The gymnasium at Storm Lake High School is the third venue of the six-city tour for the Rock 'N' Roll Dance Party Tour 2002.
This tour raises money for the Winter Dance Party Musical Scholarships and Awards presented in memory of the three entertainers who died in a plane crash in 1959; Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J. P. (The Big Bopper) Richardson. Also commemorated with annual Musical Scholarships are their pilot Roger Peterson, whose parents reside in Storm Lake, and former Surf Ballroom (Clear Lake) manager, the late Darrel Hein. The Dance Party takes place Sunday January 27, a packed show beginning at 7 p.m.
Tommy Allsup and Carl Bunch, two of the three backup musicians on the original ill-fated Winter Dance Party 1959 tour (the third being future country legend Waylon Jennings) will be touring together for the first time in over 40 years for this scholarship fund drive. Allsup resided until recently in Nashville where he is a mainstay for Bob Will's Texas Playboys. He has played guitar on around 10, 000 recordings including many of Holly's biggest hits. After the toss of a coin, he gave up his plane seat to the 17 year old singing sensation Ritchie Valens. His son Austin will be joining him onstage for this tour. Bunch was drummer on the 1959 tour, frostbitten feet prevented him from playing at the last two shows performed by Valens, Holly and Richardson.
Valens' nephew, Ernie Valens, will perform along with Larry Welborn, Gary and Ramona Tollett, back up performers on Holly's #1 hit "That'll Be The Day". Welborn is bringing his band The Classics from Oklahoma for the tour. David Bigham, member of The Roses vocal group from the famous Norman Petty Studios in Clovis NM will be providing backing as he did on Holly classics such as "Think It Over" and "It's So Easy".
Peggy Sue Gerron, the subject of Holly's giant hit "Peggy Sue"and Rock 'N' Roll's first 'song' lady, will host the tour. George Tomsco of "The Fireballs" (they had the country's biggest hit of 1963 with "Sugar Shack") and featured on guitar on many of Holly's hit records will join the tour at Storm Lake. Alan Clark, guitarist and vocalist with The Eddie Cochran Band, will appear at most shows including Storm Lake. Clark is also a prominent rock 'n' roll historian and author of many books on the subject.
Duluth based The Shackshakers will be backing all the artists and playing their own spot. They recorded their debut CD in Lubbock, Texas last year to great reviews and are receiving international airplay. At each venue there will be local supporting acts, and appearing here will be a band from Storm Lake High School.
"We are pleased to have the Party Tour come to Storm Lake," said tour organizer Paul King. "Pilot Roger Peterson was raised at Alta, and his parents Art and Pearl still live here in Storm Lake. I've met them three times in recent years, and we're proud that they come along each year when we present The Winter Dance Party - Roger Peterson - Musical Scholarship at Storm Lake High School." The Scholarship, worth $1,000, is given to a High School graduate intending to major in music at university. Winners these past three years were Samantha Hoskins (1999), Elizabeth Groher (2000) and Katy Argotsinger (2001). "We're really looking forward to coming to play at Storm Lake" said King, adding that he hopes the tour members will be able to visit the now-closed Cobblestone Ballroom. "If we can help with ideas for the Cobblestone then we'd be pleased to. Maybe if we can play Storm Lake a second time, it could be there, that'd be great!" After Storm Lake the tour heads north to The Roof Garden at Arnolds Park, then down to Newton. The tour ends at the legendary Surf Ballroom, Clear Lake.
Thinking back to when his group of dedicated Rock 'N' Roll fans first came up with the idea of fundraising tour, King said "We played all 11 of the original venues of the 1959 Winter Dance Party tour on our initial fundraising tour in 1999 to commemorate the 40th Anniversary of The Day The Music Died. As then, our entertainers are coming from all over the country to perform here in the Midwest." During their stay in Duluth where the tour opens, members will be visiting The Armory, venue for the 1959 Winter Dance Party. This will be a poignant moment for Allsup and Bunch, as they visit the last place Bunch played before freezing conditions and dilapidated tour buses ended his brief association with Valens, Holly and Richardson. He was hospitalized en route to the next show at Green Bay, the day before the tour's tragic climax at Clear Lake.
Organizers for the tour and the scholarship fund are Paul King of Northamptonshire England, Dennis Farland of Newton, and Dan Heikkinen and Shawn Nagy (both of Duluth, MN). Tickets are available from Storm Lake Chamber of Commerce (712) 732 3780 and Frank Hoskins at Storm Lake High School (712) 732 8065. Cost for adults is $11 in advance, $16 at the door on the night, and $6 either way for students under the age of 18 years.
The complete tour schedule is: Jan. 25 - Norshor Theater, Duluth MN; Jan. 26 - Kato Ballroom, Mankato MN; Jan. 27 - High School Gymnasium, Storm Lake IA; Jan. 28 - The Roof Garden, Arnolds Park IA; Jan. 29 - Skate Castle, Newton IA and Jan. 30 - Surf Ballroom, Clear Lake IA.