55 Winters Later: Los Lobos to Play the 2014 Winter Dance Party @ Surf Ballroom Clear Lake, IA
It is hard to believe that this coming February it will have been 55 years since the “day the music died” as Don McLean eulogized in “American Pie”. It was on the night of February 2, 1959 that the ill-fated Winter Dance Party tour of 1959 came to an abrupt halt when a plane chartered by Buddy Holly and also carrying Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper crashed shortly after takeoff in a corn field outside Mason City, Iowa. The tour had just finished a show at the soon to be legendary Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake and was scheduled to play the Armory in Moorhead Minnesota the next night. (My ex-father in law had told me he had a ticket for that show.) Not wanting to risk getting frost bite like his drummer did just a couple days earlier on the poorly heated tour bus forcing him to drop off the tour, Holly thought a short plane trip to Fargo was well worth the extra money for a respite from the tour from hell.
The 1959 Winter Dance Party tour was 24 days of hit and runs in the upper Midwest at the worst possible time of the year weather wise, late January to early February, during one of the harshest winters in decades. Fiasco and catastrophe do not even begin to describe it. Whoever the sadistic genius was in charge of the itinerary must have been the same agent who once booked some friends of mine for a show in Minneapolis one night and the following night in Calgary, by tour bus. My friends changed booking agencies that night.
Ever since the tragedy, the Surf Ballroom in conjunction with the good people of Clear Lake have put together commemorative concerts and tributes culminating in what has now become a weeklong series of events drawing music fans from all over the globe. The 50th anniversary show back in 2009, 50 Winters Later, drew a line up featuring some of Rock n Roll’s biggest names and most devoted Holly fans (e.g. Paul McCartney, Keith Richards, Robert Plant or as I lovingly call ’em, the English geezers).
There will not be a need for Geritol at this year’s event which features “just another band from east L.A.”, Los Lobos. As anyone who witnessed their show at this year’s Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival (see the show on the webcast archive on line) Los Lobos remain a vital, ever evolving creative force of nature while keeping the same personnel, albeit with some welcome additions in percussion to free up the hugely talented former drummer now guitarist and co-leader Louie Perez. Their latest release “Disconnected in New York City” shows that these guys, along with everything else, when it all comes down to it, are fine musicians. And after all, isn’t that what matters?