Buddy Holly's Final Tour Concert Re-created at Chase Picnic Pops

Tue, 07/07/2009
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich., July 7, 2009  It’s been called “the day the music died.” Buddy Holly, the Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens performed at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa. Rather than make the grueling road trip on a wintry night to their next tour stop, the three stepped aboard a small plane.  No one knew that evening’s concert would be their final concert. The plane crashed during the wee hours of Feb. 3, 1959 and a nation mourned as the voices of three rock legends were silenced.  
Now in this 50th Anniversary year of that fateful night, their timeless music will come alive. The Grand Rapids Symphony’s Chase Picnic Pops presents “50s Dance Party,” 7:30 p.m. on July 16/17 at Cannonsburg Ski Area. This official tribute show to Buddy Holly, the Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens will be led by Symphony Associate Conductor John Varineau.

Buddy Holly will be performed by John Mueller, the Big Bopper will be played by the Big Bopper’s son, J. P. Richardson Jr., and Ritchie Valens will be performed by Ray Anthony. With a four-piece band joining the Symphony, concertgoers will relive the Holly era during this re-creation of the 1959 “Winter Dance Party” tour.
Audience members will hear tunes including “That’ll Be the Day,” “Peggy Sue,” “Oh Boy,” “La Bamba,” “Chantilly Lace” and more.

John Mueller sounds and looks like Buddy Holly. Mueller’s guitar is a re-issued 1957 Fender Stratocaster–the exact year and make of Buddy’s guitar, and Mueller uses the same heavy flat-wound guitar strings that Buddy used. Mueller first appeared as Holly in the world stage premiere of “Be Bop A Lula,” in Hollywood, and he won a Drama Desk Award and for his portrayal in the theatrical production of “Buddy…the Buddy Holly” Story at Kansas City’s famed American Heartland Theatre, as well as other cities throughout the country. Reviewers have said, “John Mueller gives a stunning portrayal,” and a former member of The Crickets, Holly’s band said, “John is a reincarnation of Buddy Holly.  He is that good.”

While growing up, J.P. Richardson knew very little about his father.  The memories of the Big Bopper’s death were too painful for his mother and there were no pictures or records by his father in their home.  J.P. first learned about his father’s national fame when there was talk of making a movie about his life.  Following that he learned all he could about his father’s career and in the early 90s opened a nightclub called The Little Bopper. There he would often relax with the performers after the shows.  Late one night Frankie Ford, who recorded the 50s era, smash hit “Sea Cruise” heard J.P. singing “Chantilly Lace.”  Ford was so impressed by J.P.’s similarity to the Big Bopper that he urged J.P. to take up performing as a tribute to his father. 

When Ray Anthony was performing 50s and 60s music as a single act throughout Canada and the U.S., audience members remarked about his uncanny resemblance to Lou Diamond Phillips who played Ritchie Valens in the 1987 film “La Bamba.”  Since then he has become synonymous with Ritchie Valens, earning praise from the late singer’s sister who said, “everytime I see Ray perform as Ritchie, it brings a tear to my eye.” Ray’s energetic approach to entertaining, plus his amazing guitar playing, equal an unparalleled tribute to Ritchie Valens.

 A dance floor will be available on the grounds for audience enjoyment and participation. Pre-concert entertainment will be provided by Hawk and Owls.

Gates open at 5:30 p.m. and parking is free on the Cannonsburg grounds. Patrons are invited to arrive early to enjoy picnics and pre-concert activities. The family fun area, open from 5:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m., features an instrument petting zoo, face painting and crafts.     

A variety of seating options are available.  Reserved tables for groups and individuals are near the orchestra. The tables seat eight and must be reserved in advance.  Chair seating is also available in a reserved, general admission area close to the stage. Lawn seating is a favorite because patrons may bring their own blankets or lawn chairs, and choose their place on the hill.  There are discounts for students, seniors, and children.

WHO:    The Grand Rapids Symphony led by Associate Conductor John Varineau.

WHAT:    Chase Picnic Pops concert featuring “50s Dance Party,” the official tribute show to Buddy Holly, the Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens. Concertgoers will relive the Holly era with this re-creation of the 1959 “Winter Dance Party” tour with a four-piece band joining the Symphony. Audience members will hear tunes including “That’ll Be the Day,” “Peggy Sue,” “Oh Boy,” “La Bamba,” “Chantilly Lace” and more.  Buddy Holly will be performed by John Mueller, the Big Bopper will be played by the Big Bopper’s son, J. P. Richardson Jr., and Ritchie Valens will be performed by Ray Anthony.
 
WHEN:    Thursday, July 16 at 7:30 p.m. and Friday, July 17 at 7:30 p.m.

WHERE:    Cannonsburg Ski Area, 6800 Cannonsburg Rd. NE.

PRICES:      ADVANCE PURCHASE Lawn tickets are $14 for adults, $12 for students (16+) and seniors (62+), $5 for children (2-15). Children two years of age and under are admitted free on the lawn. Other prices are: $25 for general admission chairs in the reserved area; $41 for reserved individual seats at tables; and $328 for a reserved table for eight.

        AT THE GATE  All tickets are $2 more when purchased at the gate.

HOW TO
BUY:          Tickets for table, chair seating and groups can be purchased by calling the Symphony ticket office, 616/454-9451, Ext. 4, or in person at 300 Ottawa NW, Suite 100.  Lawn tickets may be purchased by calling Ticketmaster at 800/982-2787, or online at ticketmaster.com.  Tickets are also available at the Cannonsburg box office beginning at 5:30 p.m. each concert evening.

TITLE 
SPONSOR:     Chase

MEDIA   
PARTNERS:        WXMI Fox 17, On-the-Town, New Lite Rock 95.7


These concerts are made possible with support from the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs, a partner agency of the National Endowment for the Arts.
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