The day the music died, Buddy Holly was killed in a plane crash. Taking off just after midnight Feb. 3, 1959, he was attempting to fly from Clear Lake Iowa to Fargo North Dakota. The plane took off in blowing snow, crashing 8 miles away in a farmers field. Those killed included Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and JP Richardson (The Big Bopper), and the 21 year old pilot Roger Peterson.
Born Charles Hardin Holley in Lubbock Texas, Buddy was born into a musical family. In Junior high school he teamed up with Bob Montgomery to form Buddy and Bob a duo primarily influenced by Blue Grass music.
After seeing a performance by Elvis Presley in Lubbock in 1955 Buddy Holly turned to Rock music. Within months he was performing on the same bill as Elvis, also in Lubbock. Soon to follow he formed Buddy Holly and the Crickets.
Two days before his final performance, Buddy Holly and the Crickets played at the Duluth National Guard Armory in Duluth Minnesota. In the audience that evening was a young man from Hibbing Minnesota, Robert Allen Zimmerman. Born in Duluth on May 24, 1941, Bob Dylan, as he is known today, was so moved by the performance he became motivated to follow the same career choice for himself.
During the early days of Rock and Roll many other artists performed at the humble Duluth National Guard Armory. The great Louis Armstrong, Gene Autrey, Sony and Cher, Johnny Cash even The Beach Boys, all have crossed the stage of the supposedly Military establishment.
The full list of popular artists runs well over a hundred, everything from classical to country. But as time goes on the building has faded from view. The Duluth Entertainment and Convention Center opened as the Duluth Arena Auditorium in 1966. As it continued to grow and become the chosen venue for all who perform in Duluth, the Duluth Armory was forgotten and pushed aside.
Today an effort is under way to bring the Duluth Armory back, to restore it as the Armory Arts and Music Center. If those working toward this goal are successful, once again top shelf acts and performances will take their place on this historic stage.
Part of the design included in this transformation will be the possible addition of a Condo Hotel to the Armory Arts and Music Center. Planning is in a very preliminary stage, but this would be a natural addition to expand on the flexibility of the complex.
Bob Dylan’s inspiration from Buddy Holly, as stated by him, came when he sat three seats away from Buddy Holly, who turned and looked right at him. At that point he felt a connection that has followed him throughout his career. One of the main goals is to restore the performance hall to honor the exact spot where this immensely important moment in Bob Dylan’s life took place.
Its always a shame to loose part of our history. With the old Duluth National Guard Armory acting as host to so many fine artists, this is one chance to save an important part of our history. Not just local and regional history, but imagine the possible impact on the music created in the past 50 years if that unique situation that presented itself back in 1959 had never happened.