The Night before the Day the Music Died featuring the music of Buddy Holly, the Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens; February 2, 2011; Crystal Corner Bar
The Brown Derby has been playing their brand of honky-tonk at the Crystal Corner every Wednesday night for several years now. On the eve of the anniversary of the day that Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and the Big Bopper all died in a tragic plane crash, they forsook their usual show to pay tribute to those musicians, and even called in some guest stars. The evening began with the August Teens as Buddy Holly and the Crickets. With Kyle Motor in charge I should have known it would start exactly on time, but I was twenty minutes late anyway. I missed a good chunk of their set, since, as Kyle pointed out, “the songs are only two minutes long”. However what I did see was pretty awesome. Lead singer Dan Hardgrove moved to bass and left guitar and vocal duties to Motor. With his unabashed love for power pop it isn’t really a surprise that Motor dove into the role. Not only did they sound great, but they also looked great, all dressed in suits.
The Buddy Holly portion of the show was the most extensive, and after a break Brown Derby took the stage for the Richie Valens and Big Bopper segment. For the latter, Derby bass player Nick Brown took center stage. The most physically imposing member of the band he was the logical choice based on stature, but he also had the voice for it. For the biggest of the Bopper’s hits, there was even a prop rotary phone for that iconic salutation “Helloooooooo Bay-bee” that kicks off “Chantilly Lace.” I wasn’t sure I knew any other Big Bopper songs, but I did recognize the cartoonish “Running Bear.” Motor took over vocals once again for a short set of Valens’ songs that should have been familiar to anyone who’s seen La Bamba. I haven’t, but I still knew the big ones- “Oh Donna,” “Come On, Let’s Go,” and “La Bamba.” And his Spanish was pretty convincing on the latter. In fact his enthusiasm for the whole project was quite charming.
After that the night reverted to its regular Brown Derby format, though lead singer John Kunert tried to keep in theme by adding to the list of people who were also supposedly on the plane, beginning with Jerry Reed and his “East Bound and Down” all the way through George Jones.