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Fifty years ago Monday night, Buddy Holly‘s plane crashed in Clear Lake, Iowa.
There’s a rotten local angle to the death of the burgeoning rock god.
Holly was the headliner of the Winter Dance Party tour of 1959, during which he played and died alongside Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper.
The tour was promoted by D.C.’s own Irvin Feld.
Feld’s music promotion business, originally called Super Enterprises, had its roots at a record store/drug store he and brother Israel Feld opened in 1940 on the 1100 block of 7th Street NW.
By the next decade, according to to a 1956 story in the Washington Post, Feld’s music empire was grossing $5 million a year.
Legend has it that Feld was the cheapest promoter imaginable. The Winter Dance Party, which had started about a week prior to Holly’s death, was a disaster even before the plane crash.
The tour bus rented by Feld lacked heat and broke down several times in the tour’s earliest days.
Holly’s drummer, Carl Bunch, was hospitalized with frostbite caused by waiting in the winter cold during one of the breakdowns, after a show in Duluth, Minn.
Two nights later, with Bunch still in the hospital, Holly and the other top acts chartered a plane with their own money rather than take a bus after the Clear Lake show on Feb. 2, 1959. That plane crashed a few miles after takeoff.
Other performers on the tour—-including Dion and the Belmonts and the last version of Holly’s band, the Crickets, with bass player Waylon Jennings—-were already on the bus on their way to Moorhead, Minn., where the next night’s show was scheduled, when the crash occurred.
Feld told the surviving acts that if they went ahead and played the Moorhead gig, which started just hours after they’d found out their friends were dead, he’d pay for flights back to Texas for Holly’s funeral.
So they played the show.
Feld didn’t fly them to the funeral.
He died in 1984.