The final concert Buddy, Richie and the Big Bopper played was at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa. Never heard of it? Well, every one who was anyone hit the Surf on the circuit, and it still remains faithful to its 1948 version, as a memorial to rock ‘n roll, so says the R&R Hall of Fame. It was a rocking place in the 50’s, with people coming from miles around to see big bands, big stars, and those new kids making all that noise. Its programs read like a 20th century tour of every kind of music that ever hit the charts.
We were allowed to roam the empty building before a wedding party came in and we saw some amazing things. Can you imagine standing on the stage where Buddy Holly performed his last concert to a packed house? We did. Just imagine this place packed to the gills, which it has been for years.
And those performers have left their mark. First of all, there are the photos and posters of the greats and the almost-greats.
But most of the wall space goes to the three legends who played their final gig here. And then there’s the phone booth from which Buddy made his last call.
And then there is the Green Room, where a less formal spirit prevails. All performers leave their mark, at least on these walls. One in particular stood out for us.
All in all, a magical place. The 1959 concert and tragedy happened a bit early for my musical awareness, but the music lives on as part of our lives. Walking into the Surf Ballroom makes it seem like you are going to hear it for the very first time in, just a few minutes.