Remembering Buddy Holly’s Last Visit to Worcester and Providence
The world knows February 3 as the anniversary of the Day the Music Died. It was on that date in 1959 that a plane crash near Clear Lake, Iowa killed rock and rollers Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. “Big Bopper” Richardson.
What you may not know, however, is that just a few months before, Holly was rocking New England with appearances in Worcester, Massachusetts and Providence, Rhode Island.
The plane crash occurred during the “Winter Dance Party” tour of the Midwest, but before that, Holly was headlining the Biggest Show of Stars for 1958 on the East Coast.
Exactly four months before the fatal plane crash, on October 3, 1958, Holly played the Worcester Memorial Auditorium in Worcester, Massachusetts. On that same bill was Dion and the Belmonts, who were also part of the Iowa show on the night of the fatal plane crash.
The auditorium, known in Worcester as “The Aud,” opened in 1933 and stills stands today, although plans for its future have fluctuated in recent years.
Just one night after playing Worcester, the Crickets and Dion and the Belmonts played the Arcadia Ballroom in Providence on October 4, 1958. The venue, which opened in 1922, was later used as a boxing venue before being demolished.
According to RIRocks.net, other acts on the Biggest Show of Stars for 1958 bill included Frankie Avalon, Bobby Darin, Duane Eddy, The Coasters and Clyde McPhatter, to name a few.
However, it proved to be one of the final shows Holly performed with his band the Crickets, as he broke off from the band in November 1958 and joined up on the Winter Dance Party tour with a new backing band (including a young Waylon Jennings).
Nobody could imagine what fate would befall Holly in only a few months’ time, as well as the other artists who died in the crash. Holly was just 22 years old, Richardson was 28 and Valens was just 17.
Now 64 years later, we remember the Day the Music Died, and we remember the last time New England saw the burst of raw rocking energy that was Buddy Holly.