Niagara Gazette

Night & Day

February 20, 2014

JENNINGS: From Winter Dance Party to Justin Timberlake

Niagara Gazette — After a hot Valentine’s Day weekend of shows, things are cooling down a bit this weekend. There are a couple of interesting choices well worth checking out including a tribute to one of the hottest tours of the 1950s and a visit from one of the hottest artists in recent years.

We will start over in North Tonawanda at The Riviera Theatre on Friday night, where they will be hosting John Meuller’s Winter Dance Party, a live recreation of the tour that inspired the iconic song “American Pie.” The main three headliners were Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P Richardson, known as The Big Bopper. (The tour also included Dion and the Belmonts, and Frankie Sardo)

A few years ago, I was teaching a rock and roll history class at a Rochester high school and “The Day the Music Died” was one of my favorite lessons. The kids really loved The Big Bopper’s “Chantilly Lace” and its flirtatious lyrics, a song that I thought might have been a little too dated for them.

The lesson I learned was that great music is timeless, and Holly, Valens and Richardson contributed some great music in their tragically shortened careers. “Not Fade Away” is my favorite Buddy Holly song, with “Oh Boy” being a close second. I can honestly say that I have never heard a Buddy Holly song I didn’t like.

The “Winter Dance Party” tour never came through Western New York, the closest the tour came was Youngstown, Ohio, on Feb. 13, 1959. That was 10 days after the crash that took the lives of the three headliners, nevertheless, the music did not die, the tour was finished without Holly, Valens and Richardson. In fact, they did not even cancel the show scheduled on the day of the plane crash.

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