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The Day The Music Died

February 3, 2019, marks the sixtieth anniversary of the plane crash that resulted in the untimely deaths of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and “The Big Bopper” Richardson, three of America’s hottest rock and roll musicians at the time. If not for a perfect combination of poor scheduling, bad weather, a virus, and a coin toss, it never would have happened the way it did.

At the time, Holly’s band consisted of Waylon Jennings, Tommy Allsup, and Carl Bunch. They were touring the Midwest along with other headliners, Valens and Richardson, in buses that weren’t even fit for local school pickup. The tour buses repeatedly broke down and the heat rarely worked, which made the thoughtless planning that regularly put 400 miles between venues more than a little frustrating.

On February 2, the tour made an unscheduled stop in Clear Lake, Iowa, after driving 350 miles from its previous show in Green Bay, Wisconsin. After Clear Lake, the next stop was Moorhead, Minnesota, another 365 miles away. Holly was done with the buses. He decided to charter a plane for himself and his band to get a break from the road.

If the band had taken that charter flight with Holly, none of them would have survived. As luck would have it, everyone in his band survived. It was Valens and Richardson that went down with Holly.

Bunch didn’t feel lucky earlier in the tour when he was hospitalized with severe frostbite after sitting on a broken-down bus in the middle of a freeway in subzero temperatures. But if he had still been traveling with the band in early February, he very well could have been on that plane. Jennings probably felt annoyed, not lucky, when Richardson asked him for his seat on the plane claiming he was coming down with the flu. But Richardson’s virus and Jennings’ begrudging generosity saved Jennings’ life. For the last seat on the plane, Valens challenged Allsup to a coin toss. Allsup thought luck was against him when he lost the toss and his seat on the plane, but we now know better.

Holly’s wife of only six months was not with him on the tour. She was two weeks pregnant and not feeling well. She did not attend his funeral or visit his gravesite because she blamed herself for his death. She suffered a miscarriage in the days after she heard the news. She believed that if she’d traveled with him like she usually did, he never would have booked that flight.

Don McLean was 13 when he learned about the tragedy while he was folding newspapers for his paper route. The event eventually inspired him to write “American Pie,” the iconic song in which he described the plane crash as “the day the music died.”

How often do we assume we are in control of everything that happens in our lives? How often do we assume we’ll have more time to say the things we do not say, to do the things we do not do, and to make the plans we do not make? When Buddy Holly left his pregnant wife at home for this ill-fated tour, when his band negotiated for their seats on the plane, they surely never thought they were dealing with their lives.

Planning your estate isn’t going to add another minute to your life. But we don’t really do it for ourselves, do we? We plan for those we know we’ll leave behind. We do it to protect them from probate court and the messes that always seem to come with it.  We do it to protect them from the family fights that death often brings. We do it to protect them from their creditors and from their own bad decisions we fear they could make while trying to wrap up our affairs.

Like many people who go before their time, Buddy Holly didn’t leave an estate plan. It’s no surprise that his lack of planning led to a number of legal disputes among his heirs for decades after his death. You know you need a plan, you know why, and you know you want to get it right. You just need help with the how. That’s where we come in. Visit our website, ElrodFirm.com, to get started. We’ve been helping families like yours for almost twenty years. Now let us help yours.

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