Neighbors: After seeing Waylon Jennings in Moorhead, high schooler chauffeured the country star

Bobby Vee

The story of Fargo’s Bobby Vee is well known.

It’s the story of how this 15-year-old guy hastily formed a band out of fellow Fargo high schoolers and performed to fill in for superstars Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and the Big Bopper after they were killed in 1959 when their plane crashed in Iowa while they were on their way to perform in Moorhead.

Young Bobby went on to become a nationally popular performer.

Now someone who didn’t give his or her name has sent Neighbors a 2006 issue of The Cynosure, the publication of the Fargo Central High School Alumni Association, which includes a letter from Jerald Quam, Santa Barbara, Calif., a 1958 Central High graduate.

That letter refers to that tragic night when Bobby and his band had to fill in.


Bobby Vee and The Shadows rose to fame after performing at the Moorhead armory in the absence of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. Richardson. Special to The Forum

“I attended that ill-fated concert with my ‘then’ true love,” Jerald wrote, “arriving fashionably late and parking on an irate neighbor’s lawn.

“We all listened in horror as the announcement was made about the tragedy earlier that evening and then Bobby Vee was introduced as someone who could sing like Buddy Holly, and his career was off and running.

“One of the acts that evening on the same bill was Gene Vincent, with a then-unknown sideman named Waylon Jennings.

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“Some years later,” Jerald wrote, “I owned an exotic automobile lot on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, Calif. We offered vintage Rolls-Royce ‘hire’ cars for various occasions.

“During the earliest of the country and western music awards (shows), I was chauffeuring Waylon and his entourage in a 1923 Rolls-Royce touring car when it promptly coughed and sputtered to a stop on Sunset Boulevard.


“An angry Waylon started to complain about the fact that we were late to the awards.

“I reminded him that he was a lucky man to have switched seats on the ill-fated plane ride on Feb. 9, 1959; his attitude mellowed, especially when I told him I was one of the attendees that night in Moorhead. Everything changed, and he was more than happy to lend a hand on the push-start of the old lump.

“We still got him there in time for the TV cameras and the hoopla.

“Just one of those strange twists of fate!”

If you have an item of interest for this column, mail it to Neighbors, The Forum, Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107, fax it to 701-241-5487 or email

Bob Lind
Bob Lind, Neighbors columnist. The Forum

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