Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: 60 Years Later, Show Recalls Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, Big Bopper

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“John Mueller’s Winter Dance Party” is touring through the region, with stops to include Sheboygan and Green Bay.

This is a special year for the show – marking 60 years since hit-maker Buddy Holly performed on a fateful swing through the upper Midwest with the original “Winter Dance Party.”

Holly and other big stars Ritchie Valens and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson were killed in an airplane crash in Iowa on Feb. 3, 1959 – referred to as “the day the music died” in Don McLean’s legendary song “American Pie.”

Of note, there was a day the music lived with happy memories – a show in Green Bay at the Riverside Ballroom on Feb. 1, 1959. It was Green Bay’s most historic concert because of how the innovative Holly influenced such major creators as John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Mick Jagger and Elton John.

The sequence: “Winter Dance Party” is performed Feb. 1 at the Riverside and again the night of Feb. 2 at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa. Holly, Valens, Richardson and their pilot die in the early hours of Feb. 3.

“John Mueller’s Winter Dance Party” will be presented at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 24, at the Weill Center for the Performing Arts in Sheboygan (weillcenter.com) and at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 25 at the Riverside Ballroom in Green Bay (riversideballroom.com).

The show features John Mueller as Holly, Ray Anthony as Valens and Linwood Sasser as the Big Bopper.

Holly was 22 when he died. Singing and playing guitar, Mueller performs such Holly hits as “Maybe Baby,” “Peggy Sue,” “Brown-eyed Handsome Man,” “It’s So Easy,” “That’ll Be the Day,” “True Love Ways” and “Everyday.”

The Big Bopper was 28 when he died. As the Big Bopper, Sasser performs “White Lightning,” “Big Bopper’s Wedding,” “Running Bear” and the big hit “Chantilly Lace.”

Valens was 17 at the time of his death. As Valens, Anthony sings “Let’s Go,” “Summertime Blues,” “Bony Moronie,” “Let’s Dance” and the hits “Donna” and “La Bamba.”

Ahead, the show is hitting the road and playing in Kentucky, New Mexico, California, Nevada, Ohio and other states throughout the year.

Contact me at warren.gerds@wearegreenbay.com. Watch for my on-air Critic at Large editions on WFRV-TV at 6:20 a.m. Sundays.

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