The Day the Music Died: Waterloo photographer shares story - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

The Day the Music Died: Waterloo photographer shares story

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WATERLOO (KWWL) -

Rock and Roll fans remember the day the music died.

It was Feb. 3, 1959 when a pilot carrying musicians Ritchie Valens, JP Richardson (The Big Bopper) and Buddy Holly crashed shortly after leaving the Mason City Airport in a field.

A Waterloo photographer says he snapped one of the most-used pictures of Buddy Holly nearly a year before Holly died.

Dick Cole says he was about 17 when he took the picture of Holly while he was getting ready for a show in Waterloo.

Little did Cole know, his photo and encounter would be used to commemorate the young artist's legacy for years to come.

A winter dance party tour across across the Midwest was taking place 58 years ago, when Holly, Valens, and The Big Bopper crashed outside Clear Lake.

It's a day Dick Cole will never forget.

"It was just sad. We were sad, because we knew him actually. There was a lot of people who didn't know him and were sad," Cole said.

Cole said he remembers meeting Holly before he died.

He didn't attend Holly's last performance in Clear Lake, because the weather was bad, and he already planned to attend one of his summer concerts scheduled in Waterloo.

Cole says he'll never forget talking to him while taking pictures of him in 1958.

"I was taking several pictures, and I asked him if he could take off dark glasses. He said, 'no, I never have pictures made without my glasses,'" Cole said.

Cole's famous photo of Holly has been used all over the world, and Cole even gave a few autographed ones away before Holly died, because he didn't know they would be worth so much.

"They've got one stuffed away in a scrap book or something somewhere, and they don't realize they  have several thousand bucks stuck away somewhere," Cole said.

Holly, Valens and Richardson have been an inspiration to so many people, even after they died.

The song 'American Pie' by Don McLean was inspired about the infamous night in Clear Lake when they crashed.

According to Cole, one of his autographed photos of Holly sold for $12,500.

Every year, The Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake hosts a winter dance party to commemorate the trio.

It kicked off Wednesday and goes until Saturday.

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