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“The History of the Winter Dance Party” – Buddy Holly: 56 Years On

Written by admin on February 3, 2015 – 8:57 am -

Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Boppper died 56 years ago today in a plane crash, following a gig in Clear Lake, Iowa. The Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall of Fame’s “The History of the Winter Dance Party” documentary features Dion DiMucci’s interesting recollections of that final tour, “The Winter Dance Party”.

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Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens & the Big Bopper died 54 years ago today

Written by admin on February 3, 2013 – 9:55 pm -

The great Buddy Holly died 54 years ago today in a plane crash that also claimed the lives of Ritchie Valens, the Big Bopper, and the pilot.

The plane had been chartered following a gig in Clear Lake, Iowa, and was heading to the next tour stop in Fargo, North Dakota when it crashed minutes after take-off.

The three classic songs below remind us why Buddy Holly was such a great loss to the music industry and why he is still loved by fans all these years later.

Winter Dance Party Poster

“Oh Boy” – Buddy Holly

“Oh Boy” – Buddy Holly

“True Love Ways” – Buddy Holly

Try our Buddy Holly quiz to test your knowledge of the rock ‘n’ roll legend.

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Song of the Week #123 – “La Bamba”

Written by admin on September 10, 2012 – 9:14 pm -

Ritchie Valens Ritchie Valens’ “La Bamba” is Song of the Week on Classic Pop Icons.

“La Bamba” was released on single in October 1958 as the B-side of the single “Donna”. It would go on to become his best known song and a genuine classic of the rock ‘n’ roll era.

Ritchie Valens’ “La Bamba” was adapted from an 18th century folk song that originated in the Mexican state of Veracruz. It is traditionally played at Mexican weddings to accompany a ribbon dance performed by the bride and groom. The melody for “La Bamba” is fairly consistent, but the lyrics vary widely and hundreds of verses exist.

Ritchie recorded “La Bamba” at the suggestion of his producer, Bob Keane, who was the President of Del-Fi records and had signed Ritchie in May 1958 after seeing him perform at a Saturday morning matinĂ©e at a movie theater in San Fernando. Keane first heard Valens sing the song while they were on the road promoting Valens’ first single “Come On Lets Go” in the summer of 1958. In July 2000, Keane told NPR’s “All Things Considered”:

“The first time I heard ‘La Bamba’ with Ritchie was when I was driving up to San Francisco with him for his first television appearance. He was in the back seat strumming his guitar all the way up there, and I heard this melody and said ‘Boy, that would make a great rock record’.”

Ritchie Valens and Bob Keane
Ritchie Valens and Bob Keane

Ritchie had reservations about recording the song because he thought it might be demeaning to his Mexican roots and also because he spoke no Spanish and wasn’t confident about his pronounciation and accent. He would learn the lyrics phonetically, with assistance from his aunt, Ernestine Reyes.

Although Bob Keane was drawn to the song, there was no precedent in rock for a Spanish language song making it big and, as far as he was concerned, little chance of the song getting any radio airplay. The latter point was a factor in choosing the song as the B-side of “Donna,” because it was thought that “La Bamba” would not compete for airplay with “Donna”. As it turned out, “Donna” did receive the bulk of the early airplay, but “La Bamba” was popular enough to also become a hit.

After performing a couple of times on “American Bandstand” and joining Alan Freed’s Christmas Jubilee in New York City, Valens made the fateful decision to join the four-state Winter Dance Party tour alongside Buddy Holly, the Big Bopper, and Dion and the Belmonts. On February 3, 1959, Ritchie Valens, Buddy Holly and the Big Bopper were killed in a plane crash outside Clear Lake, Iowa.

Ritchie Valens had a shortlived career, but made an important and memorable contribution to rock ‘n’ roll history, helping pave the way for other latin crossover artists and songs. His most significant recording, “La Bamba,” is ranked number 345 on Rolling Stone’s list of “the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time”.

“La Bamba” – Ritchie Valens


“La Bamba” is a traditional song, with new arrangement by Ritchie Valens.

Recording date/location

“La Bamba” was recorded on September 23, 1958 at Gold Star Studios, Hollywood, CA.

Producer, Bob Keane, recalled the session in his interview with NPR in 2000:

“When we got into the studio, Ritchie showed up and he had a cold. I couldn’t cancel the date because I couldn’t get the musicians back and I had to pay for the studio, so I had him stand off mic and sing along with the track as we cut the track to make sure the tempo was right and the breaks were right and all that stuff. Later we brought him in and we had a two-track machine and dubbed him in.”


The following musicians appeared on “La Bamba”:

  • Ritchie Valens – vocal & guitar
  • Carol Kaye – rhythm guitar
  • Rene Hall – Danelectro six-string bass guitar
  • Buddy Clark – standup bass
  • Ernie Freeman – piano
  • Earl Palmer – drums & woodblock.

There is some debate over who played the famous lead guitar part and solo. According to the liner notes of the 3-CD set “Ritchie Valense in Come On, Let’s Go,” musician Rene Hall claims that Ritchie was on lead. Other accounts indicate that Rene Hall played the part on his Danelectro six-string bass.

Chart performance

“La Bamba” charted independently of the A-side “Donna,” peaking at number 22 on the Billboard Hot 100 on February 2, 1958. Ritchie sadly died the next day.

Ritchie Valens - La Bamba Hot 100

“Donna” did better on the charts, reaching number two.

“La Bamba” reached number 49 on the UK singles chart.

Other notable recordings

“La Bamba” – Los Lobos

Los Lobos recorded “La Bamba” for the soundtrack of the 1987 Ritchie Valens biopic “La Bamba” and had a hit single with their cover. Not surprisingly, given the context, it is very similar to Ritchie’s original, but there is also a well-worked acoustic outro that is a nod to the song’s roots.

“La Bamba” – Glen Campbell

Glen Campbell’s 1964 instrumental album “The Astounding 12-String Guitar of Glen Campbell” included “La Bamba” among its 12 tracks. Campbell shows off why he was an in-demand session guitarist before he was a popular singer.

There will be a new Song of the Week on September 17.

Ritchie Valens’ “La Bamba” is available on a number of compilations, including “The Complete Ritchie Valens”.


The Complete Ritchie Valens (CD)

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Ritchie Valens at 70

Written by admin on May 13, 2011 – 10:09 am -

Ritchie Valens 70th birthday Ritchie Valens would have been 70 today if he hadn’t died aged just 17 on February 3, 1959 in the same plane crash that killed Buddy Holly and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson.

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