ONLY THREE PIECES KNOWN TO EXIST FROM BUDDY HOLLY’S TRAGIC ROCK ’N’ ROLL TOUR
By Pete Howard
Buddy Holly’s “Winter Dance Party” was set to cover 24 Midwestern cities in as many days, with the tour beginning in Milwaukee, Wisc., on Jan. 23, 1959. Nearly halfway through the tour, on Feb. 3, 1959, Holly, Ritchie Valens and “The Big Bopper” J.P. Richardson were killed after their plane crashed near Clear Lake, Iowa.
ENTERTAINMENT & MUSIC MEMORABILIA SIGNATURE® AUCTION 7217
April 4, 2020
The tragedy of pop-music history today is known as “The Day the Music Died.”
Only three Winter Dance Party concert posters are known to exist from the brief 11 days before the fateful plane crash. One of those, for the Jan. 25, 1959, show in Mankato, Minn., is being offered at Heritage’s entertainment and music memorabilia auction scheduled for April 4, 2020. It’s expected to realize at least $75,000. It’s the first time a genuine Winter Dance Party concert poster has been auctioned. It is unquestionably among the rarest, most sought-after concert posters of all time.
The 14-by-22-inch cardboard window card features a simple but classic design that will be familiar to many, because it’s been so often replicated. The yellow and black design with four quadrants, each given to one of the stars, is a familiar, even iconic image of rock ’n’ roll’s first era. Photos of each star, plus a song title or two, accentuate the poster beautifully … Buddy Holly’s “Peggy Sue,” Ritchie Valens’ “Donna,” the Big Bopper’s “Chantilly Lace.” Even up-and-comer Dion DiMucci gets his picture and first Top 40 hit listed.
Localized information is printed in the top white box. The poster underscores what a kids’ phenomenon rock ’n’ roll was. “Teen-Age Special,” the poster proclaims. “Parents Invited, No Charge.” And juvenile delinquents were obviously not welcome: “Dress right to feel right.” Fonzie probably would’ve been denied admittance.
It’s a tremendous piece of pop-culture and rock ’n’ roll history. These posters were nearly all discarded after the shows. There are a couple of posters from after the accident – yes, the tour did go on with substitute players, which is astonishing in retrospect – so that means you can count on one hand the known and verified pieces of cardboard advertising that remain today from this legendary tour.
PETE HOWARD is the consignment director in Heritage Auctions’ entertainment and music memorabilia department.
This article appears in the Winter 2019-2020 edition of The Intelligent Collector magazine. Click here to subscribe to the print edition.