I wasn’t even born, but the date will forever remain etched in my memory. In his song, American Pie, Don McLean put it so eloquently……this was “the day the music died”. At about 1.00am on this date, Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J. P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson lost their lives in a plane crash just outside of Clear Lake, Iowa, after headlining their Winter Dance Party at Clear Lake’s Surf Ballroom.
I think I was born about 16 years too late. I just love the late 1950’s and early 60’s Rock ‘n’ Roll music. If I could find myself an old Juke Box fully loaded with old 45’s, I’d be a happy chap. My fantasy is reliving the times of American Graffiti, but without the onset of the Vietnam War. If you haven’t seen the movie, or heard the sound track, you’re missing something special. American Graffiti, released in 1973, is a movie set in California in 1962, and is a study of the cruising and rock and roll music cultures popular among post World War II baby boomers.
With a huge thanks to our Spirit Lake friends Frank and Marilyn, I got a taste of reliving these years on our Mid West US adventure. It started at Iowa’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame, in Okaboji (I love that name), and later, tapping my foot (and my cane) at their “Rock the Roof” Thursday night dance party. Sadly, my water skiing injury prevented me from making it to the dance floor. Not only did I enjoy the live bands, but the display of cars from that same era out on the street was very impressive – some real classics.
It didn’t stop in Okaboji. After our time at Spirit Lake, Frank and Marilyn drove us to La Crosse where we would be able to catch a train heading further east, and ultimately on to Toronto. It was only 180kms from Spirit Lake to Clear Lake, (which was on our way to La Crosse), so of course a stop at the Surf Ballroom was a must. Wow….it was an amazing feeling to walk into the ballroom and not only stand in front of the stage where Buddy Holly and his friends performed on that fateful night, but also gain access to the Green Room beside the stage which has been graced by many great musicians. In 1994 Don McLean performed here, and nostalgically, he left his tribute on the Green Room’s wall, along with many others.
Our Mid West Rock ‘n’ Roll revival tour culminated with a visit to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio. What a great day out that was. It’s a must see if you are ever in the area. Here are a few tid bits of information from our day that I particularly enjoyed.
Janis Joplin’s 1965 356C Cabriolet Porsche stands proud in the Hall of Fame’s foyer – it’s hard to miss the psychedelic paint job. Janis bought the car in 1968 from a Beverley Hills auto dealer, paying $3,500. The paint job was done by Dave Richards, her friend and roadie for her band (Big Brother). You can see Janis and Big Brother on the Porsche’s front fender.
Did you know? (I didn’t)………..
Paul McCartney didn’t know how to write musical notation, so he broke the song down into discrete sections. The Beatles recorded “Birthday” on the 18th September, 1968, at Abbey Road studios. This is Paul’s original arrangement of “Birthday”, written on the back of a recording track sheet.
Simon and Garfunkel released their first single in 1957 when they were 16 year old high school students. The single earned enough in royalties to allow Paul Simon to buy his first car. The record was released under the names of Tom & Jerry. Tommy Graph was Art Garfunkel, and Jerry Landis was Paul Simon.
Timothy B Schmit, bass player with the Eagles, loved to hold on to his tour hotel room keys, just for his own amusement. Eventually he built a rather large collection which filled a bag. The bag is now on display at the Hall of Fame.
Alan Freed (1921-1965) was the man who coined the term “rock and roll”. Also known as Moondog, Alan was an American disc jockey, internationally known for promoting the mix of blues, country, and rhythm and blues music on the radio in the US and Europe, under the name of rock and roll.
Herb Ritts (1952-2002) was the photographer responsible for some very recognisable and artistic photos (many in black and white) of super models, celebrities and musicians. His photos have appeared on the covers of Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair, Time, Vogue and many other international magazines. We were fortunate that our Hall of Fame visit coincided with a special exhibition of his work. It was hard to pick a favourite, but I chose this one of Dizzy Gillespie. As a sax player and sometime trumpet player myself, I couldn’t look past Dizzy.
Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll!