buddy holly impersonators and tribute artistes , chris king
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Clearlake, Iowa, USA , 1999 - 2009.

Here are some of my pictures from my visits to Clearlake, Iowa .
I go as a member of the British Buddy Holly Society and we visit the legendary Surf Ballroom, the venue where Buddy Holly , J.P. Richardson "The Big Bopper" and Ritchie Valens , played their last concert on the evening of February 2nd 1959. They celebrate the music of these three stars and of the 50s in general every first weekend in February and have done since 1979 .

My first visit was to the 40th anniversary in 1999 . I made further trips in 2000, 2001, 2002, 2004 , 2007, and now in 2009 for the big 50th anniversary get together .
It's a great few days in a charming little town which allows meeting up with friends, both old and new , those involved in Buddy's music yesterday and today , and those who aren't musicians but are loyal fans of the legend .

Peggy Sue Gerron - yes, the real
Peggy Sue !

Peggy Sue is an iconic lady in Rock 'n' Roll with 2 very famous songs about her:
Peggy Sue
& Peggy Sue Got Married,
not forgetting the film of the same name !

with Peggy Sue
bobby vee

I had a great evening in the Surf Ballroom .
I had performed a little and Bobby Vee had done a great spot with Tommy Allsup.
A local man from Clearlake was a teenager and in the Surf on the night of February 2nd 1959 .
He was given the '45 that Bobby is holding and brought it into the dressing room . 
It was one of a few promos handed out on the night and signed by
Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper, Ritchie Valens and Dion . Absolutely priceless
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Here in deep conversation with Connie, Ritchie's sister, its never hard to find something to talk about when visiting Clearlake Iowa.
Not only was she an advisor to the film
"La Bamba" she also played a cameo role as Ritchie's Mother.
The children were played by family members also.
Connie
rickie valens' family
Connie , Mario & Irma - Ritchie Valens' brother & sisters

Ernie Valens, Ritchie Valens' nephew.

Ernie's rendition of "Donna" is second only to his uncle.

richie valens' nephew ernie

With Gary & Ramona Tollett, backing singers on 
"That'll Be The Day",
who have to be one of the nicest couples in the history of Rock 'n' Roll .

Buddy & Denni Farland at the Brit Lunch at the Best Western Hotel in Clearlake , Iowa .
denny farland+
tommy allsup and larry welborn
Tommy Allsup (guitar on "Heartbeat" & "It's So Easy"),
Buddy Walker, Larry Welborn
(double bass on "That'll Be The Day") , and good friend Mike Delf .
Robert Reynolds, the bass player with
The Mavericks
nancy griffith

With singer Nanci Griffith.

Nanci doesn't do autographs after concerts , as I found out in Cambridge , UK .
We're here at the Best Western hotel in Clearlake , Iowa , and , after another glass of champagne , I got this photograph taken by my good mate Clive Harvey .

The late Niki Sullivan, "The 4th Cricket" .
The Crickets started out as a 4 piece ,
but with Buddy's heavy Lead/Rhythm style of playing he wasn't really needed so Nikki left to persue a solo career.
I met him while at the Surf, he was with his wife .
He was working for the research dept in the Sony Coorporation .
nicky sullivan
the crickets
With The Crickets in London 2001 .
Joe B Mauldin , Sonny Curtis & Jerry Allison .
Jay P Richardson, "The Big Bopper" Jnr .
big bopper jr
with the crickets
In the Surf Ballroom in 2007 with The Crickets .
With George Tomsco & Stan Lark from
The Fireballs
the fireballs
johnny rogers
With Johnny Rogers from Chicago , the best Buddy Holly tribute ever , and Tommy Allsup .
Having stayed  overnight with Denni and Patty Farland at their home in Newton , Iowa we were on our way to Clearlake , February 2001 .
Stopped at Ames for lunch .
Met up with Hans Geopinger - he bought us all lunch . What a nice man !
Pictured: Denni Farland , Me , Ian Higham , Nancy , Clive, Hans and Dan .
ames for lunch
dan and nancy

 

My very good friends Dan & Nancy Dunshee
from Denver , Colorado .
I stayed in their lovely home in 2001
and we drove up to Clearlake , Iowa together .

In the lobby at the Super 8 Motel in Clearlake with , left to right :
Colin , Dan , Nancy , Clive and me .
super 8 motel
pink ladies
With the Pink Ladies at the Brit Lunch at the
Best Western Hotel in Clearlake .
Having fun onstage at the Brit lunch at the 
Best Western Hotel , Clearlake , Iowa
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brit lunch
fone buddy made his last call
The phone that made the last call home !
During the sound check on stage at
The Surf Ballroom
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surf ballroom stage
surf ballroom
Outside the legendary Surf Ballroom in Clearlake, Iowa , the last venue for Buddy Holly ,
The Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens .
The Memorial outside the Surf Ballroom dedicated to the three stars .

Note that it rightly mentions the pilot ,
21 year old
Roger Peterson from Clearlake, Iowa .
buddy memorial
clearlake memorial
Outside the Surf Ballroom with the memorial which is situated just to the right of the main entrance to the Surf .

