Nobody writes about this sort of thing better than Mark Steyn.
“Peggy Sue” is where Bobby Vee came in. “The day the music died” is the day that Bobby Vee was born, professionally speaking. In the early hours of February 3rd 1959, the four-seater Beechcraft Bonanza flying Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper to a gig in Moorhead, Minnesota crashed in a cornfield near Clear Lake, Iowa. Later that day, in Moorhead, the promoters got the news and decided to go ahead with the event, appealing on the radio for any local talent to pitch in as last-minute substitutes for the deceased. A 15-year-old schoolboy calling himself Bobby Vee (short for Velline) and a handful of pals serving as a back-up band volunteered their services. On their way to the venue – the National Guard Armory – they stopped off at J C Penney to buy matching black trousers, woolen ties and sleeveless sweaters.
And so was born Bobby Vee & the… Well, the what? The emcee asked the name of the band, and Bobby looked back at the boys silhouetted by the stage spots and replied, “The Shadows.” It was a great night, notwithstanding the grim circumstances. The following morning the surviving members of the Buddy Holly/Big Bopper tour party left for Sioux City, but without paying Bobby.
For a while, Bobby’s pianist was another young Minnesota musician going under the unconvincing stage name of “Elston Gunnn”. Mr Gunnn subsequently adopted the more enduring persona of “Bob Dylan”. But he still plays “Suzie Baby”, as he did in affectionate tribute to Bobby Vee – “the most beautiful person I’ve ever been on stage with” – in St Paul’s a couple of years back.
No Dylan fan, I, I have to admit. In fact, no Vee fan either, or not particularly. But man, what a great story. Read on for the rest of it; it’s truly good stuff.