We've been driving through the Midwest in search of various sites associated with Laura Ingalls Wilder and Frank Lloyd Wright (who both turn 150 years old this year), but along the way, we stumbled upon the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa, where Buddy Holly, the Big Bopper, and Ritchie Valens played their last concert. After the show, they boarded a plane in Mason City, which crashed nearby on February 3, 1959.
Holly, originally from Texas, ended his life as a New Yorker. A few years ago we posted about his home in the Brevoort apartment building, excerpted below:
Holly was one of the earliest stars to take what was then still being called “race music” and cross over to white audiences. His early hits with the Crickets—including That’ll Be The Day, Peggy Sue, Oh Boy!, and Not Fade Away—had a profound influence on later acts (including the Beatles and Bob Dylan, who were huge fans) and are still some of the greatest rock songs ever written.
Before his untimely death at age 22, Holly had split with the Crickets and moved to New York City to be closer to the New York music scene. He and his new bride, Maria Elena, moved into the Brevoort apartments at 11 Fifth Avenue. What was then a brand-new apartment building had recently replaced the famous Brevoort Hotel, which had at one time been among the city’s finest hostelries. (Among other famous events, the Brevoort Hotel was the place where Charles Lindbergh received the $25,000 Orteig Prize for his solo flight across the Atlantic; Orteig was the hotel’s owner.)
The Hollys lived in Apartment 4H, where Buddy set up a home tape recorder and in December 1958 made his final recordings, among them Crying, Waiting, Hoping and Peggy Sue Got Married. Posthumously released with overdubs and studio trickery, the original tapes have circulated for decades among collectors. They were included on the definitive Holly rarities set, Down the Line.
When Holly moved in to the Brevoort in 1958, he paid $1,000 a month rent for a corner unit with a wraparound terrace.
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