Bob Hale Interview Spotlights Ritchie Valens At Final Concert In Vintage Rock Special Edition

The June/July 2021 issue of Vintage Rock celebrates the life and music of Ritchie Valens! My twin sister Sheryl and I are honored to have consulted and contributed to this special edition released today, two weeks after what would have been Ritchie’s 80th birthday. Given that our work was just featured in the previous issue, we're incredibly grateful to Editor Steve Harnell and his team for once again giving this history and its preservation efforts the limelight it needs and deserves. This is truly a special and timely gift on National Preservation Month!

Vintage Rock joins the springtime momentum created by La Bamba's limited release in cinemas and Rolling Stone's "The Eternal Legacy of Ritchie Valens." And with Come on, Let's Go: The Ritchie Valens Musical currently in development near his hometown in Southern California, the rock and roll pioneer and forefather of the Chicano rock has an active legacy that continues to inspire and influence.

Watching the biopic La Bamba in school music class was a catalyst for the passion that Sheryl and I would develop for the era and genre. Ritchie was the first rock and roller who captured our hearts in childhood and this sentiment is encapsulated in The Surf Speaks: Voices of a Living History, our first professional collaboration. The Surf Speaks is a new research initiative dedicated to recording and preserving the memories of the "February Family," the stalwart guardians of its Winter Dance Party legacy. Since 1979, rock and roll fans from around the world have made the pilgrimage to Clear Lake, Iowa, to celebrate the lives and legacies of Ritchie Valens, Buddy Holly and J.P. Richardson, who gave their final career performances at the Surf Ballroom on February 2, 1959.

During the 2016 Winter Dance Party commemorative event, Sheryl and I had the privilege of interviewing Bob Hale, original emcee of the 1959 concert, for The Airplay Channel, a project inspired by the award-winning documentary Airplay: The Rise and Fall of Rock Radio. To have such an intimate window into this history was an experience I'll never forget. And I'm ecstatic that Vintage Rock decided to publish an excerpt from our interview in their new commemorative piece, so that broader audiences will learn more about what Bob experienced when Ritchie and the other stars arrived in Clear Lake.

Watch our interview with Bob on The Airplay Channel (scroll to "The Day The Music Died").

Sheryl and I are incredibly grateful to Director Ben Race and his film crew! They were in Clear Lake filming Bopper and Me and helped us capture Bob’s story for posterity. Bob had unprecedented access to the artists before, during and after the concert, and was one of the last individuals to see Ritchie Valens, Buddy Holly and J.P. Richardson alive before their fatal plane crash. Residing in Chicago with his wife Kathy where he spent most of his career as a radio and television broadcaster, Bob is the only living link to the events that prelude "The Day The Music Died." Doing my part to preserve his account of such a pivotal moment in music history has been a highlight of my work in this genre!


Photos: All were taken by Ben except for the one I took of him! (clockwise from top left): 1) I'm showing Bob some photos on my phone as the iconic stage looms behind us. 2) Bob crouches and holds The Surf Speaks project banner in our This Place Matters photo at the Surf Ballroom with Sheryl (left) and myself (right). 3) Ben captures Bob’s humor in a lighter moment during the interview! 4) This is my photo of Bob with Ben behind the camera and Rupert operating audio.


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