On February 3, 1959, at approximately 1:00 AM, Dwyer Flying Service Beechcraft Model 35 Bonanza N3794N took off from the Mason City Municipal Airport. The weather is recorded that nigh as lightly snowing but what the pilot did not realize is a snow storm was moving in fast.
History records shortly after takeoff, pilot Roger Peterson became disoriented in the white out conditions at altitude. He had over 700 hours of flying experience but not enough flying on instruments only. Without being able to see the horizon he flew the aircraft into the ground at high speed killing Peterson and all three passengers on board. They were Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J. P. “Big Bopper” Richardson.
The tragedy shocked the world and forever changed the history of Rock and Roll. Years later the event became known as “The Day The Music Died” from a lyric by Don Mclean I his 1971 song “American Pie”.
The musicians had been part of the “Winter Dance Party" tour making its way across the Midwest. Continual transportation problems plagued the tour with transportation having no heat and a break down. In an effort to save some time, get some rest and do some much needed laundry, Holly contracted an airplane to fly him and 2 members of his band (Waylon Jennings & Tommy Allsup) to the next venue in Fargo, ND. J.P. Richardson had come down with the flu. Jennings gave him his seat on the flight. Valens was not a fan of flying but could not resist the temptation. He won a coin toss with Allsup thereby sealing his fate.
This piece is a tribute to the men who died that day. For me an emotional scene as the aircraft gets airborne into the night moments away from forever changing the world.
Thank you to Mr. Jake Schaeffer for the inspiration to create this piece and for the excellent references of the fateful aircraft. When he first approached me with the idea I was a bit hesitant. After some communication back and forth Jake's enthusiasm was contagious. I realized this would be an important piece. His thorough research on the subject over the years and his history in the music business perhaps qualifies him as one of the leading historians on Beechcraft Model 35 Bonanza N3794N. To my knowledge this is the first artwork honoring these men on that fateful night. Thanks to Jake, the aircraft is accurately portrayed the way it would have appeared all those years ago. May God bless their souls.