Resurrecting rock 'n' roll
Feb. 3, 1959, was "The day the music died."
Fifty-three years later, on Feb. 3, 2012, a tribute band will recreate the music of Buddy Holly and the other rock 'n' roll stars who were killed that day in an airplane crash near Clear Lake, Iowa.
Tribute artist Jimmy Stanley is traveling from England to Red Wing to headline a Winter Dance Party reminiscent of Holly's final concert at the Surf Ballroom. The local dance party, a fundraiser for the Friends of the Sheldon, will be at 7 p.m. Feb. 3 in the National Guard Armory.
For his second appearance in Red Wing, Stanley will be giving very different type of performance than his first concert. A founding member of "Stayin' Alive," he has spent more than 10 years touring Europe and other parts of the world as Robin Gibb of the Bee Gees.
That tribute group appeared at the Sheldon in May 2010 at the invitation of Stanley's brother, Ben Manning, a local musician who plays with the bluegrass band Long Time Gone.
For the Buddy Holly tribute concert, guitarist-vocalist Manning will be one of four Red Wing musicians appearing as the Red Wing Crickets.
"I'm loving playing electric guitar again," Manning said.
Joining him will be Dave Watson on keyboard and vocals, George Snyder on bass and vocals, and Don Gaalaas on drums.
"We've been practicing since November," said Manning, who is president of the Friends of the Sheldon board of directors. The Red Wing Crickets learned 44 songs for the dance party, which will run until 11 p.m.
Stanley is best known for the "Stayin' Alive" tribute, which came about after his successful appearance on United Kingdom television's "Stars in Their Eyes" program in 1994. He earned critical acclaim for his rendition of "Massachusetts."
But he's been performing since he was just a little kid, Manning said.
"I'm 15 years older," the Red Wing musician pointed out. When Stanley was growing up, his big brother was in a rock 'n' roll band in England, playing 1950s and '60s music.
"I believe I influenced Jimmy" to become a performer, he said. "He's been performing almost all his life."
Stanley won national talent contests four times as a teenager, doing comedy vocal impressions, singing and playing guitar.
He especially enjoyed playing the role of legendary singers. Stanley made an appearance as Buddy Holly for TV magazine program in the UK and played Freddy Mercury in a London stage musical, in addition to his work as a singer, musician and songwriter with several bands. (To see Stanley on You Tube as the Fifties star, do an online search for Jimmy6of1 or Jimmy Stanley as Buddy Holly.)
"He knows all the songs," Manning said. "He's kind of a walking encyclopedia of the 1950s and '60s, musically."
Familiar Buddy Holly songs will fill the opening and closing sets, including "That'll Be the Day," "Oh, Boy," "It's So Easy" and "True Love Ways."
The middle set also will include some songs that were hits for the other performers who were on the Winter Dance Party tour, including "La Banba," "Runaround Sue" and "Chantilly Lace."
Holly and Ritchie Valens, J.D. "The Big Bopper" Richardson, Dion DiMucci, Waylon Jennings and Tommy Allsup were on a three-week tour of 24 Midwestern cities, including Duluth and Green Bay. They had an open date on Feb. 2, so promoters arranged for them to do a show at the Surf in Clear Lake.
Holly decided to charter a plane to save time and avoid a cold bus ride to their next stop -- Moorhead, Minn., nearly 400 miles away. There wasn't room for everyone. After some negotiating, Holly, Richardson and Valens boarded.
The small aircraft crashed less than six miles from the airport, but wasn't found until the following morning. That day became "The day the music died" in Don McLean's song, "American Pie."
Manning said he secured permission from the Surf to use the name "Winter Dance Party" for the Red Wing tribute concert. His brother is paying his own airfare to fly to Minnesota for the Friends event.
The poster he created for the show is in the spirit of the poster that advertised the original Winter Dance Party in Fort Dodge, Iowa, a few days before the crash.
The newly remodeled Armory, 885 E. Seventh St., will be decorated with music memorabilia, Manning said, and people are encouraged to come in Fifties or Sixties garb. A costume contest is on the agenda -- including a poodle skirt competition if there are enough to judge.
Tickets are $15 plus fees if purchased in advance through the Sheldon Theatre, online or at the box office; $20 by cash or check only at the armory the night of the dance party. There will be a cash bar.
The Friends group is fiscal agent for Phoenix Theatre and contributes to the Sheldon School of the Performing Arts, scholarships and theater programming. Go to www. sheldontheatre.org.
If you go...
Who: Buddy Holly Tribute Band
What: Winter Dance Party
When: 7 p.m. Feb. 3
Where: National Guard Armory
Cost: $15 advance, $25 at door, plus fees
More info: www.sheldontheatre.org