National day for the music lover in me

Today is National The Day the Music Died Day honoring Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and Jiles Perry Richardson Jr., also known as The Big Bopper, who lost their lives in a plane crash on Feb. 3, 1959.

Buddy Holly had chartered a plane in Mason City, Iowa, to fly himself and his band mates ahead to their next tour venue in Moorhead, Minn., after their show in Clear Lake, Iowa. Valens and Richardson wound up taking the seats originally intended for Holly’s band mates — Waylon Jennings and Tommy Allsop.

The national day is obviously a reference to the Don McLean song “American Pie” making reference to the plane crash:

“But February made me shiver,

With every paper I’d deliver,

Bad news on the doorstep

I couldn’t take one more step.

I can’t remember if I cried

When I read about his widowed bride

But something touched me deep inside,

The day the music died.”

American Pie is the song that kind of hooked and sent me down this long enjoyable path of loving music. The most peculiar part of my love for music is it all started with riding in the car with my family.

What do you do when it’s the middle of the winter in Michigan’s Thumb, you’re just starting out your career and you have three young children? Well if you’re Mike and Billi Murch you load the kids in the car and drive around and see the sights, which in the Thumb, quick frankly, is a lot of farm land.

At the time we lived in Caseville, which is a small town like most of those in the Thumb. The drives covered most of the Thumb and lasted a good part of an afternoon. We did make stops when the weather was better, like Grindstone City or Port Austin, and even bowling in Ubly.

As we drove around, usually on Sunday afternoons, the radio was tuned to some music station. My dad was never a big music listener but my mom liked it and had her favorites. It was supposed to be background music but I was listening, in part because we had a station wagon and I wound up in the back so I could stretch out.

Eventually, the station we listened to started playing American Top 40 with Casey Kasem. I remember how most weeks Kasem would welcome stations all the time that had started to play the program, and I’m not sure if the one we listened to played it right away or not. I do remember listening for mentions of Michigan stations being welcomed to the program.

It wasn’t too long into our weekly rides that American Pie was released and made its way up the chart. There wasn’t one defining moment when the song clicked for me, but I remember waiting to hear it come on the radio.

Back then, songs were much shorter and the radio version of American Pie was kind of long for the times at just over four minutes. It wasn’t until a few years later that I heard the full album version, which is the version most people hear now, and it was eight minutes long. Coincidentally, I heard the original radio version earlier this week and out of reflex was singing along not realizing it was the original radio version. I actually got a little lost when it skipped over a chunk of the lyrics.

As I got older my mom — who had different tastes in music like most parents do — and I would have “debates” about what station to listen to, which of course she won. Occasionally she would give in and let me pick the station. One year for my birthday she bought me The Beatles “Let It Be,” album because it had “Maggie Mae” on it. Of course she didn’t realize that Rod Stewart’s “Maggie May” was the hit song. Still, I could say my mom was cool and bought me “Let It Be.”

Everyone who loves music has one song that brought it all out for them. Those of you who share “American Pie” with me also can share in the national day honoring the song.

“A long long time ago/I can still remember how/That music used to make me smile …”

Steve Murch can be reached via email at or by phone at 358-5686. Follow Steve on Twitter @sm_alpenanews.