Up Close With Carl Bunch
Buddy Holly’s Drummer During The Tragic Winter Dance Party Tour
[Interviewer’s Note: Carl Bunch was not the original drummer for Buddy Holly and The Crickets. That distinction goes to J.I. Allison, who was Buddy’s best friend. But Holly did replace J.I. with Bunch and original bassist, Joe B. Mauldin with Waylon Jennings because of a period of disharmony that developed between him, the original members of The Crickets, and legendary music producer, Norman Petty. This historic clash of wills, which came to a head in 1958, has created much speculation as to the circumstances that led up to it and the severity of its aftermath. What is certain, however, is that neither J.I. nor Joe B. were members of The Crickets during Buddy Holly’s final tour—The Winter Dance Party—during which Holly was killed in a plane crash along with the Big Bopper, Ritchie Valens, and pilot, Roger Peterson on February 3, 1959, because flying to the next venue in a snow storm seemed much more appealing than nearly freezing to death in the substandard chartered buses in route to each venue of exceptional distances in the dead of a severe Upper Midwest winter.
Carl Bunch did not drum for Buddy Holly at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa on the night of February 2, 1959. He had developed a bad case of frostbite on one of the bus rides and was hospitalized shortly before Holly’s fateful tour stop. But Carl’s recollections of the venues and the camaraderie that developed between the artists as a result of the subnormal transportation that led up to his hospitalization are both candid and riveting. “You can't really understand how bad the circumstances were under which we lived,” says Bunch. “We had broken down bus, after broken down bus, after broken down bus, often without heaters, to be confined in for what seemed like forever between gigs that were way too far apart to begin with.”]
[Lance Monthly] Carl, when and where were you born?
Carl Bunch I was born at a very early age, November 24th, 1939, in Big Spring, Texas weighing in at 2 lb. 11oz. at seven months instead of nine. The doctor tried desperately to convince my family that I couldn't live because of my size. Mom said you could put me in a shoebox and watch me crawl to the other end. I spent my first six months in the hospital. They tried to take me home after three, but I turned blue and I had to be returned as defective. To see me now is proof that I've overcome my small beginnings. If I fell down, my friends could roll me home.
[Lance Monthly] Did you grow up in a city neighborhood or in the country?
Carl Bunch I grew up in the West Texas boomtown of Odessa. My father and grandfather were very successful building contractors. All there was back then were mesquite bushes, horny toads, diamondback rattlesnakes, and tired jackrabbits. Peter Bogdanovich made a movie about growing up in Odessa called "The Last Picture Show." As providence would have it, I was the chauffeur who drove him to the world premier at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. He was so impressed with my West Texas accent that he bought me a ticket at the box office and insisted that I critique the picture for him. I told him after the movie that I thought someone had hidden a camera and caught all our childhood indiscretions on film. I felt like my privacy had been invaded. He was thrilled.
[Lance Monthly] How many brothers and sisters do you have?
Carl Bunch I have one younger sister, Kathy Allan, who now lives with her husband Brad in Colorado. Sis and I were a very successful dance team as young children, traveling all over West Texas to perform at all kinds of functions. My first love was dancing. I had no thought of being a musician during those younger years. By the time I was thirteen I had a dance scholarship to the Pasadena Playhouse in Pasadena, California, but all that went by the wayside when they found I had bone tumors in my right thigh. I broke what was left of the bone there doing a flip for the younger kids in dance class and spent the next year and three months in the hospital in traction, with my leg hanging up in the air and sandbags hanging every where, keeping everything lined up right.
After three years of recuperating from surgery that took all the bone from that thigh and replacing it with chips of bone from my right hip, Sis and I tried to start again. I lost too much muscle in the transplant to be much more that a decent chorus line dancer. I started playing drums to get the coordination back in my feet after all that. I liked it and it replaced my dreams of becoming the next Donald O’Connor. Sis got married and swapped her dreams of stardom for a wonderful family. There's a brand new movie just coming out called "Saturday Night Lights" about high school football in Odessa. Sis and her husband, Brad, were responsible for floating the bond issue that built that wonderful new football stadium there. It rivals Texas Stadium where the Cowboys play.
[Lance Monthly] What were the typical home chores that were required of you by your parents?
Carl Bunch When I was small, my main chore besides the normal take-out-the-trash-and-clean-your-room was to use a big push broom and try to sweep the sand off the grass that was [in] it every time we had a sandstorm. I never really was able to complete the chore before the next sandstorm would come and cover the grass again. The result was the biggest sandbox in the neighborhood. Good for playing marbles, but a sorry place to try and spin tops.
