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The Day the Music Died: Ritchie Valens

February 3, 1959

17-year-old Ritchie Valens was the youngest victim of the three rock stars killed in a plane crash after performing at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa on this date in 1959. The Winter Dance Party was Valens' first tour, and he was thrilled to have the chance to work alongside some of rock and roll's top talent.

"He was so excited about the stars that he was going to meet," Valens' high school sweetheart, Donna Ludwig, said in an interview she filmed for Behind the Music's "The Day the Music Died" documentary. "And he was very, very excited about meeting Buddy Holly."

Valens' memorable career in music lasted a mere eight months. During that time, the singer/songwriter released a number of hits, but one was written and sung specifically for Ludwig.

"Donna" was released on the A-side of a vinyl 45, but flip over the record and listeners could hear the single Valens is arguably best known for: "La Bamba." "I wish I had at least had an opportunity to have said goodbye," Ludwig said during the same interview.


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