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 Music History Review    



Falling Stars: Air Crashes that Filled Rock & Roll Heaven
By Rich Everitt
Harbor House, 2004
Hardcover, $24.95 (207 pages)
ISBN: 1-89-179904-5

“The day the music died” refers to February 3, 1959, when the chartered plane carrying Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and “The Big Bopper” J.P. Richardson crashed in a field near Mason City, Iowa. It was the first of many crashes that linked music to small plane accidents.  

Musician and pilot Rich Everitt has created a fascinating book that provides a concise biography of each musician, the final report of the Civil Aeronautics Board (later known as the National Transportation Safety Board), and a collection of oddities and ironies related to each event. Each chapter begins with the crash from the point of view of a survivor or an eyewitness on the ground.   

In the case of the Holly crash, it was a combined error of not receiving weather alerts prior to take off and the pilot’s untested ability to fly by instruments alone, proved fatal. As the Winter Dance Party Tour continued in the days following the crash, local singer Bobby Vee and piano player Bobby Zimmerman (Bob Dylan) were added. Thus launching their careers.  

Falling Stars also includes: Patsy Cline, Cowboy Copas and Hawkshaw Hawkins; Otis Redding and the Bar-Kays; Jim Croce and Maury Muehleisen; Ronnie Van Zant, Steve and Cassie Gaines; Ricky Nelson and the Stone Canyon Band; Stevie Ray Vaughan; John Denver; Aaliyah; Joe Dan Petty; Steve Canady; Walter Hyatt; Bill Graham; The Reba McEntire Band; Dean Paul “Dino” Martin; Kyu Sakamoto; Stan Rogers; Keith Green; John Felton; Randy Rhoads; Jud Strunk; Bill Chase; Jim Reeves; and Harold “David” Box. 

Falling Stars is very readable and visual as the events leading to the deaths of these musicians come off the page like a TV news documentary. If your knowledge of these air disasters is limited to the three-day sound bites following the accidents, you will find the final NTSB reports very enlightening. 

Rich Everitt is an award-winning journalist, a pilot and music aficionado. He holds a master’s degree in filmmaking from Emerson College and lives with his wife and daughter in Augusta, Georgia.


Joyce Dixon
Southern Scribe Reviews


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