February 3, 1950 was, as any oldies buff knows, "the day the music died."
It was when a small plane crashed in Iowa and killed pop singers Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, and Big Bopper.
Tonight at Penn's Peak, in a concert starting at 8 o'clock, their music will again come to life when on the spacious, wooden stage will be "50's Dance Party."
Among the performers will be J. P. Richards Jr., the son of Big Bopper who was born just three months after that fateful plane crash occurred. He was raised by his mother, Adrian Joy Richardson, in Beaumont, Tex.
Other singers are John Mueller, organizer of the 50s Dance Party and who plays the role of Buddy Holly, and Ray Anthony as Ritchie Valens.
In a phone interview with Mueller before his concert last Saturday in Highmount, N.Y., Mueller explained why he put together the Dance Party.
Mueller, who looks like Holly and who is the former star of the London/Broadway hit musical "Buddy...the Buddy Holly Story," met Anthony in Las Vegas where he was performing as Valens in the "Legends" series.
"He wanted to do more (than Vegas) and I knew he would be a great addition," said Mueller regarding personal appearances.
Richardson got in touch with Mueller and the musical triumvirate was completed.
Mueller said tonight's concert will copy the final tour of Holly, Valens, and Bopper as best as possible. Although no set lists were available from that final tour, Mueller has worked with original band members.
"The lead guitarist (from that 1950 tour) can remember the exact version but he provided as much information as he could," said Mueller. "We try to keep it as original as possible."
Holly is known for such songs as "Peggy Sue," "That'll Be the Day," and "Oh, Boy."
Songs of Valens included "Donna," "La Bamba," and "Come On, Let's Go."
Big Bopper's biggest hit was "Chantilly Lace."
Mueller grew up in Kansas. He said he didn't grow up in the era of Holly "but I grew up with hand-me-down records such as the Eagles, Beatles, and Chuck Berry," he said. "My siblings liked to listen to Blue Oyster Cult and other rock music. 'Peggy Sue' was the first song I learned to play on guitar."
Asked if he had a favorite Holly song, he said, without hesitation, "That would be 'True Love Ways.' It's a beautiful ballad. It's amazing they (Holly, Valens and Bopper) had such a great variety of songs."
This marks the 10th anniversary for 50's Dance Party. "We had great success all over the country," Mueller said. "We were endorsed by the Holly family and the Valance estate."
After the show, band members come out and meet the fans just as Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, and Big Bopper always did.
50's Dance Party- Featuring the Music of Buddy Holly, the Big Bopper and Richie Valens is tonight at 8 o'clock at Penn's Peak. Tickets are $22 and $19.