A stainless steel guitar and a set of three stainless steel records marks the exact spot where the plane carrying Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, & JP ''The Big Bopper'' Richardson came to rest following their final concert at the Surf Ballroom. In 2009, a second monument was erected on the 50th anniversary of the tragedy honoring their pilot, Roger Peterson.
The outdoor memorial is located just under 1/2 mile along the fence row in a field north of Clear Lake. There is a large pair of black rimmed glasses marking the trail head on Gull Avenue.
The Winter Dance Party was a tour that was set to cover 24 Midwestern cities in 3 weeks. A logistical problem with the tour was the amount of travel, as the distance between venues was not a consideration when scheduling each performance. The tour bus was not equipped for the weather; its heating system broke shortly after the tour began.
By the time Buddy Holly arrived at the Surf Ballroom that Monday evening, he was frustrated with the tour bus and decided to charter a plane.
Richardson had developed a case of flu during the tour and asked Waylon Jennings for his seat on the plane. When Holly learned that Jennings wasn't going to fly, he said in jest, ''Well, I hope your ol' bus freezes up'' and Jennings responded, also in jest, ''Well, I hope your ol' plane crashes''. This would haunt Jennings for the rest of his life.
Ritchie Valens had never flown in a small plane before, and asked Tommy Allsup for his seat. Tommy said ''I'll flip ya for for the remaining seat.'' Valens won the coin toss, and with it a seat on the flight.