February 3, 1959 became known as The Day the Music Died. Three young musicians, Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson died in a plane crash near Clear Lake, Iowa, along with their pilot. They had just performed what turned out to be their final concert at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake. The Surf is still in operation and today, many memories from that night in 1959 can still be found all over the venue.
KTIV's Melissa Lanzourakis took a tour of the historic ballroom.
"Hi, Welcome to the Surf Ballroom," said Nicki Barragy, Surf Ballroom Education Coordinator. "Hi, you must be Nicki? I'm Melissa. Wow, this is really nostalgic, huh? It's kind of like walking back in time., "said News Four's Melissa Lanzourakis. " "Yes, and that is what we want people to feel. " said Barragy.
"As you walk into the surf, you'll notice that there is a coat check on the left. There use to be one on the right and we still use the coat check today," said Barragy.
"Original hangers?" asked Lanzourakis.
"Yes, original hanger," Barragy replied.
"Here is what we call our promenade. You see that there are pineapples on the wall and pineapple is the universal symbol for welcome. So Welcome to the Surf Ballroom," said Barragy.
"Wow, this is beautiful," exclaimed Lanzourakis, "Original floor too? 1937, right?" "Yes," said Barragy.
"This is the original stage that Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens performed during that winter dance party. There is a sense that Rock n' Roll is still alive here at the surf ballroom. You hear a lot of performers say that they understand what happened here and who has walked through these doors and that be a draw for some of the performers who play here," said Barragy.
"I gotta get on stage," said Lanzourakis.
"Okay, lets do that, absolutely," answered Barragy.
"So you have to enter the green room to go onto the stage?" asked Lanzourakis.
"Absolutely," said Barragy.
"Wow, there are a lot of signatures in here!" said Lanzourakis.
"Did Buddy sign here? Well, of course he didn't. He would have been sitting right outside the brick and they would have signed records. One of my favorite signatures is Don McClain's own handwriting and it's the very first verse of American Pie," said Barragy.
"Isn't this the room where the infamous coin toss took place?" asked Lanzourakis.
"That is correct. Ritchie wanted to ride on the plane and Tommy already had a seat and he said, 'hey, I'll flip you for it'. And Ritchie got the seat on the plane, "explained Barragy.
"Welcome to the stage," said Barragy.
"Wow," said Lanzourakis.
"So this is what it's like to look out over the Surf Ballroom?" said Lanzourakis.
"I actually sing with a group of guys during the summertime, we just get together and we jam a little bit and I remember the first time we really put a piece together and I was standing there. And of course looking out at the big buddy pictures behind you, something did come over me," said Barragy.
"You don't see too may phone booths now-a-days," said Lanzourakis.
"No, and this one is a lot different if you think about it. We usually keep this one under lock and key, but for your visit we opened it for you," said Barragy.
"So Buddy Holly actually called his wife from this phone like I'm sitting in now. Do you think they would have put coins in or called the operator?" asked Lanzourakis.
'I'm thinking called the operator. And for Buddy to say, hey I just wanted to let you know that I'm taking a flight, we'll be able to get some extra rest," Barragy said.
"So, a lot of history," said Lanzourakis.
"A lot of history, " said Barragy, "I can tell you're really feeling it."
"I am feeling it," said Lanzourakis.
"Well, that concludes the tour. It's easy to see why the surf ballroom brings you right back to 1959."
The Surf Ballroom does still have concerts in the ballroom. The venue is open to the public so you can go see for yourself the many other performers who have graced the Surf Ballroom's stage.