Richie Valens / May 13, 1941 - Feb 3, 1959

The first popular Chicano rocker was Richard Valenzuela aka Richie Valens. Coming from LA, he was influenced by Little Richard, mariachi, jump blues, flamenco and rockabilly. Airplane disaster first effected him when in his schoolyard he witnessed two planes crashing into each other, killing several schoolmates. A fear of flying had to be overcome to maintain his gig schedule.

He was a natural left-hander that played guitar right-handed. He started the rock-en-Español movement with his 1958 hit "La Bamba". His other big hits were "Donna" and "Come On, Let's Go" (his tunes were cut with musicians who would later be dubbed the Wrecking Crew). He did concerts with all the biggest rock & rollers of the day: Chuck Berry, Paul Anka, Jackie Wilson, Everly Brothers, Bo Diddley, Duane Eddy, Eddie Cochran, Buddy Holly, Dion, Big Bopper.

His final, fateful tour found him having to sit in on drums with Dion. He won a coin toss to fly in the plane on a cold night and he, Holly, the Bopper, and the pilot were all killed. Eight months of superstardom came to a crash at the age of just 17.

Tagged: Celebrate Icons, guitar, Richie Valens, rock, rockabilly

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