for the apartment his family grew up in back in Brooklyn. Dion knew how hard it was for his parents to raise that total each month and so in good conscience he could only take the bus. The plane left in a snow storm at 12:55 a.m. and crashed ten minutes later at 1:05 a.m. Descending from 5,000 feet and striking the ground at 170 mph, the four singers died instantly. Today, there’s a memorial at the site and fans from all the world make a pilgrimage to it.
Dion DiMucci not only survived the crash (by taking the bus) but also went on to even greater stardom with songs like, (A Teenager In Love, The Wanderer, Run Around Sue) etc. Eventually, enough money was made (I recall as a teenager purchasing his hit records) for he and his wife to be able to leave the cold of New York and relocate to the warmth of Florida. What Dion did not realize was who his neighbours would turn out to be. On one side was a Baptist preacher, on the other side was a Pentecostal evangelist, and behind was a Nazarene youth pastor. It wasn’t long before the Italian kid raised in Roman Catholicism gave his life to the Lord. And DiMucci’s rock-and-roll became singing for the Rock of Ages until the roll is called up yonder.
He writes in his auto- biography, The Wanderer, that if that plane amount has been any other total than $36, he would have taken the flight. So, an earthly coincidence or a heavenly intervention? You be the judge