Thursday, May 16, 2013


Clear Lake IA (Low 54 Partly Sunny & Very Warm High 80)

Blogging for us seems to be feast or famine, either nothing to report or a whole lot to report. Part of reporting is cataloging all the photos we take and we take a LOT of photos. We still have a few entries on our stay in Kellogg, in addition to the sites we are visiting while we are in Clear Lake, so stay tuned.

Today we wanted to document our visit to the Surf Ballroom (where Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and J.P. Richardson, the Big Bopper) had their last concert. Jim and Sandie this one is for you!

The Surf Ballroom Museum (basically the entire place on a self guided tour) is open 8a-4p daily and there is no charge. They do have a donation box if you are so inclined.

We don't know exactly how to describe this; Bob felt it was kinda eery and Jo felt goosebumps while walking on the stage and hearing the music from those three acts. Here is Bob on the stage where they played. Sorry for the picture quality they had the lights turned down and if the automagic setting on the camera can't handle it we are out of luck.

Here is the signature room, or green room, where the acts waited before going on stage. It is a Surf Ballroom tradition to sign the walls. Wish we would have asked if this tradition began before or after "The Day The Music Died" and if there was a Buddy Holly signature.

Here is the pay phone that Buddy Holly used to call his wife, Maria Elena and Richie Valens called his manager to tell them they were taking a plane ride instead of the usual bus ride. Maria Elena's signature from the 2009 Memorial Concert is on the placard.

Everybody has probably heard the story but some of the details had escaped us and we learned some new stuff too. The "Winter Dance Party" was an ill conceived event, a show every day traveling hundreds of miles between venues on a cold bus during one of the worst winters ever. Buddy got tired of this and chartered a plane flown by Roger Peterson for himself, Tommy Allsup (guitar) and Waylon Jennings (electric bass), for the long trip to Fargo North Dakota. Here is where it gets interesting. Tommy Allsup lost his seat in a coin toss to Richie Valens. The Big Bopper was coming down with a cold so Waylon Jennings offered his seat. When Buddy heard this he told Waylon, "I hope your ol' bus freezes up!", Jennings replied, "Well I hope your ol' plane crashes". Jennings later admitted that he felt severe guilt and responsibility for the crash, and that his words would haunt him for the rest of his life.

Another thing that we had forgotten was that Dion and the Belmonts also performed on the "Winter Dance Party" tour as shown in this original poster.

Here is the "Winter Dance Party" schedule. Jennings and Allsup continued the tour for two more weeks with Jennings as the lead singer.

What really amazed us was the history of the place and how well maintained it is. The coat check stand, sorry no picture, is as it was in the 1940s. Bob's parents always talked about the good times they had whenever they visited the Surf Ballroom and sat in one of these original booths. The 3,600-square-foot maple dance floor was in amazing shape. Kinda neat to be in the same building as Bob's folks and then Buddy Holly along with a lot of other acts.

The range of acts in this place, from big bands (still playing there all year) to country (Willie Nelson recent concert sold out) to rock and roll (Cheap Trick coming in June) to Yanni, this place has seen it all. This picture probably shows the diversity the best.

A final comment about the acts that have performed at the Surf Ballroom concerns the Guiness Book of World's Records and the famous Nelson Family. When Matthew and Gunnar hit #1 on the Billboard charts with "(Can't Live Without Your) Love and Affection", it put the Nelson Family in the record book as the only family in entertainment history with three generations of #1 hitmakers. The Nelson Family also has the distinction of all three generations have performed their hits at the Surf Ballroom.

Here are the rest of the photos that we took to get the full experience. This is a really neat place to visit. Since this has gotten so long our next entry will be on the crash site.

Till next time,

Bob and Jo


  1. What a cool place. I would to visit this museum!

  2. We found the ballroom to be an interesting and perhaps a bit spooky place:)

  3. I really, really want to go here. I'm hoping maybe next year on our way East. Thank you, thank you, thank you for such a great tour.