 

This is Ken Paquette .
He is the artist/sculptor of the
Monument at the Crash Site.
ken paquette
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Jerry Dwyer of Dwyers Flying Services ,
Mason City, Iowa . 
Jerry owned the ill-fated plane .
My biggest thrill was on a Sunday afternoon in February 2004 when Jerry took me flying over Clearlake,
along with my very good friends Denni Farland and
Ian Higham, in a little Cessna .
It was 60 mins in my life I will never forget .
Got it all on Video .
Jerry really is a super guy !

This is the view we had out of the pilot's window as the Cessna took off at Mason City airport .

It was very chilling to almost relive the moment when Buddy and the guys took off 45 years previously from the same airfield .
CLICK HERE to watch my video of our Cessna taking off , to give you some indication of the view those 3 guys would have experienced on that fateful night , the only difference was that theirs was a nightflight !

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The aerial view from the right hand side , front window , where I sat during the flight .

After reaching 1000 feet , we turned and headed North of Clearlake .
On seeing the site of the '59 crash , Jerry reduced our height to just 300 feet to give us a closer look .
After that we rose back up to 1000 feet and flew over The Surf Ballroom and the town of Clearlake .

After flying over the lake , Jerry wanted to show us Clearlake's "windfarm" , before turning around and heading back to Mason City airport , where we made a safe landing .
It was just such an awesome experience , but having no head for heights I admit I was relieved to put my feel back on solid ground again .
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En route to Chicago I called in to Kenosha to visit the Eagles Ballroom , the 2nd venue on the Winter Dance Party Tour .
Went upstairs and it was lovely .

This is the best paint job on a
Chrysler PT Cruiser .
The couple who owned this car got married on stage in the Surf Ballroom ,
February 1999 .

paint job
elwyn musser
Elwyn Musser in 2007.
Elwyn was the photographer with the Mason City Globe Gazette who took all the black & white photos at the crash site in 1959 .
He is holding the actual camera he used !
This camera was mounted on a plinth and presented to him on his retirement .
At the crash site with the memorial .
the crash site memorial
crash site memorial

 

The Memorial at the crash site .

They say this is where Rock 'n' Roll stopped.
Well, maybe for a while. It certainly is a very lonely place and has a sadness out there .

Me , Denni Farland & Graham Steele at the crash site .
denny farland and graham steele
crash site
At the crash site at 7 mins past 1am on
3rd February 1999 .
Out at the crash site in 2000 filming 
"Rock Shrines" with
Guy Gilbert and Kate Patten from BBC TV .
rock shrines TV
rock shrines TV
I think I am trying to say:
"I cant go much longer, my fingers are freezing up !"
JANUARY 2009
Flew from my home in Southern Spain , from Malaga into JFK , and had 3 nights in New York City . I had wanted to go there for years to see things relating to Buddy and other famous sights in New York .
3 days later I flew to Minneapolis , Minnesota ,
and picked up my rental car ,
a Dodge Nitro .
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One of the few concerts held in schools during the week , to raise money for music scholarships .
Rookie's Bar , on Main Street , Clearlake ,
is a favourite haunt of mine .
Any day during the week is great .
Saturday afternoon's you can hardly move in the place and the atmosphere is electric , and with the locals the welcome to their town is second to none .

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This is in Clearlake Middle School after a lunchtime concert .
The man at the piano was playing some Buddy Holly tunes and the lady walked over with her violin (she led the string quartet on stage at the Surf Ballroom) .
I started to sing "True Love Ways" with him on piano , she joined in and I captured the whole thing on my video camera , a special little moment !
Made my way out to the crash site to pay respects as everyone does yearly on visiting Clearlake .
Nearly didn't make it from being beaten back by the cold !
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On stage in the Surf Ballroom and things are starting to get rocking !
This is Tommy Allsup and Johnny Rogers doing their spot .
It was so hard to get a close up picture as the venue was packed solid !
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This was one of my faves for the week ,
the original Comets .
Along with keyboards and guitar , they did a blistering set of all the old Bill Haley and The Comets hits ,
along with some highly amusing dialogue .
Good view from the rear of the Surf Ballroom .
Just don't get in the way of those dancers !
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This is Tommy Jennings , brother of
Waylon Jennings .
Waylon was Buddy's close friend and bass player on the final tour , and of course went on to fame as a Country artiste .
The Crickets live on stage , left to right -
Sonny Curtis , Joe B Mauldin and
Jerry Allison .
I'm sure that being 50 Winters later on from the original final concert , it must have been a very emotional occasion for all of them !
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From Monday 2nd February 1959 to Monday 2nd February 2009 - "50 Winters Later" .

This photo is Rock 'n' Roll history and shows Bobby Vee and Sonny Curtis performing
"Blue Days And Black Nights" .

This is Bob Hale and me on Tuesday 3rd February 2009 , after the emotional concert in the Surf Ballroom had finished , with people saying their goodbyes and making their way home .
Bob Hale was the Compere on the night back in 1959 and , as you can imagine , has many stories to tell about that night .
He has such a great radio voice and has spent his entire life on the airwaves .
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Sunday 25th January 2009 at the Kato Ballroom , Mankato , Minnesota , another venue for
The Winter Dance Party Tour in 1959 .

