From 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 for fame.
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 beckon call.
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 music behind.

Videos of the event can be found on YouTube at the following links:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bM-G4c3_zR0 (Wanda Jackson)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oq2WmQMzE4s (Los Lonely Boys)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L9xejA6gQ1Y (Valens Family and Holly's Widow)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wXFoouxpnGY (Delbert McClinton)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K6a_iiDFYSk (Peter and Gordon)

All Images taken by Ezra Mann and are propery of Really Pathetic

Productions. More images will be viewable soon.