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Buddy Holly's ghost

Andrew W. Griffin / Red Dirt Report
The front page of the Mason City Globe-Gazette in Feb. 1959, reporting on the deaths of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper.
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OKLAHOMA CITY – During a trip to Mason City, Iowa last May, for a gathering of the Walter Burley Griffin Society, I took time to go to Clear Lake, Iowa, home of the famous Surf Ballroom, as well as visit the site of where the plane crashed, the one carrying Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper.

In a piece I wrote, following my experience tromping out to the site in rural Cerro Gordo County cornfield where those three early rock-n-roll pioneers and their pilot met their deaths, appropriately titled “That’ll be the day,” I note how on the last day of my visit, leaving Mason City and heading to I-35 to go north to the Minneapolis airport, a song suddenly came on the radio, just as we drove past the Mason City Municipal Airport – the airport where Buddy Holly’s ill-fated flight originated that snowy day in February 1959 – the “day the music died.” (Oddly, just yesterday was the 15th anniversary of the day Madonna released her version of Don McLean's "American Pie" - Madonna has been in the news a lot lately ...)

I wrote: “(A)t approximately the same spot pilot Roger Peterson would have crossed what is now the present-day Interstate 35 route, a song came on the radio, a song I had never heard before called ‘Holed Up Mason City’ by John Gorka.”

Continuing, I noted how I was “floored” that this song – a brand new song (featured on an album we reviewed here) would synchromystically come on the radio just as I was driving under the approximated flight path. Gorka, a folk singer, tells the story of being stuck in a blizzard in Mason City (“holed up in Mason City”) at the fictional Big Bopper Diner and spending time there with “Buddy Holly’s ghost.”

It was oddly appropriate, though. That whole trip to Iowa (and afterward – cornfields! Plane crashes!) was full of syncs. And Buddy Holly was particularly weighing on me. It was as if the ghost of the bespectacled Texas rocker was trying to speak to me in some way – to say “don’t forget us.”

Because there are still unanswered questions about the cause of the plane crash that has haunted the families and the fans. A real rock n’ roll mystery. Waylon Jennings famously joked that he hoped Holly’s plane crashed, as he boarded the band bus to head to the next gig. There is a conspiracy theory about a handgun, owned by Holly, was discharged during the flight and caused the plane to come down …

… Which brings me to this remarkable and synchromystical development (at least for me): The National Transportation Safety Board “has agreed to consider reopening the investigation into the crash which killed Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson, according to the Mason City Globe-Gazette. The cause of the crash was a mix of pilot error and snowy conditions.

But a New England man, a pilot named L.J. Coon, contends that weight and balance calculations, along with the rate of the aircraft’s climb and descent, fuel gauge readings and “whether a passenger-side rudder pedal was removed or not,” things Coon has petitioned the NTSB to investigate.

Coon, according to the Globe-Gazette, the newspaper that first reported on the crash after the debris was found in the farmer’s field, believes the NTSB “will review the pilot’s actions in the aircraft during the flight and realize ‘the heroic effort that took place in those 4.9 miles’” before it crashed.

This is absolutely incredible in light of my ongoing Buddy Holly syncs, from my recent Six-String Samurai sync piece to my four-year old son constantly bringing up Buddy Holly and referring to him as "upside down" – as he does all the time.

I sense that the ghosts of those four men are trying to tell us something. That the truth needs to come out. And with rock n' roll essentially dead in the collective, American mind. As former Oasis guitarist Noel Gallagher said this week, while talking to Salon about the release of his new High Flying Birds album Chasing Yesterday, the kids just aren't into rock anymore. He hopes that things change but it's pretty grim right now with Kanye and Taylor Swift on the minds of many.

"You would like to think that you will live long enough to see the (rock n' roll) phoenix rise from the ashes," Gallagher told Salon's Mike Doherty. "Will there ever be another Oasis? I fucking doubt it, but I really do hope so."

And that rock sound is part of the legacy of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper. They wouldn't want this new generation to get lost in their computers, listening to "rented" music and forgetting what it is all about. It's debatable whether "rock can change the world." I know it changed mine. Maybe the spirit of Buddy Holly, down at the Big Bopper Diner in Mason City, is trying to remind us of that.

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Andrew W. Griffin

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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About Red Dirt Report

Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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