[Lance Monthly] During your youth and aside from yourself, were there other members in your family that had a strong interest in music?
Carl Bunch My mother and father both had a great love for show music. I believe that's where I got my desire to be the next Donald O’Connor, watching the musicals they took Sis and me to see. Neither of them, or Sis for that matter, ever played an instrument. They made me take piano lessons for a while, but I persisted in playing by ear rather than learning to read. Bad mistake on my part. Sure would have helped me later when I started to write music.
[Lance Monthly] We had the sandstorms in Albuquerque, too, Carl, especially during a severe drought some time in the mid - 50s. Often, the clothes that had been hung out on the line developed a strong sandy smell. Dryers were unaffordable for my parents back then, so I had to dry my Levis and my pink and purple shirts (favorite colors in the ‘50s for “Cool Cats”) in the house on the backs of chairs facing the sun. Sound familiar?
Carl Bunch Man, does your description of the mid fifties stand out in my mind. I had a heliotrope-colored (bright purple) sport coat I wore on stage with the Poor Boys until we had our infamous "Poor Boy" jackets made. They looked like Levi jackets with the collars turned up in the back Elvis style, except they were red with The Poor Boys and musical notes on the backs. We wore them to school and it was "grease" to the max. It got to be the biggest honor a girl could get to wear one of our jackets. That meant they were going steady with one of the Poor Boys, but only one girl got to wear a jacket all the way through high school. That was Sara Nell Brewer, Richard Porter’s girl. The rest of the seven of us had a different girl for every month (LOL). Lord, what memories. I wore black slacks with pink stitching down the sides of the legs. Only a pimp would wear stuff like that today. There's a picture of me with Ramona Lock on the first tour I ever went on. I was wearing a black shirt with sparkly silver stitching down the middle of the front. Sure wish I had that shirt today.
[Lance Monthly] What were your favorite things to do during your free time while growing up? I always had a passion for digging mud ponds in my Folks’ backyard and filling them up with crawdads, carp, suckers, soft-shelled turtles, and any other interesting aquatic critters I could catch in the nearby irrigation or drainage ditches.
Carl Bunch We had a big low place about two blocks from my house that would turn into a lake when it rained. We called it the Green Spot and that's where we had a million adventures. It was the closest water within a hundred miles of Odessa and the only water we had to play in besides the public swimming pools. It would last as long as two or three weeks after a rain and we'd harvest frog eggs from the tall grass around the edges and raise millions of baby frogs. Mom loved us for that. My grandchildren love to hear the stories of our adventures there. My wife Dorothy is nagging me about writing them down. She says they would make great children’s books. I may do it someday. Unfortunately, the Green Spot turned out to be the cause of the great polio epidemic in Odessa that crippled or killed almost a third of the children there in the early forties. Mosquitoes! I thank God I didn't get polio (I got diphtheria later instead). Several of my friends did and some died. We were quarantined [in] our houses for over a month. Children couldn't play outside together. We had to stay in our own front yards and just talk briefly. No physical contact was allowed. The Green Spot is now a large park with enough drainage to keep it from ever being a lake again.
[Lance Monthly] Did you ever take drum lessons, Carl?
Carl Bunch My Aunt Dorothy bought me my first set of drums when I was fifteen, overcoming the surgery on my leg. I was playing in the junior high swing band, but I never really had lessons. My band teacher, Mr. McIntyre, played drums with a combo that worked locally, but the only thing he really ever taught me was to chew gum really weird as a method of keeping the beat. The first fan mail I ever got from our TV show was a letter complaining about it. I ditched the gum after that and kidded Mr. McIntyre about it for months. My father banned me to the garage and was forced by the neighbors to soundproof it with egg crates. I used to practice five to eight hours a day, seven days a week to recordings of Gene Krupa and the Dukes of Dixieland. While the other kids were outside playing ball, I was practicing drums. I just loved to play.
[Lance Monthly] Did you listen to a lot of western music on the radio before rock ‘n’ roll made its presence?
Carl Bunch I was raised with show music and we were musical snobs in my house. It took serious pleading to get my dad to let us listen to pop music on the Lucky Strike Hit Parade. He had a fit when I went to playing that dirty "bop music" (LOL). It's funny that he hated Elvis until he opened his own record shop and Elvis kept him in business. I started my love for country music when the late Ray Charles put out an album called Ray Charles Sings Country. I've been in love with country every since. I left rock-and-roll music in 1967 to play drums for Hank Williams Jr. What memories that brings back.
