Human beings are attracted to tragedy. It’s coded somewhere within our DNA. We say we would rather avoid the exposure, but as terrible events unfold, we lock our eyes and hearts on them and never let them go.
The Kennedy assassination, Pearl Harbor, 9/11 attacks, the deaths of Marilyn Monroe and Princess Diana, the recent Las Vegas shooting … unexpected and tragic death, captures our minds and hearts. We always remember where we were when it happened, yet the very nature that attracts us to tragedy often encourages us to discount logic and fact, then refuse to accept that the tragedy happened as the facts suggest.
We are always looking for more …
John Kenned was murdered by the MOB, CIA or Cubans. 9/11 was an inside job perpetrated by our own government. Marilyn Monroe was murdered at the direction of the Kennedy family and Princess Diana at the direction of the Royals. Conspiracies develop quickly and take root in our culture, regardless of logic and evidence.
Feb. 3, 1959 …
The day the music died on a desolate Iowa cornfield, five miles from the Mason City, Iowa airport is no different. The conspiracies began almost immediately … Buddy Holly shot the pilot and caused the crash that took the lives of Buddy, Ritchie, the Big Bopper and pilot Roger Peterson, or the MOB put a bomb in the plane to punish Buddy for refusing to pay a percentage of his royalties. But there is also the “Curse of Buddy Holly.” All nonsense but still professed and believed all over the globe.
Every year, as the anniversary approaches, I am asked to appear on various radio and television programs to talk about the fateful crash that took the lives of the three young rockers and their pilot. The requests range from appearances on CNN, Discovery and the Travel Channel to internet radio. As I type this, I a scheduled for interviews tonight and tomorrow to give my input on why the Beechcraft V-tail Bonanza fell out of the sky. Was it the MOB or did Buddy commit murder-suicide by shooting the pilot? I am asked because in my book, “Hey Buddy: In Pursuit of Buddy Holly, My New Buddy John and My Lost Decade of Music,” I worked with a retired NTSB aviation accident expert to reconstruct the crash. It has been heralded by many as the most accurately detailed description of the crash ever produced, while others ask who I’m protecting! The theory of Occam’s Razor is usually correct in that the simplest explanation is usually true. Buddy’s plane crashed because the pilot was young, inexperienced and not qualified or properly licensed to fly in conditions of limited visibility. The details of the crash clearly suggest we should have only been surprised if the flight had arrived at the destination as planned. Unfavorable weather and an inexperienced pilot is more than enough to create tragedy, then add a high-performance aircraft (without de-icing capabilities) like the V-tail Bonanza in the mix and the outcome shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. Buddy didn’t shoot the pilot and the MOB didn’t plant a bomb. Pilot error caused this tragedy, but our culture demands more. Why did this happen? Who is responsible?
Conspiracy theories are born.
By all accounts, I’ve learned that Jerry Dwyer owner of Dwyer’s Flying Service was a great guy and a pillar of his community. Jerry recently passed away and I believe he was as most describe, a very good man … but good people make mistakes. Jerry was an experienced aviator. He owned the aircraft and employed and mentored the young pilot. Dwyer spent much of that day with Peterson, monitoring the weather and preparing the plane. In the hours before the flight, the forecast seemed manageable, but as the evening progressed, it should have been clear that the flight, with this pilot, should be cancelled … but it was not.
I ‘m a pilot and a former owner of a flight charter service. I owned and chartered airplanes and employed pilots. The thought of letting a flight leave under these conditions with Peterson in the cockpit is something I would never have considered. Jerry Dwyer made a tragic mistake. He watched as the flight taxied out to the runway and departed. He then walked up to an observation point near the tower and watched his plane climb and then descend. Five minutes after the plane left the ground, all aboard were dead. Ultimately, pilot error is the responsibility of the pilot and pilot alone, but the more experienced Jerry Dwyer knew better. He should have and could have stopped the flight … but did not.
Surprisingly, Jerry Dyer perpetuated these conspiracy theories until his death, often stating, “The truth of this crash isn’t yet known.” Dwyer claimed for forty-plus years to be writing a book that, “Will finally tell the truth.” Jerry is now gone. There is no book, because there is no truth other than what I’ve written here.
It was a tragedy that forever changed the course of music history. The early morning crash that occurred on February 3, 1959 was foreseeable and preventable. One man could have changed it all … but did not. Instead it is forever remembered as “The Day the Music Died.”