How improbable is it, that an 8-minute long nostalgia laced song with obtuse lyrics, by an unknown singer, would not only be the #1 hit of 1971, but that it would also become so well known it could have it’s own meme?

Of course, we’re talking about “American Pie,” Don McLean’s opus to the “The Day the Music Died”–Feb. 2, 1959, when Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper died in a plane crash in Clear Lake, Iowa, in route to a Minnesota gig.

60 years later the music by those early rock pioneers is still vibrant, and continues to be discovered by new generations, thanks in part to the annual  “Winter Dance Party.”  Since 1979, annual memorial concerts have been hosted by the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake where that final ’59 concert took place. It’s been preserved just as it was — visitors can even step inside the phone booth where Ritchie Valens made his final call home.

The audience gets into it,  dressing 50s style:  poodle skirts and slicked back back hair.  This year’s festivities–3 days and nights– are already underway; the talent  line-up includes:

Robin Luke (“Susie Darlin”)

Little Anthony & The Imperials (“Shimmy Shimmy KoKo Bop”)

Jay & The Americans

Frankie Avalon

Wendy & Carnie Wilson of Wilson Phillps

Linda Gail Lewis (Jerry Lee’s younger sister)

The Chiffons (“He’s So Fine”)

Brian Hyland  (“Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polk Dot Bikini”)

Johnny Tillotson (“Poetry in Motion”)

Chubby Checker

Shirley Alston Reeves (original lead singer of the Shirelles)

Here is a 6-minute mini-documentary with snippets of Don McLean singing “American Pie,” footage of the real Holly, Valens and the Big Bopper, scenes from the movie “La Bamba” with actors playing the parts, plus vintage footage of Elvis and others stars of the day.