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Yesterday in La Crosse

“The Day the Music Died” came 61 years ago

Brad Williams



It’s known as ‘the day the music died,’ in February of 1959. The La Crosse Tribune headline of February 3rd said “3 Top Rock ‘N’ Roll Singers Killed in Iowa Plane Crash.”  Buddy Holly, the Big Bopper, and Ritchie Valens died along with their pilot in a small plane accident shortly after a concert at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa.  They were heading to their next tour stop in Moorhead, Minnesota.   Hit songs on the radio in early ’59 included “The Chipmunk Song” (AL-VIN!), “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” by the Platters, and Frankie Avalon’s “Venus.”

Secretary of State John Foster Dulles would eventually have an airport named after him near Washington, D.C.  In February of ’59, Dulles was flying to Europe to meet with foreign leaders about Communist domination in East Germany.   

A popular La Crosse drug store had a new name.  Thro Drug was located at 4th and Main, and used to be Ford Hopkins.  Thro was having a winter sale on school supplies, alarm clocks, sponges, whisk brooms, and ice cream scoops. 

Low Motors at 6th and Cass was promoting the ’59 Edsel as one of the lowest-priced car models in America.  The Edsel would be discontinued by the end of that year, 1959, yesterday in La Crosse. 

A native of Prairie du Chien, Brad graduated from UW - La Crosse and has worked in radio news for more than 30 years, mostly in the La Crosse area. He regularly covers local courts and city and county government. Brad produces the features "Yesterday in La Crosse" and "What's Buried on Brad's Desk." He also writes the website "Triviazoids," which finds odd connections between events that happen on a certain date, and he writes and performs with the local comedy group Heart of La Crosse. Brad been featured on several national TV programs because of his memory skills.

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