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No. 29: Rock 'n' roller Buddy Holly

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The name of this 1950s entertainer is forever linked in tragedy with the history of Clear Lake.

Buddy Holly, along with fellow entertainers Ritchie Valens and J.P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson and pilot Roger Peterson, were killed on Feb. 3, 1959, when their chartered private plane crashed shortly after takeoff from the Mason City Municipal Airport.

The trio had performed at the 1959 Winter Dance Party at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake on the night of Feb. 2. Their next stop on the tour was Moorhead, Minn.

Holly was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1986. 

According to the Rock Hall archives, Holly pioneered and popularized the now-standard rock-band lineup of two guitars, bass and drums. In his final months, he even began experimenting with orchestration. Holly’s catalog of songs includes such standards of the rock 'n' roll canon as "Rave On," "Peggy Sue," "That'll Be the Day," "Oh Boy!" and "Maybe Baby."  

He was born Charles Hardin Holley (later amended to "Holly") on Sept. 7, 1936, in Lubbock, Texas. He learned to play guitar, piano and fiddle at an early age.

After high school, he formed the Western and Bop Band, a country-oriented act that performed regularly on a Lubbock radio station and opened for acts that came through town.

Holly was only 22 years old at the time of his death – an event immortalized in Don McLean’s "American Pie" as "the day the music died." 

— Peggy Senzarino

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