[Lance Monthly] Would you say Elvis Presley played a big role in your musical tastes when he came on the scene?
Carl Bunch I begged Elvis for a job the first time I saw him perform in Odessa. I worked my way back stage and literally begged him for a job. At that time it was just Elvis, Scotty, and Bill. They were going to keep it a string band so they could play the Grand Old Opry, which wouldn't allow drums back then. Wasn't a month later he had hired D.J. Fontana. I saw Elvis years later when I was making a movie with Hank Jr. Elvis was closing out a movie on the MGM set next door to us and I got an invitation to the "Party Afterwards" that he always threw for everybody that had anything to do with the movie. They turned the entire sound stage into a dining hall and while everyone ate, Elvis would go around all the tables and thank everyone individually for their part. When he came to me he said, "I'm sorry, but I don't remember you, though your face is familiar. Could you remind me of your part?" I told him who I was and that Lance Legault had invited me to the dinner. He laughed and said he remembered me begging for a job, but that he'd heard that I had played with Roy Orbison and then later Buddy Holly and figured I'd done all right for myself anyway. I had forgotten completely that I told Roy all about that night when I was playing with him and Roy had told Elvis years later. Elvis is still the king.
[Lance Monthly] Carl, what high school did you attend, and can you recall with as much detail as you can about what was considered “cool” with the teens in reference to fashion and in-phrases?
Carl Bunch Everything was copasetic at Odessa High School from ‘57 through ‘58. I left in December of ‘58 to join Buddy Holly as one of the Crickets. The Poor Boys, my first band, just about set the style for clothing at OHS, and for “cool,” as well. We were in direct competition with Roy Orbison and the Teen Kings back in those days for the next band to go national like the Crickets did. That's when I started playing with Roy. His drummer was forever going on National Guard trips or out making a small fortune hustling professional bowlers. If I wasn't playing somewhere with the Poor Boys, I'd be a Teen King for a night, or two, or three.
Gotta say it was "Ace Man" if you rolled the sleeves up on your T-shirt, turned the collars up on your regular shirt, or wore ducktail haircuts. Now if your rolled-up T-shirt sleeve had a pack of "fags" [common ‘50s slang term for cigarettes] in the roll, that made you both “cool” and "bad dad" at the same time, although smoking kept me from being elected “Most Popular” for the year book in ‘58. My kid sister was on the annual staff and told me I lost by less than twenty votes; it was because I was always out behind the school smoking with the "fag heads." Boy, has that word changed [its] meaning (LOL).
Bobby socks and fold-rolled Levis were the cool regulars, and outrageous colors; specifically “playboy pink” and black together were a sign of good taste in fashion. It was poodle skirts and petticoats for the girls. “See You Later Alligator” wasn't just the lyrics to a song, but was shortened to "later gater" for the "coolest." “Happy Day”s was very close for the way it really was for my group. The Poor Boys took over Roy Orbison’s TV show when the Teen Kings fired him and he moved to Nashville. Do you believe his second band fired him? His first band was the Wink Westerners because he was from Wink rather than Odessa. We had two weekly live-radio shows as well as a half-hour live TV program every Saturday. We recorded first on Hamilton Records, then had a release on Coral. All this really made us able to live the rock and roll dream. I'd compare our life style to that of the characters in "Peggy Sue Got Married," which was another good piece on our times.
[Lance Monthly] Before the birth of West Texas Rockabilly and the popularity of Elvis Presley, didn’t Fats Domino, Little Richard, Chuck Berry, The Platters, and the rest of the original high-profile African-American artists of rock ‘n’ roll make as big an impression with your schoolmates, as did hillbilly music? In addition, since these artists were black, would you say that the parents tried to discourage their kids from listening to what was negatively labeled as “jungle music” by a very biased adult news media at that time?
Carl Bunch I played for two weeks with a black group called the Velvets, featuring Virgil Johnson. We couldn't stay in a black hotel because I was white and they, of course, couldn't stay in a white hotel. So we stayed in his fans’ homes when we traveled. Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Fats, and the rest got good airplay in West Texas on some stations, and might as well have been banned on others. We weren't deep enough in the south to hear all the hateful slurs they faced in Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi, but parents in general from our neck of the woods faced it like most parents now have to deal with rap. They wouldn't allow it in the house, but couldn't keep us from listening when we were out of the house. After a while they got weary of the fight and let us play our 45s at home. My father would have beaten me half to death if I had ever used a racial slur. The “N” word would have gotten me grounded for at least six weeks, but that was just my dad. Other fathers weren't quite as fanatical about segregation as him. I could tell you stories for a month, but that's not what this is about.
