WTIX listener survey flyer, 1969 (Courtesy Las-Solanas.com)
“But February made me shiver,
With every paper I deliver.”
In his song, American Pie, Don McClean sings of “The Day The Music Died”, February 3, 1959. On that day, Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, and J.P. Richardson (“The Big Bopper”) were killed in a plane crash in Texas. Based on interviews he gave in later years, McClean was clearly quite moved by the loss of Buddy Holly, and he used the tune to get that out of his system.
I wasn’t even a year old on The Day The Music Died, but I grew up listening to the music of the men who died that day. In the 1960s, that meant listening to WTIX-AM, “The Mighty 69o”. McClean released “American Pie” in 1971, and it shot to the top of the pop charts in 1972. I was in eighth grade at Brother Martin High School in the 1971-72 school. When “American Pie” flooded the AM airwaves, I would listen to it over and over, trying to sort out the numerous references to pop culture and music in its lyrics. Fortunately, WTIX did New Orleans tweens/teens a favor by releasing an “annotated” version of the tune, where one of the DJs (Bob Walker?) cut in on the song quickly after each cultural/music reference. For example:
“I met a girl who sang the blues” – and the voice over cut in, saying “Janis Joplin”.
“And I asked her for some happy news.
But she just smiled, and turned away.”
–and the voice over cut in saying “her death”
It was a wonderful reference for a word nerd like me.
“American Pie” was very much a pivotal point for me. Moving from elementary school (St. Angela Merici in #themetrys) to high school exposed me to music the older boys listened to, which was album-oriented rock. I went from the pop focus of AM radio to the folk-rock of CSNY and Joni Mitchell, the spacey rock of Yes and Emerson, Lake and Palmer, and the funk/R&B of War. I never gave up on The Beatles, The Who, Motown, etc, but 1972 was the summer where my interests expanded.
To Holly, Valens, and Richardson: Thank you, gentlemen. Your music was cut short, but you inspired oh so many.