The Day the Music Died Tour

The Day the Music Died Tour

Explore the Clear Lake locations featured in “The Day the Music Died: The Story of Don McLean’s ‘American Pie,’” now streaming. The documentary begins when a single-engine plane carrying Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and  J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson crashed into a cornfield north of Clear Lake, Iowa, on Feb. 3, 1959, killing the three stars and their pilot.

A long, long time ago, Clear Lake fell into music history.  Visit the Surf Ballroom, a National Historic Landmark that recognizes it’s enduring role in the history of American Music. Hear how the music lives on at the Surf Ballroom, which remains a popular venue for artists to play just as it was in the 1930s during the Big Band era and throughout the decades following.  Visit the crash site memorial 5 miles north of the Surf in a quiet Iowa cornfield.

About the film:

The story of America – our past and our future. More than just a song or a man, this film is about a cultural moment in America’s history that has followed us from the 1970s. Featuring a new generation of artists, inspired by the same values & ideas that inspired Don McLean in writing “American Pie” — one of the great musical touchstones of pop music and culture. The new documentary, “The Day the Music Died: American Pie” is now streaming exclusively on Paramount+. Try It Free!

The Surf Ballroom Stage

The Surf Ballroom & Museum

A “must-play” venue on the Big Band circuit in the ’30s & ’40s, rock ‘n’ roll arrived at the Surf in the mid-’50s to satisfy its young audience. The Surf was identified by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a historic rock and roll landmark, identifying it as an American location significant to the origins of rock ‘n’ roll.  The U.S. Department of the Interior listed the Surf on the National Register of Historic Places, and bestowed the honor of National Historic Landmark recognizing the Surf’s enduring role in the history of American music, making it the 27th National Historic Landmark in the state of Iowa in 2021. The Surf is open daily for self-guided and guided tours, and it remains a popular concert venue.

Planning Motorcoach Stops in Clear Lake

Crash Site Memorial

In a cornfield 5 miles north of the Surf Ballroom, a stainless-steel guitar and a set of three stainless-steel records mark the exact spot where the plane carrying Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson came to rest following their final concert, the Winter Dance Party tour at the Surf Ballroom. In 2009, a second monument was erected on the 50th anniversary of the tragedy honoring their pilot, Roger Peterson.  When you arrive via gravel road, you will park near the trailhead structure depicting an oversized pair of Holly’s signature glasses, and walk west along the fence row about half mile mile to the memorial.  Located on private land, the memorial is open to the public all year long.

Planning Reunions in Clear Lake

Three Stars Plaza

Rock ‘n’ Roll icons are remembered at Three Stars Plaza, located near the legendary Surf Ballroom. The Art Deco-inspired monument features a central spindle stacked with three 45rpm records. Visitors can use its interactive feature to listen to music and history about the three fallen stars. At night, the records are beautifully lit in blue neon.  Dedicated in 2011, the park expanded the footprint of the Surf District half a block from the Surf Ballroom with a re-dedication of Buddy Holly Place, and honorary dedication of J.P. Richardson Avenue and Ritchie Valens Drive.  A new geocache, “This’ll be the day you geocache Clear Lake,” was placed at the park that includes a keepsake postcard for those who find it.

Planning Weddings in Clear Lake

The Fox House

A Mid-Century Modern marvel, dance hall operator and Surf Ballroom original owner & builder Carl Fox lived across the street from the venue for many years in the home he built in 1948. Lovingly restored, this vintage lakeshore home features many original furnishings and characteristics. Like the Surf, it is as though time stood still in the home – many treasures have remained here throughout the years, giving visitors a glimpse of life in the ’40s and ’50s. Many times, people have asked why Clear Lake was chosen to build the Surf. Simply put, it was the people; it was the only place Carl and his wife wanted to live. Tours are available by appointment and are included in the Surf Ballroom Deluxe Tour.

Watch “The Day the Music Died: The Story of Don McLean’s ‘American Pie,’” official trailer from Paramount+.

Pin It on Pinterest