Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about music and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the movie urban legends featured so far.
MUSIC URBAN LEGEND: Before saying goodbye for the last time before Buddy Holly died in a plane crash, Waylon Jennings told Holly that he hoped his plane crashes.
Reader Ed R. asked me recently:
I read online today that before Buddy Holly’s fateful plane crash, Holly told Waylon Jennings that he hoped his “ol’ bus freezes up,” to which Jennings replied, “Well, I hope your ol’ plane crashes.”
Do you know if there’s any truth to that legend?
Let’s find out!
Strangely enough, yes, Ed.
Before he passed away in 2002 at the age of 64, Waylon Jennings put together a remarkable musical career, winning numerous country music awards.
But in the late 1950s, while he was in his early 20s, Jennings was a member of Buddy Holly’s back-up group, (Holly’s original backing band, the Crickets, decided to split from Holly, so Holly had put together a brand new backing group consisting of guitarist Tommy Allsup and drummer Carl “Goose” Bunch). Jennings joined the group for a tour of the Midwest in 1959.
Waylon is on the left in the picture above.
The “Winter Dance Party Tour” also included singer Richie Valens, singer Jay “The Big Bopper” Richardson and Dion and the Belmonts. The bands traveled by bus, and not exactly a fancy bus, either, as one of the buses was so pathetic that Bunch actually developed frostbite while on the bus!!! Valens and a member of the Belmonts had to play drums while Bunch recovered in the hospital!
When a new tour date was added, Holly was frustrated enough to look into chartering a plane. The plane had room for three passengers, Holly and his two remaining bandmates. However, individually, both Jennings and Alssup gave up their seats to Richardson and Valens, respectively.
As you well know, the plane crashed on February 3, 1959, killing all three passengers and the pilot.
And apparently, according to Jennings, and I don’t know why he would make something like this up, when Holly went off to catch the plane, he joked to Jennings that he hoped that their bus froze, and Jennings retorted that he hoped Holly’s plane crashed.
Jennings later recalled:
I was so afraid for many years that somebody was going to find out I said that. Somehow I blamed myself. Compounding that was the guilty feeling that I was still alive. I hadn’t contributed anything to the world at that time compared to Buddy. Why would he die and not me? It took a long time to figure that out, and it brought about some big changes in my life – the way I thought about things.
So there you go, Ed!
The legend is…
Thanks to Ed for the suggestion and thanks to Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair’s book, Serpents in the Garden: Liaisons With Culture & Sex (Counterpunch Anthology)
Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is email@example.com.