Sunday, February 3rd, was teh 54th anniversary of the deaths of Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper (J.P. Richardson of “Chantilly Lace” fame), and Richie Valens (“Donna,” “La Bamba,” etc.). They were killed in a plane crash in Iowa, where I happened to be living at the time. A big story. Theyhad finished a performance at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake and were headed for the next stop when Buddy chartered a four-seater plane, going on ahead while the rest of his group would take a bus. The plane crashed shortly after takeoff into a blizzard. The pilot was not trained in instrument flying, and the crash killed everyone. Buddy Holly was 22 years old.
Someone had posted the anniversary on Facebook, and I commented that Holly had $193 on him when he died. Several people have wondered, with some trepidation, how I knew that.
It’s because I’m a writer.
I am doing research on my sequel to Signs of Struggle, a Thomas O’Shea Mystery. The second in the series is called A Far Gone Night. Thomas, while taking a lonely walk in the middle of the night, discovers a woman’s body in the river that runs through the Iowa village where he lives nearby. The death is ruled a suicide and … , but, well, nevermind. The point is, I had to know a little bit about coronoer’s reports, death certificates, who has access to such information and so forth. And, in the process, I bumped up against a copy of Buddy Holly’s coroner’s report. Not pleasant reading (his injuries were catastrophic) but useful. It cataloged his effects, including money on the body.
As a writer, I engage in considerable research to make sure I don’t write something stupid, or inaccurate. Actually, I enjoy the research, and I learn things. Imagine!
One final fascinating bit that came from my research. Buddy Holly and a person in his band kidded each other about which one of them would take the last seat on the plane, and Holly won out. He joked, “I hope your ol’ bus freezes up.” The bandmate kidded back, saying, “Well, I hope your ol’ plane crashes.” The person who took the bus was Waylon Jennings. He said his last words to Buddy Holly haunted him for decades.