Remembering Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper

Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2009, 4:27 pm
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Submitted press release

Coming to the Capitol Theatre, January 24, 2009



On January 23, 1959 a tour bus set off from Chicago for a twenty four date rock ‘n’ roll tour of the frozen Midwest. The tour was named The Winter Dance Party, and the three stars were Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J P (The Big Bopper) Richardson. Supporting acts were Dion and The Belmonts and a little known Frankie Sardo.

Just eleven dates later, in the early hours of February 3, 1959 a light plane containing the three stars crashed in a snow flurry just north of Clear Lake, Iowa where the tour had played at the Surf Ballroom. All three famous stars died as did their pilot 21 year old Roger Peterson from Iowa. This day is immortalized in Don McLean’s song ‘American Pie’ as ‘The Day The Music Died’.

Next January and February mark the 50th Anniversary of the Winter Dance Party, and a commemorative Tour playing some of the original venues is being staged. This Tour opens at the Medina Entertainment Center, west of Minneapolis MN before playing the legendary Eagles Ballroom at The Rave, Milwaukee on January 23, the exact 50th Anniversary of the start of the ill-fated long haul through the frozen states of Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa.

This Tour, called The 50th Anniversary of The Last Tour, will play the Capitol Theatre at Davenport on Saturday January 24, and it is believed to be the first full blown Tribute show played there since that fateful day on January 29, 1959 when The Winter Dance Party played two shows at this, the only seated show of their tour.

Back then, local radio station KSTT hosted the show, it was MC’d by a fifteen year old disc jockey from Davenport West High School, Mark Stevens.

After the show the tour party made their way to the next show at Fort Dodge, their old bus breaking down yet again near Tipton and getting them to the Laramar Ballroom just in time for the show. Just three days after that the Tour arrived at Clear Lake and the rest – as they say – is history.

Backing all the singers on the 1959 Winter Dance Party were a hurriedly put together band called, mistakenly, The Crickets. Holly and the original Crickets had split up a couple of months earlier so he recruited some good musicians he knew to be a makeshift Crickets. Playing drums was a young Carl Bunch who was hospitalized with frostbite for the last nights of the Tour, and playing bass was a young disc jockey from near Lubbock, TX – future country superstar Waylon Jennings.

Tommy Allsup played lead guitar on the 1959 Tour, as he had on many of Holly’s recordings such as ‘Heartbeat’ and ‘It’s So Easy’. Allsup went on to become one of the music industry’s most accomplished guitar players, the list of who he’s played with and produced is a veritable ‘who’s who’ in music.

Still touring throughout this country and Europe too, Allsup is returning to some of these venues, including the Capitol Theatre, for the first time in those fifty years. Grammy Award winning Allsup is thrilled to be playing the Capitol again; he says he’s waited to come back here for years. He promises a great night’s entertainment of music from the 1959 Tour and that you’ll hear the songs of all of the artists on that Tour.

Appearing with Tommy Allsup will be Johnny Rogers from Chicago IL, reckoned by many to be the finest Buddy Holly Tribute artist around. Allsup and Rogers have played the Surf Ballroom for the past three years as part of the annual Tribute shows and will be back there again shortly after The Last Tour plays at Mankato MN.

18 year old rock ‘n’ roll sensation Richie Lee from Des Moines IA will be playing too, as will The Shackshakers, an accomplished group from Duluth MN who will be backing all the artists as well as playing their own spot.

The Last Tour is being promoted by The Winter Dance Party Musical Scholarships and Awards organization, a non-profit corporation registered in Iowa. Since 1999 nearly fifty High School students have graduated to university or college to read music with the assistance of one of the organization’s musical scholarships. Every year musical scholarships and awards are presented at High Schools in the hometowns of the three rock ‘n’ roll stars and their pilot in Texas, California and Iowa. Further scholarships are awarded annually in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa, these being the three states visited by the ill-fated 1959 Winter Dance Party.

‘The 50th Anniversary Of The Last Tour’ plays at the Capitol Theatre, 330 W 3rd St on January 24, 2009. Reserved seats are $26.50, open seating is $19.50. Call the theatre box office on (563) 326 8820, or visit their website at which also has a great gallery of historical photos.

Complete Tour dates are:-

January 22 – Medina Entertainment Center, Medina MN

January 23 – Eagles Ballroom, The Rave, Milwaukee, WI

January 24 – Capitol Theatre, Davenport IA

January 25 – Kato Ballroom, Mankato, MN

January 30 – Electric Park Ballroom, Waterloo, IA

Were you at the original show back on January 29, 1959? If so, the promoters want to hear from you. Email Paul on or call Jack on (708) 772 1949

For more information see the Tour website at


are trading names of 1959 -1999 40TH ANNIVERSARY SCHOLARSHIP FUND TOUR, INC. (an Iowa non-profit Corporation)

Registered Office: 817 East 16th Street North, Newton, Iowa 50208, USA Registered in Iowa, No. WOO203298 Federal Tax ID#42-1483826


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