THE WINTER DANCE PARTY TOUR
Preparation For The Tour
During the summer of 1958, General Artists Corporation (GAC) promoted a tour of young and upcoming music stars and called it The Summer Dance Party. It was a two week tour that grossed about $50,000. With the success of that tour, GAC made the decision to form and promote another similar show which they named The Winter Dance Party. The tour was scheduled to include 24 one night concerts starting on January 23, 1959 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The Itinerary would take the group through several Midwestern States ending in Springfield, IL.
In December 1958, GAC began assembling the talent for the tour and the financial details. Final performer list included:
Buddy Holly---$3000-$3500 a week, which he shared with his band.
Dion and the Belmonts---$1000-$1200 a week.
Ritchie Valens---$700-$800 a week.
The Big Bopper---$700-$800 a week
Frankie Sardo---No financial data available
Prior to the tour, Holly and the Crickets ended their relationship to pursue different career paths. This forced Holly to recruit new members to play in his band for the tour. Holly chose three of his old friends to replace the Crickets. They were Tommy Allsup playing the guitar; Carl Bunch playing drums; and Waylon Jennings playing Bass.
The Tour Begins
Holly and his "new" crickets boarded a train bound for Chicago to meet with the rest of the performers. Once in Chicago, the group boarded their tour bus which resembled a school bus and started for Milwaukee where their first concert was scheduled that evening. The tour began on an auspicious note by getting lost and arriving at the ballroom 90 minutes after the show was scheduled to start. The impatient crowd was getting restless. Nonetheless, everyone was looking forward to getting their first performance behind them. Overall, the tour was well received. The next show, in Kenosha, WI was a big hit with the young audience. Then reality set in with the group boarding their bus after the show for a 381 mile overnight trip to Mankato, Minnesota. The tour continued with a series of one night shows throughout the Upper Midwest. Small hotels, the tour bus and the show venues became there way of life. Before long the performers fell into a routine while traveling on the bus. Card-playing, story telling and napping helped them pass the time between cities. The weather had been very cold but not much snow. The group played to full venues and spirits were high.
As the tour entered its 2nd week, things began to change. The bitter cold and a faulty heating system on the converted school bus was causing tempers to flare among the performers. Despite the growing tensions, the bus continued on to stop number 9 in Duluth, Minnesota. After the show the troupe faced an all night bus ride to the next destination. An hour into the trip, the bus died and left everyone stranded on the highway for several hours. The long delay forced the cancellation of the next afternoon's show in Appleton,WI. . Instead, they proceeded to Green Bay, WI that was scheduled for the same night. Everyone was forced to seek separate transportation to Green Bay. Some the group went by Greyhound while others traveled by train. Casualties associated with the bus breakdown included Richardson who had become sick with a bad cold and drummer Carl Bunch who was hospitalized with frost bite to both of his feet. Bunch remained in the hospital for several days.
The next day the troupe boarded another bus for Clear Lake, IA. After they arrived at the showroom, Holly started to make inquiries as to possibility of renting an airplane for himself and his 2 band members for the trip to the next venue in Moorhead, MN. He wanted to reach Moorhead before the rest of the group so he could do some laundry and get a good nights sleep. The word circulated backstage about Holly's plans. Richardson, who was still suffering from his cold, approached Waylon Jennings and asked if he would consider giving his seat on the aircraft to Richardson. Jennings agreed if It was okay with Holly. At about the same time Valens discussed with Tommy Allsup the possibility of him letting Valens take his seat on the airplane. Allsup refused the request but. Valens continued to press the issue. Finally they agreed to flip a coin to see who would take the seat. Allsup flipped a half dollar and Valens called "heads"..........and "heads" it was.
Shortly afterwards, Holly, Richardson and Valens were driven to the airport where they met their pilot, Roger Peterson.
The last known picture of Buddy Holly taken during the concert in Clear Lake, IA