Tuesday, March 1, 2016


Gerald's niece Carrie posted this on her Facebook page:  "My treasure found today at an auction.  I bought 100 albums and found this.  American Pie has significant meaning to the Christmas parties that my Aunt Sue Shirkey-Raypole used to have.  I miss those days.  My $4 find was worth it!"

I replied with words from Don McLean:
"A long, long time ago,
I can still remember how
That music used to make me smile......"


"Oh, there we were all in one place,
A generation lost in space,
With no time left to start again...."

For twenty years, Gerald and I hosted an annual "Open House" Christmas party.  Our musician Gary Wilson had a huge repertoire of songs and people would yell out requests.  My brother Ken had requested George Jones' He Stopped Loving Her Today and our friend Dino asked for Brook Benton's Rainy Night in Georgia and I yelled out Malaguena Salerosa and proving his wide range, Gary played and sang all of them with his 12-string guitar.

From the poker-playing room, my brother Norman yelled, "Play American Pie!" and Gary answered "Only if you get up and sing it."  This was NOT karaoke, and Gary asked, "Do you know all the words?"  I answered, "Of course!"  It was astounding that Norman came to the microphone because that was totally uncharacteristic of him, and later when I asked him about it, he said that he had to "rally to the challenge about knowing all the words"!

After that, it became a tradition to sing American Pie and the next year, Gerald's nieces Carrie and Gina joined in and in the intervening years, more people would join in with the somewhat raucous renditions;  after awhile, I provided copies of lyrics for people to use.

Norman and I knew all the words and the meanings of all the references. Each February 3, one of us would call the other to commemorate the "day the music died" and yes, we did remember WHERE we were when we first heard the news.

February 3, 1959, was when Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and The Big Bopper died. We had always heard that Waylon Jennings gave up his seat in a "coin flip" and that's how Ritchie Valens was on the plane.  Dion di Mucci, of Dion and The Belmonts, was also a performer on the "Winter Party Tour" and he has a totally different recollection of the events. Please read his version:


1.  Buddy Holly chartered the plane just for the “headliners.” We were the ones making the most money and, therefore, were the only ones that could afford the flight.
2.  Buddy was able to charter a plane with only four seats including the pilot's seat. Because there was not enough room for all four of us to fly, someone would have to ride the bus.
3.  In a closed dressing room we flipped a coin to see who was going to fly. The Big Bopper and I won the toss. I then discovered that the flight would cost $36, the exact amount of rent due monthly that my parents constantly argued about. I said to Ritchie, "You go." He accepted and took my seat.
4.  Only the four of us knew who was getting on that plane when we left that dressing room that night. I am the only one who survived beyond February 3, 1959 who was in the room that night where the coin toss occurred.

I talked about all that happened for two whole weeks on the bus after the plane crash because the tour continued until February 18, 1959. Everybody on the tour bus heard exactly what happened.
The truth is that if all the people who said they flipped a coin with Buddy Holly to get a seat on that   plane, they would have needed a 747. There have been so many stories over the years that were simply made up, so many "created" stories about the "coin flip".I didn't think the coin flip was important because it was never the deciding factor in my decision not to fly.  You know how I feel. I believe the truth is important.  This is OUR music, OUR culture, OUR lives. After all, Rock & Roll says "tell the truth ‘til it hurts".

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Remember when we heard that the name of that plane was "American Pie"? ML