Lubbock to Iowa: A pilgrimage that lives on
A review of the 50 Winters
Later event, Feb. 3, 2009
(By Ezra Mann-Editor in Spoof)
Some legends are born because of a fanatical following that is without
merit and some become one early, only to pass into eternity before they
can spread the flame further. Latter was the case 50 years ago when three
young men were robbed of their fire in the early years of their quest
In a small auditorium in the frozen wastelands of Iowa it was surreal
to see the same stage Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper once
stood upon as if it were still waiting for their return. Yet, year after
year many make a pilgrimage in the frigid month of February to the Surf
Ballroom in Clear Lake to honor what was lost and carry on the music.
As it was announced to the crowd again and again, it was not a time to
grieve as much as it was a time to prove that the day the music died was
only a rebirth.
There was something there for fans of all ages from those who were tuned
into their radios that fateful morning after to those who have had the
knowledge passed onto them. A whole week of remembrance culminated into
the final evening for all there who were in too much awe to shed a tear.
Though hard to imagine a casual fan at such an event, there were some
there who were merely along for the ride and some who did everything possible
to show how much they’d give to pay tribute to a personal hero.
The most surreal aspect of it all was that it did not matter where someone
had journeyed from, which made it all seem as if one family had gathered
and had set aside differences. From Lubbock to Chicago to Michigan you
might have met them all if you had shaken enough hands.
The concert itself was something to behold as the sound filled every ear
whether someone was stage-side or not. It was as if the room was made
specifically to commemorate moments such as this awakening at the legends
Though the tunes carried for five hours, it was hard to sit down lest
this be the last time such majesty was beheld. And why not, it was worth
hearing those along the lines of the Big Bopper Jr., Wanda Jackson and
the Los Lonely Boys rekindle the spirits one more time. Even if you felt
tired near the end it was hard to leave as it must have been hard to stop
performing even as the midnight hour passed.
Perhaps the best part of it all was seeing the family members of those
who were closest of all to the three, some even before the legends first
set foot on a stage. We all can feel the pain of the losses, but none
of us outside their world will ever understand the crushing blow each
felt when the news first broke.
Yet, they were as happy as one might expect, even more so, willing to
pose for a photograph, share a funny story and spend time listening to
how much the music continues to touch so many lives. Never would I have
thought that I’d meet the Big Bopper’s son or Ritchie Valens
brother outside of a retelling in a paperback. Even Holly’s widow
graced the arena and any bitter feelings were soon forgotten in a charm
many don’t talk about.
There’s really so much that could be said and not near enough time
to match the effort that was put into the event. To the people of Iowa
I offer my thanks and praise the lord I don’t have to spend too
much time outside of the warm south.
To the performers thank you for helping me relive and add magic to what
I experienced as a child. To the people I attended the event with, thank
you for making the night all that more special and I wish you the best
in case we never meet again. I am glad I grew up in the plains of West
Texas and I am proud to say that my life as well as that of many others
would not have been as fulfilling without a guitar pick and a sweet melody.
Photo Captions, From Top to Bottom: After
the event was over, some of the crowd stuck around to say their final
goodbyes and admire the stage where Ritchie Valens, Buddy Holly and the
Big Bopper performed 50 years ago. (2nd) Wanda Jackson, known sometimes
as the lady of Rockabilly performs "Brown Eyed Handsome Man and a
few other era classics at the 50 Winters Later event. (3rd) The Big Bopper
Jr. picks up where his dad left off by singing Chantilly Lace at the Surf
Ballroom Feb. 3rd. (4th) Valens' family and Holly's Widow perform La Bamba
to a packed crowd in Clear Lake, Iowa. (5th) At midnight three stars are
shown on the ceiling to honor the three who passed away and left their
Videos of the event can be found on YouTube
at the following links:
(Los Lonely Boys)
(Valens Family and Holly's Widow)
(Peter and Gordon)
All Images taken by Ezra Mann
and are propery of Really Pathetic
Productions. More images will
be viewable soon.