Fifty years later, Dion DiMucci still thinks about his late Winter Dance Party tour mates Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson. DiMucci also has not forgotten what it was like riding around the frozen Midwest with them during early 1959.
Dion DiMucci: “The traveling was brutal. And you see, I was 19, so I didn’t really feel it as much. But we had an augmented band on the bus also — some older guys who played horn who used to hang out in the back of the bus. They knew the dangers, and they kept screaming, ‘We’re going to die.’ They knew what it meant to get stuck between two towns, 30 or 40 miles from either way, and to get covered up in a blizzard. They knew you could just get covered over and die.
“I didn’t even have a clue. [Belmonts singer] Freddie [Milano] bought a bottle of Scotch; he had a gun — he saw Buddy Holly with a gun, so he bought a gun. And so the guys would be yelling, ‘We’re going to die,’ and Freddie would take out the gun and point it at them and say, ‘You’re going to die in five . . . minutes if you don’t shut . . . up.’
“In other words, the danger was much more real than I was aware of. To me, I was on a field trip and I was enjoying myself. The horn players were nervous and fearful, and I thought they were just stupid.”
— As told to Chris M. Junior
* Dion DiMucci’s latest album is Heroes: Giants of Early Guitar Rock, which contains his versions of the Holly hit “Rave On” and the Valens song “Come On, Let’s Go.”