The Day The Music Died is a phrase we all know. Although, perhaps the younger generation do not really know the story. And now there is a new aspects to the story, too.
Legendary Rock n Roll artists: Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and JP, the Big Bopper, Richardson are world famous. And this is not just because of how they died. People all over the world who love Rock n Roll, or just love great music, love their music to this day.
John Cunningham ready to rock n roll
Guests in our hotel
These gals have been coming to the Winter Dance Party for 59 years
Arriving at the Surf Ballroom
And that is how they rock n roll
Surf Ballroom, unchanged since the 1950s
A great stage for great acts
And a period audience loving every minute
Live Rock n Roll
Dancing the night away
Hell of a place
The next generation gets the bug
Something for everyone
Loving the booths
What a night
Family and friends having a great time
American classic scene from the 50s
More 50s classic imagery
Surf Ballroom doing what it does
A great night out
Dancing the night away
Let the night never end
Sound and lighting control
The enjoyment these musicians gave their fans, and the world, continues. Their music is enjoyed through their recordings but also many of their fans continue to attend performances of their music, 60 years later. These tribute performances are provided by many musicians in venues across the world. Arguably, the most celebrated of these is the Winter Dance Party, held at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa, USA.
The Surf Ballroom is the venue where the three rock and rollers played their final gigs, just before taking the fateful flight to their next show. Tragically, after only a few minutes, the plane crashed and they and their young pilot were all killed.
The Day The Music Died
The story of how they died is well known. Somewhat less well known is the terrible back-story of injury and agony and hospitalisation, that was the prelude and cause of those fabled tragic events. And almost 60 years later there is another narrative being woven into the legend that is: The Day The Music Died. The new story may seem highly improbable and bizarre and it does feature a most unlikely hero, on a quest of honour. So, there are now three layers to the legend, the back-story, the tragic deaths of three great young stars, and a new campaign to right a long-standing wrong.
John Young, “You don’t say.”
Film Director, David Taylor
Me and John Cumberland
Shuttle bus to the Heathrow.
John Cumberland at Heathrow check in
John Young at Heathrow check in
The frozen wastes of North America. Winter Dance Party anyone?
Pre-shoot brief, with obligatory food and drink
We meet Mark Flora of the Holy Rocka Rollaz
Supper in St Paul, Minnesota
John and Ian
And so we leave St Paul for Clear Lake, Iowa
The Bopper and Me road trip
Bopper and me convoy
The likely lads
The final leg
Clear Lake, we are here
And here we are, the Surf Ballroom, Clear Lake, Iowa, at last.
The famous stage
Surf Ballroom’s Green Room, walls signed by so many legends who played here.
Surf Ballroom Booths
Surf Ballroom bar
Buddy Holly made his last call to his wife on this phone
John Cumberland and Jeff Nicholas, interview set-up.
Ad hoc planning discussion
Working it out as we go
John Cumberland driving
Me doing my thing, soaking up the visuals
John meets the local Lutheran Pastor
Ready for anything
Don’t leave your water in the car
John Young on the road
Love the winterscape
Happy John Young
Not so happy John Young
IN the back and loving the trip
At the local radio station which broadcast rock n roll back in the day
Check this out
The local DJ and our team
Two for tea, lunch actually.
On the road again
Write your own caption
In my own world of American images and road trips and rock n roll legends
I was there, the night the music died
But I am camera shy and will not appear in the doco
Here I go again
Interview with a learned author and expert on our historic story
Sheryl was there 59 years ago, on the day the music died
Austin Allsup interview, in my viewfinder.
Post interview in Austin’s trailer
Happy times, great friends and good food
Two new friends
Bopper and Me, prepping an interview.
Holy Rocka Rollas, Mark Flora
Rock n Roll Girls
Production team relaxing
Three beers please, I have no idea what my friends want
It had been a long day
Chasing the moon on our road trip
Sunday morning church
An au revoir group shot with Buddy Holly’s sister.
John Cumberland outside church
That’s a wrap.
On the road again
Me enjoying the flare
House on a hill
Loving the views
I love the houses here
A very cinematic house
David at work
The open road
A very cinematic rural scene
last glimpses or Iowa
Documentary – The Bopper & Me
I have been shooting a documentary about this fabulous story. The Bopper & Me is being produced by Glasshouse Media and is being directed by David Taylor. It promises to be a fascinating and very emotional film. It will tell the entire story of the day the music died. And hopefully, it will help to make right, a decades-old wrong that continues to this day.
The Winter Dance Party
In addition to shooting key interviews, general views, GVs, and other B roll footage for the documentary, I also shot on the hallowed stage. This was particularly special as several brilliant Rock n Roll musicians were playing the most amazing set I have ever been privileged to see and hear. Performing were Austin Allsup and Albert Lee & Friends. There was a packed house in the Surf Ballroom that night, as there was every night of the Winter Dance party 2018. For a music loving and emotional cameraman, it does not get better than that.
Oh, and it was very, very cold, minus un-holy numbers of degrees, day and night. Apparently, It was America’s coldest place. Yes, even colder than Alaska.
The Bopper & Me, the ultimate Rock n Roll movie, is in production.
Flying to work
Z Systems collecting the kit
Clear Lake outdoor theatre
Sound and lights
The Winter Dance Party
Cold Clear Lake
Location scouting on the shore of Clear Lake
The water hear abouts is the hardest I have ever seen
Water rising skywards in frozen form. Very odd!
Ready to fly away
Our brave Director David Taylor
David Taylor Close up
Posing with our hero plane
Redwing, small town USA
Everything is bigger and better in America
Spoilt for choice
Famous red Wing boots
Time for the off.
Sight-seeing in one of our crew cars.
Riverbank tree and silo silhouette
Freezing sunset industry
American street scene, Redwing
I know where I am going
Good old boys waiting for supper in Red Wing, Minnesota on the way home
John Young, cheers
John Cumberland, cheers
In between film shoots and managing equipment, I shot photographs behind the scenes (BTS). These are very helpful for social media publicity. I also wrote daily LinkedIn pieces. It was a full-on challenge and very intense. However, it was one of the most enjoyable projects I have ever undertaken. And what a wonderful and quirky story we are telling.
There will be more to shoot, and exciting news to come. So watch this space and I will keep you posted.
It was such a fun and productive shoot. A great team revealing and telling a fantastic story for an international and passionate audience. We expect the film to be released for the 60th anniversary of The Day The Music Died. So, watch this space and put the 3rd of February 2019 in your diary.
I am a creative Photographer and Filmmaker. I also work as a Lighting Cameraman & Director of Photography, in television, film and digital media.
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