[Lance Monthly] Before joining the Crickets, are there any track releases of nominal success by any of your earlier groups?
Carl Bunch My original band was the Poor Boys, who I told you recorded on Hamilton records, a subsidiary of Dot and Coral records. I co wrote “Lookie Lookie Lookie,” which was our biggest release. Did pretty good in the West Texas area, but didn't become a national hit. I was a part-time Teen King with Roy, and then after Buddy was killed, Tommy Allsup and I went back out on the road with Roy again. In between Buddy and Roy, we had a group called the Jitters that didn't get enough airplay to stay together. We recorded on Coral as part of a deal struck by the Crickets and us to keep us out of court over the name Crickets. J. I. and Joe B. said Buddy had given the name to them. We were all so messed up over the tragedy that we didn't want to fight over it.
[Lance Monthly] No doubt, you were very taken with Elvis Presley, as you stated that you begged him to hire you as his drummer. In a Lance Monthly interview that I conducted with Jerry Naylor (Vol. 5, No. 11, January 2004 issue), he said that when he first heard “That’s All Right,” it changed his life forever as a musician. Did you have a similar experience?
Carl Bunch The first time I saw Elvis work it electrified me. I had no idea [how] anyone could so blatantly take over the emotions of so many people so fast. He wrung that crowd out like a washcloth. I remain WOWED by his work today. He changed the face of music, the whole world over. No single performer has affected the masses like him.
[Lance Monthly] Did you first learn of Buddy Holly and The Crickets’ existence because of the group’s first smash hit, “That’ll Be the Day,” before you personally met Holly and the rest of the original band members? In addition, what were the original circumstances around your first meeting with Norman Petty and your overall take on his demeanor, his Clovis studio, and his creativity?
Carl Bunch We danced to Buddy’s music at sock hops and watched him on the “Ed Sullivan Show.” That was the biggest thing that could happen to a performer back then. Dick Clark was great, but you knew you had made the big time when you played the “Ed Sullivan Show.”
The Poor Boys recorded at Norman’s studio in Clovis. Norman was a businessman. He put his name on every song that came out of his studio and that was just a given—part of the price you paid to get his influence in obtaining a recording deal. I didn't know Buddy was even in the studio when he first saw me play. He was in the control booth with Norman and I never saw him, but Tommy Allsup said I made an impression on him. I didn't meet Buddy face to face until I quit high school and moved to New York City to be his drummer. When he fired J.I. and Joe B., he told Tommy to call me and ask if I would be one of the Crickets. That would have been like Paul McCartney asking me if I wanted to take Ringo’s place a few years later. For a few short weeks, I saw every dream I'd ever had come to pass. Those few days changed my life forever. I am eternally grateful that the Lord gave them to me. They turned my fifteen minutes into a lifetime. Those are some powerful memories. They still stir up some pretty profound emotions.
[Lance Monthly] Powerful memories for the Holly fans, Carl, but certainly powerful to the nth power to someone who was Buddy’s drummer on his final tour. Some of the Holly bios say that Norman tried to turn J.I. and Joe B. against Buddy because of Norman’s falling out with him. Was there, in your opinion, any truth to this and did Buddy give you the actual reason(s) for his dismissals of J.I. and Joe B. aside from them not wanting to move to New York?
Carl Bunch To be as honest as possible, Buddy never spoke with me at all about the problems with J.I., Joe B., and Norman. I got everything I know from conversations between Buddy and Tommy. I'm sure you know that Tommy had been with the Crickets for some time before the breakup occurred. Norman was against Buddy’s marriage from the start, which I believe was the primary reason for the split. Buddy believed that Norman was stealing from him. J.I. and Joe B. didn't. Norman convinced J.I. and Joe B. that he was the one with the power to make and break their careers, so they decided to remain with him rather than take their chances in New York City with Buddy at the reigns. This broke Buddy’s heart. Not only was J.I. and Joe B. Buddy’s band, but they were [also] his friends from childhood. Buddy felt absolutely devastated that they would take the word of a man he believed to be a thief over his. If Buddy could have gotten his hands on the money he believed Norman owed him, he wouldn't have been forced to go on that tour under such horrible circumstances. You can't really understand how bad the circumstances were under which we lived. We had broken down bus, after broken down bus, after broken down bus, often without heaters, to be confined in for what seemed like forever between gigs that were way too far apart to begin with. There were no superhighways back then. We drove everywhere; we went on two land roads, sometimes under ill repair themselves. Add all this to Buddy’s emotional state over J.I. and Joe B. choosing Norman over him and you can get a much better idea of how he was feeling than you would otherwise.
