Ritchie Valens Biography

Ritchie Valens was born on 13 May, 1941 in Pacoima, a suburb of Los Angeles, California. His real name was Richard Valenzuela. At nine years of age he got his first (Spanish) guitar. As a twelve year old Ritchie had already written several songs, most of which were inspired by Mexican music. He also displayed considerable singing talent, and became a feature at school assemblies singing and playing the guitar.

When Ritchie was seventeen he was spotted by Bob Keene, president of Del Fi Records in Hollywood, and offered recording contract. Bob Keene also became his manager.

His first single, the self-penned tune 'Come On Let's Go', sold 750,000 copies and earned him quite a reputation among teenagers all over the country.

Shortly after this, he wrote a song for his high school sweetheart, Donna Ludwig. The song 'Donna' was recorded and rapidly made the 1958 hit charts. It became his biggest all-time hit and first million seller it was a two-sided hit and the f lip side 'La Bamba' was a traditional Spanish song which Ritchie sang in Spanish after adding a rock'n'roll beat to it. That song was also a million seller.

Ritchie was the first Mexican-Amercan singer to make it, and was a hero to MexicanAmerican communities, just a young boy but a hero.

And so he was one of the acts to travel with 'The Winter Dance Party: The group had been performing every night then travelling four, five, or six hundred miles to successive dates fully clothed to combat the sub-zero temperatures.

When Ritchie heard of Buddy's intended flight with Waylon Jennings and Tommy Allsup he tried to convince Allsup to give up his seat. Tommy didn't want to but finally agreed to flip a coin to decide who would go, provided he could use The Big Bopper's new sleeping bag if he lost. The Big Bopper agreed. Allsup flipped the coin, and Ritchie called "heads': "Heads" if was.

And so the flip of a coin decided his fate. The three stars arrived at the airport about 12.40a.m. and were met by their 21-year-old pilot, Roger Peterson, and Jerry Dwyer the owner of the plane. It was a little before 1a.m. when the single engined aircraft took off . Peterson was inexperienced with the equipment involved with flying by instruments. He was actually not supposed to fly under conditions requiring navigation by instruments, but did not see the special advisories concerning poor visability. Peterson probably became confused in reading the unfamiliar gyroscope) and didn't realise he was desending and not ascending.

The wreckage was spotted at approximately 9.35a.m. when a worried Dwyer decided to investigate, after not having heard from the airport of destination.

Holly and Valens lay twenty feet from the plane while The Big Bopper was thrown forty feet away.

So ended the brief career of a young star who could have become a stellar showman.

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