Wednesday, March 14, 2012
"As quick as you learn how to spell Waxahachie, they transfer you to Nacogdoches..." - a Texas saying
Waxahachie – An Iowa farmer walking the rows of his cornfield found the .22 caliber pistol Buddy Holly carried on tour and into history on a day months after the fateful night before the day the music died.
Pieces of the 1947 Beechcraft Bonanza 35 V-tail airplane still littered the ground where Mr. Holly, Richie Valens, J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson of Chantilly Lace fame, and the 21-year-old pilot Roger Peterson lost their lives shortly after take-off in frosty weather near Clear Lake, Iowa, about an hour after midnight.
It had been a grueling tour carried out on a stopwatch schedule as the bands traveled in a crowded bus with a faulty heating system through the northern tier of midwestern states under conditions so brutally cold a drummer was hospitalized after developing a severe case of frostbite on his feet.
The three musicians, whose recordings were topping the charts at the time, were looking to get to their next destination nearly 400 miles away in Minnesota. They paid a fare of $38 apiece and boarded the plane hoping to reach Minnesota early and get some needed rest, but it was not to be.
An inexperienced pilot with no instrument rating, Mr. Peterson is believed to have mistaken an artificial horizon gyro for the more common artificial horizon level, his misperception causing the aircraft to take an slightly downward path as it banked heavily to the right and struck the ground at an estimated 170 miles per hour.
He had failed a recent instrument check ride with an FAA inspector just days before and was not authorized for instrument-only flight. Safety investigators noted the controlled flight path of the aircraft, which appeared to have been flown into the ground, and no apparent engine or mechanical failure in evidence.
The impact left the pilot's body stuck in the severely twisted wreckage, while the remains of Mr. Richie and Mr. Holly were outside the passenger cabin nearby.
But the body of The Bopper was hundreds of feet distant, on the other side of a fence in an adjacent field.
When the farmer found the pistol, it started a buzz of speculation that set folks to wondering if he had crawled away from the crash site in search of help following some kind of disturbance inside the aircraft, something that involved Buddy Holly's pistol.
When Mr. Richardson's family had his body moved in 2007 from its site of interment in a Beaumont cemetery so it could be buried alongside his first wife in an area where statuary and other memorials are allowed, they took the opportunity have an autopsy of The Bopper's body performed to learn the exact cause of his demise.
That's where Thomas Kreason and his wife Marianne come into the picture. They contacted them and offered them the casket in which The Bopper had lain all those years so they could add it to their collection of Texas musical memorabilia, which includes items owned by Stevie Ray Vaughn, Blind Lemon Jefferson's guitar, costumes worn by such luminaries as Johnny Winter, Bob Wills and others of his Texas Playboys, and posters advertising concerts by Lightning Hopkins and Big Mama Thornton.
What followed presents an unusual and rather macabre story few have ever heard.
Mrs. Kreason would only reveal a part of the tale in an interview at the new location of the Texas Musicians Museum.
She and her husband Thomas are going to make an appearance at the Bobby Bullock Museum in Austin on Sunday and will pass through Tokio later in the day.
She is hoping to persuade him to give a presentation of his recollections of what was learned in The Big Bopper's autopsy, and what was learned when he was moved to his final resting place.
Their plans for the future? "We're looking to grow again," she said, following the recent revelations that there is a severe shakeup in the ownership of the impeccably restored Rogers Hotel, located on the Courthouse Square in Texas' premier gingerbread city.
Tokio Store proprietor Al Cinek has agreed to interrupt the Musicians Reunion to allow Mr. Kreason to tell his tale about how he was able to add The Bopper's casket to his collection and the speculation about Buddy's pistol and how and why the plane crashed.
The Legendary plans to make a video of the happening. Casey Kelley and friends David Doran, Buth Giddens and his son Dave are expected to take the stage at 3 p.m. For what is a get together for working musicians.
“It's not a jam session,” says Mr. Kelley. “Nor is it an open mike.”
Posted by The Legendary at 10:24 PM