[Lance Monthly] Popular belief is that J.I. is the original creator and owner of The Crickets’ name. If this is so, why do you suppose that J.I. and Joe B. told you that Holly passed on the ownership of the name to them?
Carl Bunch The Crickets were a joint venture between Buddy, J.I., and Joe. B. I don't think Niki Sullivan was one of the original participators, but I could be wrong. I wasn't there. It was not an equal partnership. J.I. got a small percent; I can't remember how much right now, but I have it in a book somewhere. Joe B. got a smaller percentage than J.I., so Buddy was more than just in charge, and he was a businessman all the way. When they broke up, it's my understanding that Buddy told J.I. and Joe. B. that they could have the name if that's all they cared about. One of those go-ahead-and-see-how-well-you-do-without-me sort of a things. Buddy, however, changed his mind about that when he was dealing with Irving Feld, who I understand took the Col. Tom Parker approach. J.I and Joe B. were nothing more than sidemen as far as he was concerned, and there could be no Crickets without Buddy. That to my understanding was the reason we were booked on The Winter Dance Party as Buddy Holly and the Crickets. Buddy promised me that if he was satisfied with my work on the tour when it was over, I would become a permanent member of the group and start getting a part of the profits like J.I and Joe B. had before me.
I know it upsets J.I. for me to call myself a Cricket, but as far as Buddy Holly was concerned, I was a Cricket. Buddy told me to sign my autograph that way and I did. I have been called the “Frostbitten Cricket” often enough that I took the name. The Buddy Holly Center in Lubbock lists me as the drummer with The Winter Dance Party band. I'm guessing they did that in order to keep peace with J.I and Joe B. and I'm okay with that. I greatly admire J.I. and don't want any of the glory that should be his. He has the name and he deserves it. I'm not a has-been ‘cause I'm still here. At least I'm not and never was (LOL). If the name wasn't Buddy’s to deal with, he wouldn't have made this deal. Buddy was a Christian and an honest man. I'm sure that he believed he would have prevailed if Norman sued him. He was so angry with Norman that he would have loved to prove to the world in a court of law [that] he was a thief.
[Lance Monthly] How angry did Norman Petty get when he learned that Buddy fired J.I. and Joe B. and hired you as his drummer, Allsup as his guitarist, and Waylon Jennings as his bassist? In addition, Jennings admitted that he had no experience as a bass player, so given Buddy’s high-profile status, it appears that he could easily have hired an experienced bass player with a proven track record. Why didn’t he?
Carl Bunch I was told that Norman went into a rage about all this in front of J.I. and said that God would deal with him severely for what he was doing. I understand that Norman filed an injunction against Buddy for using the name of the Crickets. Buddy just shined it on. J.I. was reported to have gotten angry with Norman at this point and knocked him down, telling him not to say bad things about Buddy. All this is just ancient history now, rolling around in my memory and I can't even remember for sure who told me. I think it was Ronnie Smith, when I rejoined the tour after the plane crash, but I've had aspartame poisoning since then and I can't be absolutely sure of anything anymore. I do know J.I. loved Buddy enough to put Norman on his fanny if he did say something bad about him. One of the greatest untold tragedies in rock and roll history was the emotional pain Buddy and J.I. suffered due to their break-up.
[Lance Monthly] What grade were you in when you quit high school and did you earn your diploma at a later date and attend college?
Carl Bunch I was a junior at Odessa High School when I quit to go on that tour. I was a year behind my classmates because of the year I spent in the hospital overcoming the bone tumors in my right leg. I got a GED in the Army and went on to earn a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychotheology from Friends International Christian University. My masters is in Biblical Counseling and I have a Bachelor of Science in Theology.
[Lance Monthly] Carl, while on the road with the Crickets on Buddy’s final tour, with whom did you room and in what cities were the venues at which The Crickets played before the fateful Clear Lake, Iowa performance? In addition, can you describe for our readers some details of those venues in general in reference to the opening number, the song that always seemed to go over the best, the overall reaction of the fans, how The Crickets went over in comparison to the other acts, any negatives that had to be overcome, and how Buddy and the rest of the Crickets dealt with the stress, etc?
