Saturday, November 19, 2022

Buddy Holly Poster Fetches $447K; Duluth Dylan House Was Much More Affordable

I read the news today, oh boy. A poster for the Buddy Holly concert that never was went up for sale and this week fetched the tidy sum of $447,000. The story of the sale gained wide circulation for a variety of reasons. Foremost is probably the amount of value placed on the poster. That's a lot of clams. Second, because of its rarity. This may be the only one in existence for that specific show, which took place on the very day of the plane crash that took the lives of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valenz, J.P. Richardson (the "Big Bopper") and pilot Roger Peterson shortly after midnight. It's a  plane crash made legendary by Don McLean in his song "American Pie."


OK, so Artnet News published the figure of $447,000, but the headline on John Lamb's story on the front page of our Duluth News Tribune announced that the said poster sold for a record $477K. 

Yahoo News posted a CBS News story that also affirms the $447K auction transaction. That story, by Helen Ray, opens like this:

The rarest and only known Buddy Holly poster from "The Day the Music Died," when an airplane carrying Holly, Richie Valens and the Big Bopper (real name J.P. Richardson) crashed and killed all three, sold at auction for a record-breaking $447,000.

Oops. On further inspection John Lamb got it right. Whoever wrote the headline got it wrong. According to advertising guru David Ogilvy, five times more people read the headline than the ad copy. This undoubtedly applies to news stories, I suspect, and some astute readers may notice the discrepancy.


Poster for Buddy Holly's last concert at the Surf Club.

There are many layers to this story, though. Like many teens in the 50s and 60s, Bobby Veline had learned to play the guitar and formed a band with a group of friends, much like Bobby Zimmerman had with his Golden Chords. After the plane crash took the lives of three headliners, the Moorhead show promoters scrambled to find someone who could step into Buddy Holly's big shoes. Bobby Veline and The Shadows earned the opportunity to wear the mantle that night, a major kickstart for Bobby Vee's career.

It's well known that all these events have Dylan connections. On January 31, just days before the fateful crash, Bobby Zimmerman and his friend Louis Kemp worked their way to the front of the stage to watch Buddy Holly perform at the Historic Duluth Armory. The 17-year-old kid with big dreams of his own felt that an uncanny something passed between them that night when Holly looked at him. 

Young Dylan's amusing attempt to join Bobby Vee's Shadows has a become another bit of lore.

* * *
Though the Winter Dance Party posters were mass produced, they were left blank on top so that times and dates for the various venues could be filled in for each of the shows. How this particular poster came to be auctioned off as such a rarity can be found in the many stories published this past week. 

What I think is most interesting is how values get established. When Bill Pagel bought Bob Dylan's birth home here in Duluth a little over 20 year ago it was a steal. He got the whole house and property for less than $100K. I'm curious what the house might have fetched if it had been sold through a higher profile, better-connected auction house.  In 2019 Pagel went on to purchase the Zimmerman house in Hibbing as well. That one cost $320,000. In short, he got both houses for less than that singular poster. 

Here are couple other mementos from that week long ago, courtesy 

Floor board from Duluth Armory signed by Carl Bunch, 
drummer for who got frostbite when the bus broke down 
between Duluth and Green Bay.
Another Armory floorboard, this one signed by a number of
Buddy Holly contemporaries including Bobby Vee.

Here's a link to a half dozen stories I've published regarding 
Buddy Holly's final shows on that Winter Dance Party tour. 

Link to John Lamb's Duluth News Tribune story cited above.

.Floorboards courtesy Joe Mann. Photos by Ed Newman.


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