THE DAY THE MUSIC DIED
A few years ago I started collecting concert posters. This is an important collectible that is starting to catch fire. Heritage Auctions in Dallas holds regular auctions and produces a great catalogue for each of their sales. The other day, I had an enjoyable lunch with Andrew Holly. Andrew is to concert posters what Babe Ruth was to baseball. He lives in San Francisco, a hotbed of music poster collecting and the source of highly collectible psychedelic posters from the 1960’s featuring performers like Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and Joe Cocker.
He confirmed to me that I own the most important music poster in the world. It’s called “The Day the Music Died,” and it’s the only known example. In 1959, after completing a concert in Clear Lake, Iowa, several performers chartered an airplane to fly them to Moorhead, Minnesota for the next leg of the Winter Dance Party concert tour. Aboard were Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. Richardson, known as the Big Bopper. The latter had won a coin flip with Waylon Jennings to see who flew and who rode the bus. Immediately after take-off the pilot experienced vertigo and flew the plane into the ground killing everyone aboard.
That night the concert went on in Moorhead featuring Dion and the Belmonts and Bobby Vee. who happened to live in nearby Fargo and was called on to fill in. The whole sad story was memorialized in Don McLean’s song, “American Pie.” The written lyrics for this song about the day the music died sold recently at Christie’s in New York for $1,200,000.
The day after the concert, a Moorhead highway department employee removed the poster advertising the event from a telephone pole. He took it home and placed it face down on a shelf in a bedroom closet. Soon clothes were piled on top of it and it was forgotten. Forty-five years later the man died and his son came from out of town to sell the house. As he rummaged through his father’s possessions he came across the poster. Wondering if it had any value, he went online and found the name of a poster dealer. He contacted the dealer who quickly made a deal to buy the poster and soon thereafter contacted me. The purchase price was $175,000 and I swallowed hard before I agreed to buy it. As it turned out it was worth every penny.
In our poster collection we also have the Beatles at Shea Stadium, and the only known example of Motown Review, featuring Stevie Wonder and other Detroit luminaries. Both are considered to be among the top half-dozen best music posters in the world. Most collectibles have experienced the same air bubble that has propelled stocks to such high levels. It’s probably a good time to sell, but devilishly hard to do so when you love the stuff.