Here I met up with old friend Jerry Dwyer (owner of the light aircraft that the guys perished in 50 years previously) .
Such a pleasure meeting up with him again .


This is the lunchtime concert in Clearlake Middle School .
Apart from teachers and parents , the kids were invited in as well .
Other acts , including Tommy Alsupp , were also featured in this afternoon show .
The kids were not only delighted to hear about Rock 'n' Roll from the '50s , but also chuffed to learn that one of the biggest Rock 'n' Roll stars ever had visited their town some 50 years previously .
Altogether a music and history lesson combined !
I had done this show in previous years , but it was a sheer delight to do it again on the 50th
anniversary in 2009 .
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MY RETURN TRIP IN FEBRUARY 2011

The Entrance to the Surf, showing acts performing for the week .
Also my Jeep Grand Cherokee , which was brand new and an enjoyable part of the trip .

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The lobby at the Surf Ballroom .
The plaque reads The Surf had been inducted to the
Rock n Roll Hall of fame .
Rightly showing its place in Rock n Roll History .
Again standing on this hallowed turf, the stage in the Surf Ballroom !
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My mate Mike Delf found this "Susi Q diner" in Mason City . We went there for breakfast .
Great food and a warm welcome . The owner, a real character, told us he had being given a grant to spruce the place up in and out, and also have a historic marker erected .
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Good to meet up with Jim Ratts , leader of Denver based blue grass band , Runaway Express.
Spent a great night with Jim , his wife Salli and friends in their home nr Denver .

The other guy is lead singer with Denver based band
"Flash Cadillac" they really wowed the Surf .

At the Friday lunch at the Best Western , where this year I stayed .
This is me with Connie Lemos , Ritchie Valens' sister , she campaigns tirelessly of behalf of her brother .
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After dinner we had a most enjoyable jam , with all singing .

So much fun playing the hits of Buddy , and getting the dancers on the floor .

I did an early spot, so I could enjoy a beer and then my lunch .



This was the house band for the week, awesome players , I loved them .
I think they came from Chicago .

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This is Sonny West, a Texas singer songwriter , who one day called at the Norman Petty studios  to find Buddy Holly recording .
He played two songs he had written , and Buddy and the Crickets subsequently recorded the two songs .
Buddy beefed them up , turned them around and they became two of his biggest hits.
"Oh Boy" and "Rave On".

The legendary Tommy Allsup, Buddy's lead guitarist for last year of his life .
He toured and recorded with the Crickets .
Tommy is best known for his solos on
"Its So Easy" and "Heartbeat" .
He is a perennial favourite at the Surf , and really is a fine guitar player and musician , now 79 years old .
He flipped the coin late that night and
Ritchie Valens won the toss to take Tommy's seat on the plane .
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This is quite a good shot of the Surf during the evening .
It's hard to get just the photo you want in a room with over 2000 people !
It's great to see the dancers really going , and when a band sets to it on stage , the atmosphere can be electric .

The Surf Ballroom is currently being well owned , and very well cared for and extremely well managed . A committee of local business people in the town are doing a superb job .

These glasses are at the entrance to the crash site .
A new addition since I was last there .
It was Saturday morning , and the warmest out there I had known .
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"Saturday night and I just got paid" - no , but just arrived at the Surf , standing in the lobby next to a superb ice statue of a grand piano .
Saturday night acts included the Fleetwoods , they did some of their more gentle hits , including
"Come Softly To Me" .
They were preceded by the house band , who I thought fantastic , but more than abely backed the other acts on the show very well .
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This is Little Peggy March , a dynamic performer , with great stage presence and a great singer .
Her biggest hit in the 60s was
"I Will Follow Him" which is the hit song from the musical "Sister Act".
I believe she was something like 14 years old when she recorded the song , and of course , the original version .

I really was looking forward to seeing
Roy Head .
To me he is like a white James Brown .
When I turned pro at 18 , I drove the band nuts with his hit record "Treat Her Right" .
I loved it !

It was a bit rocky for the Norwood Rooms in Norwich in those days , a real Soul classic , and I slammed it for all I was worth .
Possibly part of my downfall there !!!

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The lights went down , the stage set for the next part of the show and Jerry Lee Lewis' band took the stage , they really set the joint rockin !!!!
Then "The Killer" took to the stage , seated himself at the piano , played some arpeggios , then played the band in on piano then whoa !!
Blast Off !!
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I think the next 55 mins or so was some of the most exiting I have ever known .
This man more or less invented Rock n Roll in Memphis ,Tennessee, and he wasn't going to let you forget it !
Fantastic !!!!!
His energy , and that of his band also ,
average age 74ish was awesome !!!!!!!
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The Jerry Lee Lewis fotos are courtesy of my dear friend Nancy Dunshee in Denver , Colorado ,
because she somehow managed to snap much better fotos of Jerry than I did !
Thank you Nancy !

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