Carl Bunch Most of the time on the road we lived on the bus. It was rare to get to stay in a hotel; at least it felt rare. I spent most of my time with Ritchie Valens. We were the two youngest on the bus and Ritchie liked me. He knew I was more than just a little impressed with him as a performer. I've never met anyone with a better command of the audience than Ritchie. He was an incredible performer for his age and could have only improved had he lived. The Crickets each had their own hotel rooms when we got to stay in a hotel, until after the plane crash. Then I shared a room with Ronnie Smith. Ronnie was the lead singer with the Poor Boys so he and I had been close friends for a long time.
We opened the tour at George Devine’s Ballroom in Milwaukee on the 23rd of January. We played the 24th at the Eagles Ballroom in Kenosha, Wisconsin. We played the 25th at the Kato Ballroom in Mankato, Minnesota. The 26th we were traveling and played the 27th at the Fiesta Ballroom in Montevideo, Minnesota. The 28th was at the Prom Ballroom in St. Paul. The 29th we played the Capitol Theatre in Davenport, Iowa. The 30th we were at the Lamar Ballroom in Fort Dodge, Iowa. The 31st was my last night to play with them before the crash in Duluth, Minnesota at the Armory. They played the Riverside in Green Bay, then the Surf in Clear Lake, I think. I was in the hospital, rather delirious at the time. It's difficult to remember details of every venue we played that long ago, but here goes trying:
At George Devine’s Ballroom in Milwaukee we were over an hour late due to problems with the bus and the weather. I remember very clearly Buddy asking just as we pulled up, "What time is this eight o'clock gig going to get started?" We had to set up on stage in front of an angry crowd and we ended up starting about two hours after we were supposed to. I was an absolute nervous wreck. Buddy kept talking to me backstage, telling me I'd be just fine. He said, "You're one of the Crickets now. You could break every drum head you have and they'd still love you." When we got on stage we opened with Frankie Sardo doing his thing. I can't remember any part of his music now, but the girls thought he was beautiful and ate him up. While we were playing his stuff, I noticed a friendly face in the audience. It was a friend from OHS who was in his Navy uniform. I really began to relax and enjoy playing by that time.
Dion came out and did his latest hits, "Teenager In Love," "Runaround Sue," and the rest. The audience loved him. The Big Bopper absolutely sent the crowd into a frenzy with “Chantilly Lace.” Ritchie’s “La Bamba” had just hit number one on the charts and he whipped them into a frenzy on top of a frenzy with his performance. But when Buddy came out, it was almost like God had walked out on the stage. We always started his set with “Gotta Travel On,” a Billy Grammer hit. I was okay until he started “Peggy Sue.” The crowd went wild and so did I. I started playing so fast there was no way for him to do the song right, so he just backed away from the mike and let me go like it was a drum solo. I finally wore down enough to do the song at the right tempo. I was afraid he was going to fire me because of that, but he just laughed it off. That's the way Buddy tried to deal with all the negatives, just laugh them off. That is, except for one mistake I made: I left my uniform in the dressing room at one of the venues and tried to lie my way out of it. Buddy told me not to dig the hole so deep I couldn't get out of it, and then never said another word to me about it.
For years after the tragedy, I really believed in my own mind (though I didn't tell anybody besides Tommy and my family) that Buddy, Ritchie, and J.P. had visited me in the hospital room to tell me everything was going to be okay. It wasn't until after I was born again that it dawned on me that they couldn't have physically visited me. It was the night they were killed that the visitation took place. That's why I couldn't understand how it could be true when my mother told me on the phone the next day that they were dead. “I just saw them last night,” I told her. She just cried and repeated that they were dead. They took me back to my room in shock. I had girls visit me in the hospital and we all cried together, but it didn't become real to me until I was on the plane to Sioux City with a stack of newspapers in my lap detailing the tragedy. Sometimes it's still not real and sometimes I still cry. Sometimes I think the whole world of music still cries.
I rejoined the tour at Sioux City. Ronnie Smith and Jimmy Clanton met me at the Airport and took me to the hotel. Frankie Avalon had joined the tour for a few days and Fabian was to join us in a day or so. This was Irving Feld’s way to cash in on the tragedy. We weren't even allowed to go to the funerals. We were promised a big bonus if we would finish the tour. We never got a dime of it. And as Forest Gump says: "That's all I've got to say about that." At least for the time being.
Join us next time for the balance of the interview with Carl Bunch.
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