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LIL' BUDDY'S BLOG: "A Dog on the Road" Special Report - The Surf Ballroom, Clear Lake IA


Buddy Holly Moss Visits Surf Ballroom - Clear Lake IA - 07-02-2008"A Long, Long Time Ago . . . I Can Still Remember How That Music Used to Make Me Smile."  Don McLean, from the hit song American Pie, 1972.

Well, this dog hit the road this week - logged nearly 950 total miles, driving my silver PT Cruiser!  (Well, actually, I was sitting on my human Mom Sue's lap most of the way - except for a short driving stint through rural Wisconsin.  More about that later - much later!)

After spending time with our Team mentor and Floyd Wickman SMART Program Trainer, Mary Johnson, her husband, David, and their wonderful family, Dean, Sue and I hit the road, south, for a visit to the little town of Clear Lake, in Northern Iowa.

There, across from the lake itself, at 460 N. Shore Boulevard, is an old ballroom - so innocuous that we passed it up at first. 

The Surf Ballroom has held many dances and concerts over the years - from Big Band to Country to Rock.  In fact, it STILL hosts performances today! 

But one of the most remembered performances is one that occurred the night of Monday, February 2, 1959.   That's a long, long time ago - even in dog years!  Shoot, my great, great, great, great dogfather wasn't even born yet!  Team Leader Dean was not even three years old.

It was on that storied night that Three Rock and Roll Stars - Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J.P. Richardson ("The Big Bopper") played their final show of their young lives.  Early in the morning on Tuesday, February 3rd, a chartered plane they were flying in, piloted by local pilot Roger Peterson, crashed just a few minutes after take off 5.2 miles northwest of the Mason City Airport nearby.

The three weren't the first stars of the relatively-new rock music scene to die tragically.  But, even today, nearly 50 years later, their story lives on.  In Don McLean's "American Pie" - the Number One Song in 1972.  In the 1979 Buddy Holly Story Movie.  In La Bamba, the 1987 movie about the life of Ritchie Valens. and in Larry Lehmer's 1997 book, The Day the Music Died. Buddy Visits Surf Ballroom - Clear Lake IA - 07-03-2008

The Surf is pretty much intact from it's 1947 re-construction - complete with it's trademark South Seas Motif, its vintage booths, malt-shop café, and pineapple wallpaper.  The outside look is virtually the same - including it's Aqua Blue Channel Lettered Sign (only the Three Stars Granite Memorial to the right of the front door is changed, it seems).  Even its old coat check room is much the same as it was in 1959, as folks checked their winter clothes on a cold night in February, 1959 for what has to have been a tragic final Buddy Holly performance. 

The pay phone that Buddy and Ritchie used to call back home still exists, although it has been relocated to the front lobby, and placed behind Plexiglas.  The hand sinks where Buddy washed his shirts, and the overhead hooks where he dried them - because the local dry cleaner had already closed for the evening - are still there.  So is the old "Green Room,"  today loaded with autographs to the famous, near-famous, and not-so-famous who have since visited this local legend.

It at once seems a shame, and inspiring, that the lives of these late musicians were snuffed out too early, yet they laid the ground work for many, many other successful rock artists to follow.  Buddy Holly alone had his many hits, including "Well, All Right,"  "Rave On," "True Love Ways," "Not Fade Away," "Words of Love," "Raining in my Heart," and many others recorded and sampled by The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Santana, and Linda Ronstadt, to name but a few.

Ritchie was the first truly successful Latino rock performer.  Even J.P. Richardson, "The Big Bopper,"  left a bit of a country and rock legacy with his "Chantilly Lace" and "Big Bopper's Wedding" hits.

 Buddy and his PT Cruiser - Cruisin to MN - 06-29-2008The connection for this Lil' White Dog is simple - Buddy Holly was my namesake.  He represents a simpler time, when music rocked with minimal politics or outside agenda.  When Rock and Roll was thought of simply as "a passing fad," or "kids' music."

Oh, Boy - if they were only around to see things now!

Clear Lake IA is about 2 1/2 hours south of St. Paul MN, and about 2 hours northwest of Des Moines IA, via Interstates 35 and 80.  If you're ever in that area, you might want to stop by, pay your respects, take in some Rock and Roll History, and be inspired.  And, hey, ask for Jan in the front office - she just might give you a personal tour.

Tell them "Buddy Holly (Moss)" sent you!  And - Keep on Rockin'!

Enjoy your Fourth of July Weekend - SAFELY!



Posted: Thursday, July 3, 2008 11:28 PM by Dean's Team
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