THE FEBRUARY, 1979 TRIBUTE TO BUDDY HOLLY CONCERT

AT THE SURF BALLROOM IN CLEAR LAKE, IOWA

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Photos 1-4 were taken at a press reception given the afternoon of February 3 at the "Down Under" which was attended by media folks, artists performing that night, special guests and friends, and a few gate-crashers.

1 – The Mad Hatter of KZEV-FM in Clear Lake who started this series of yearly events which numbered 21 as of February, 1999.

2Rockin' John McDonald – Madison oldies DJ since 1975 and one of a small number who actually play the B-sides, album cuts and other historical gems, and not just the hits – with John Goldrosen, author of the standard, definitive biography of Buddy Holly.

3 – Niki Sullivan, member of the Crickets throughout most of 1957.

4 – Del Shannon.


Photos 6-10 were taken at the tribute concert on the night of February 3 during which I lamented not having a telefoto lens! Hence the blurriness of some of these photos where I attempted to enlarge the image. (And I finally got that lens, soon after. Later pages in this series will show some powerful and up-close shots of Del Shannon.) To top everything off that night, I ran out of film just before the Drifters came on.

The late Wolfman Jack was the MC, occasionally joining in the singing and generally just being himself – uttering a number of memorable statements such as "I just had my big bad body dipped in luke-warm Clearasil. Ain't had a blemish since 1963. (Ee, ee, ee.)"

5 – This is the ticket that got you in. (Many thanks to Marlin Burrier of KLMJ/KQCR in Hampton, Iowa for the image.)

6 – If anyone ever asks who was the opening act on the first tribute show, the correct answer is Corn Fed! Shown here is a good view of the Surf Ballroom stage during Corn Fed's part of the show. Note that there was seating near the stage. After several years of the tribute concerts, over 95% of the ballroom floor became standing (or dancing) room only.

7 – Jimmy Clanton sang his hits and a number of rock & roll classics like "Long Tall Sally," delivering a running lecture on the genre throughout his act.

8 – The Whitesidewalls from Minneapolis stole the show. Niki Sullivan (and his twin sons) joined them for a few numbers including "That'll Be The Day" and is shown here. The Whitesidewalls were called back after the Drifters (who had been slated to be the closing act) for an extended encore set which finished up in the early morning hours.

9 – Here, Niki is receiving praise from the Mad Hatter and the Wolfman – as well as a resounding ovation from the audience.

10 – The Wolfman joining the Whitesidewalls, keeping in perfect step with the choreography.


On Sunday, February 4, it was almost over.

11 – The Wolfman graciously autographing an obscure 45 for Rockin' John whilst in breakfast conference with the Mad Hatter.

12 – Jeff Schmahl ("The Professor") of the Whitesidewalls performing an impromptu, early-morning solo concert of Holly songs for a small group at the motel.


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