Waylon Jennings & The Day the Music Died
Some of you might know this story, and some of you don’t. Some of you will find it interesting, some of you won’t. But I felt inclined to include it here because it involves one of our country heroes: Waylon Jennings.
Waylon got his break into the music scene by playing bass for Buddy Holly, who like Waylon, was from West Texas. Buddy’s band was called the Crickets, whose name was one of the inspirations for the name The Beatles. But Waylon was not a Cricket. The Crickets were kind of their own band who backed up Buddy Holly. But when the Crickets and Buddy were having some personal drama, Buddy decided to hire his friend Waylon and a guy named Tommy Allsup to come along with him on a tour that also included Ritchie Valens, and the Big Bopper.
(Waylon on the left)
It was a long tour through the upper Midwest in the dead of Winter, 1959. The tour started in Milwaukee, and would run for 25 straight days, ending in Springfield, IL. All the acts, crew, management, everybody rode in a tour bus to all the stops. They lived, slept, and ate in that bus. It was cramped, smelly, and the heater kept breaking so at night it might get down below 0. After a while the situation got to Buddy Holly, so for one of the legs he chartered a plane for him and his band to fly ahead so they could get some rest and clean up before the next show.
The plane was meant to be for Buddy, Waylon, and Tommy Allsup. But Ritchie Valens talked Tommy Allsup out of his seat, and Waylon gave up his seat the the elder Big Bopper.
“Ah,” Buddy Holly said to Waylon, “You’re not going with me tonight, huh? Did you chicken out?”
Waylon answered no, he wasn’t scared. The Big Bopper just wanted to go.
“Well,” Buddy said, grinning “I hope your damned bus freezes up.”
Waylon Jennings said “Well, I hope your ‘ol plane crashes.”
A lot of people know that Don McLean’s song ‘American Pie’ is about Buddy Holly’s plane crashing with Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper, but a lot of people don’t know that Waylon was supposed to be on that plane, and only wasn’t because be was being a nice guy, showing respect to the elder performer.
At the time, Waylon Jennings and Buddy Holly were best friends. Buddy was going to cut Waylon into the music business. Buddy believed in Waylon as a performer and singer even more than Waylon believed in himself at the time. The promoters of the tour insisted the tour must go on, and Waylon wasn’t even able to attend the funeral.
After that, Waylon lost it. His best friend was dead, and so was his music career. His good time Rock ‘n Roll routine began to be mixed with the mournful soul of country music.
Nashville had no idea what it had in store.
February 4, 2009 @ 10:43 am
I remember this blog, goog to reread it “ol’ Master Of Useful Info”, I kinda feel like It Was The Day The Music Died, but the day that Waylon’s was born, Although it did take him a few years to get over the loss. The tribulations in our lives is what makes us who we are, ya know? I wonder, if it had’nt been for that tragic accident…if we would have had the Waylon we had.
February 3, 2012 @ 12:57 pm
Don’t forget that Buddy was also the one to plant the seed in Waylon of not letting Nashville change Waylon into something he wasn’t and try to force him into a mold like they tried with Buddy when he recorded in Nashville.Also Ritchie Valens and Tommy flipped a coin in the dressing room for Tommy’s seat-not at the airport as erroneously protrayed in La Bamba…can’t believe in ten more days-Feb 13th-it’ll be ten years since we lost Waylon…
February 12, 2013 @ 11:01 pm
Thank you for putting this story here,
I love Buddy Holly’s music and I love Waylon Jennings music,
Probably not all the fans know this story, it is good that we can find it here now and those great songs American Pie and Old Friend.
August 13, 2013 @ 2:55 am
I was too young when Buddy Holly was on top, but not too old for Waylon’s music!
In years you still can listen to their music!
May 16, 2016 @ 5:42 pm
He gave up his seat out of respect for the “elder” performer? The Big Bopper was older than Waylon at the time, but I would hardly classify 28 as old enough to be considered an elder performer. Apparently Big Bopper had the flu – I don’t think age played a part is the decision to give up his seat.
May 16, 2016 @ 8:04 pm
What I was trying to say is The Big Bopper was a headliner while Waylon was a side player in a band. The Big Bopper was a “star” so to speak. At the time, Waylon wasn’t.
January 31, 2021 @ 5:45 am
I read that the Big Bopper/ J P Richardson had the flu or a bad cold so Waylon gave his seat up to him.
August 30, 2016 @ 7:44 pm
I’very always been a fan of Waylon eve since he worked at KVOW Radio Station in Littlefield. I was raised in Littlefield and still a friend of James Jennings.
August 29, 2022 @ 7:41 am
……..In luchenbach Texas
with Waylon & Willie and the boys…..
Never saw Buddy – who before the crash had segued into syrupy crap (like Elvis and, much later K D Lang) . Pure luck that Waylon missed that plane and went on to finally play in that final, incredible group And, stupidly, never went to a live concert of theirs