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ritchie valens :: Blog

The Frankie Sardo Story

Thursday, February 11: 1:45 p.m.
Posted by Shelby Morrison

Frankie Sardo is not a rock and roll star. He never sold a million albums or reached the top of the charts. He is not a household name. However, he is a vital character in one of the most important chapters of rock and roll history. Frankie Sardo was the opening act for the 1959 Winter Dance Party at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa, which was the last concert performance for Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper. The three music legends were killed when their plane crashed following their performance at the Surf Ballroom on February 3, 1959. A little over 51 years after that fateful night, Frankie Sardo returned to the Surf Ballroom for the first time.

In a continuing partnership with the Surf Ballroom, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum co-sponsored a luncheon with the Surf as part of the Winter Dance Party event on February 6, 2010, in Clear Lake. The luncheon featured a one-on-one interview with Frankie Sardo. This interview was the first time Sardo has publicly spoken about his memories and stories surrounding the tour.

Sardo never wanted to be a rock and roll star. He was invited ...

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Rock Hall’s Curatorial Director Talks about Rock and Roll and “the Latin tinge”

Friday, August 28: 5:31 p.m.
Posted by Howard Kramer

Jelly Roll Morton, the self-proclaimed inventor of Jazz, spoke of “the Latin tinge” in music. It was always there, as far as he was concerned. It’s also true with rock and roll. In the Fifties in Los Angeles, Latinos there embraced early rhythm and blues and vocal group harmony. Ritchie Valens was a high school kid from the San Fernando Valley who played guitar and was crazy about Little Richard. Consider this – Valens’ professional career lasted barely six months. Here we are, more than 50 years after his untimely death, and his influence can still be felt. He was only 17 when he died. When I look at photos of Valens, I see a pudgy kid with spotty skin and a glowing smile, slinging a Stratocaster and oozing confidence. We have one of his stage outfits on display here in the Rave On case. It’s a two-piece vest and pants set with rhinestones trimming the lapel of the vest. He bought it at Nudie’s, the famous Western wear tailor in North Hollywood. Hank Williams and Elvis Presley wore clothes from Nudie. To me, that sort of encapsulates how cool Valens was. That and his enduring music, of ...

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