CLEAR LAKE, Iowa -- Three youthful recording stars, members of a touring rock 'n' roll troupe, died today with their pilot in a plane crash in a snowy farm field about five miles north of here.
Dead are Ritchie Valens, 17, Pacolma, Calif., called by his manager, "the next (Elvis) Presley," and whose recording of "Donna" ranks sixth in United Press International ratings of popular tunes; Buddy Holly, Lubbock, Tex., whose latest recording, made two weeks ago, was "It Doesn't Matter Any More," and whose big record has been "Peggy Sue," and J.P. Richardson, the "Big Bopper," from Beaumont, Tex., composer of "Chantilly Lace."
Roger Peterson, 31, Clear Lake, Iowa, the pilot, also was killed.
All were members of a troupe booked out of Chicago for a series of appearances through the Midwest.
Others in troupe
Others in the troupe, but not in the air accident, included Dion and the Belmonts and Frankie Sardo.
The group was en route to Fargo, N.D., and Moorhead, Minn., for an appearance tonight.
Others were traveling by bus on the tour which started Jan. 23 and was booked as far as Springfield, Ill., on Feb. 15.
The Chicago booking agency, General Artists, said it was the fourth such tour. When other artists heard of the deaths, they volunteered their services to keep the tour going. These included, the agency said, Bill Haley and the Comets, Bill Parsons and Frankie Avalon.
Finished first movie
Valens, born in Pacolma, Calif., a Los Angeles suburb, had finished his first movie for Hal Roach Jr., just before leaving on tour.
It was entitled "Go, Johnny, Go." A singer-composer, he had jumped to fame with a recording of his own composition "Come On Let's Go."
He is survived by his mother, Mrs. Concepcion Valenzuela, of Pacolma, and two sisters and a brother. His father died some years ago.
An album of Valens' songs was planned for release at the end of this week. The tunes, most of which he wrote himself, include, "Ooh, My Head," "That's My Little Suzie," "In a Turkish Town," and "Dolby, Dooby Wah."
Holly got his start with "That'll Be The Day." Other records included "Maybe, Baby," "Early in the Morning," and "Heartbeat."
Richardson was a disc jockey and "Chantilly Lace" put him into the popular class late last year. He has been making personal appearances throughout the country.
The troupe had played at the surf ballroom at Clear Lake last night.
The musicians chartered the plane from a flying service.
The Bonanza four-place single engine plane crashed into a field on the W.D. Hurd farm. It did not burn.
One of the bodies was pinned in the wreckage and rescue workers called for equipment to pry the body out.
Jerry Dwyer of the plane service said he had no idea why the plane crashed. He said the craft was in good condition. Mr. Peterson was a competent pilot and weather conditions were favorable for flying.
The plane left the municipal airport here at about 1:30 a.m. Mr. Dwyer estimated it crashed only "a couple minutes" later.
He said Mr. Peterson did not file a flight plan. He became worried when Mr. Peterson failed to report back from Fargo and checked other airpots in the Iowa-Minnesota and Dakota area.
When no word was received from Mr. Peterson, Mr. Dwyer took off in a plane to search for him and spotted the wreckage.