John Mueller’s “Winter Dance Party”, the official live and authentic recreation of the last tour in 1959 which included Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and Jiles Perry Richardson Jr., also known as The Big Bopper, will bring Owensboro back to the 1950s with their performance at 7 p.m. tonight at the RiverPark Center.
The only show endorsed by the Holly, Valens and Richardson estates, the performance features over two hours of “unbridled, high-tension entertainment” that includes some of the classic tunes of the ’50s era, including “Chantilly Lace,” La Bamba,” “Oh man!” and “Peggy Sue”.
“This will be my first time (in Owensboro) and I’m really looking forward to it,” Mueller said. “…I hope the people of Owensboro will come out and experience it.”
Mueller, who starred in the US touring version of the Broadway and West End musical “Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story,” stars as the titular musician alongside Ray Anthony as Valens and Linwood Sasser portraying The Big Bopper.
Mueller became attracted to Holly due to their similar qualities and Holly’s perception.
“Buddy Holly was kind of a straight forward and sincere guy from Texas and I’m originally from Kansas – and I feel like I share some of his qualities in that regard (in terms of) being honest and straight – forward,” Mueller said. “What I loved most about him was the fact that he was like a normal person who became a rock ‘n’ roll star…”
Growing up in the late 70s and early 80s, Mueller enjoyed listening to Holly and Chuck Berry records, admitting he would hop around his basement and find the music appealing to listen to.
“…It just made me feel alive,” Mueller said. “Something to do with the pacing and just the fact that they’re so joy-oriented…. I’ve always been drawn to songs that have real Chuck Berry rhythm and just guitar rhythm. I love this kind of music.
Mueller notes that Holly served as an influence for other bands that eventually made their way to mainstream.
“…He was kind of the foundation for the tilt of the first rock-and-roll band as we know them today,” Mueller said. “The Beatles (and) the Rolling Stones were inspired by Buddy Holly and the Crickets; they wrote their own songs….
Since debuting the show in 1999 – the 40th anniversary of the original Winter Dance Party tour which took place in 1959 – the band has performed to more than two million people on television for “The Jerry Lewis MDA Labor Day Telethon” while keeping busy touring the United States and Canada, including the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa – the last venue Holly, Valens and The Big Bopper performed on the exact same date.
“I thought it would be cool to go back and do the exact route and visit the original towns and even some of the original ballrooms that were still standing,” Mueller said.
While Mueller thought the performance would only take place once a year between January and February, they began to receive requests to play in other cities.
“The demand grew until I was doing it full-time and a few years later going…to different cities year-round,” Mueller said.
The band has also performed with Grammy-winning bandleader and pop pianist Peter Nero and the Philly Pops Orchestra, Holly’s widow María Elena Holly, Niki Sullivan, Holly’s former bandmate and original member of The Crickets and Tommy Allsup, who played guitar in the original Winter Dance. Party visit.
Mueller credits the vibe of the music as what has kept it going over the decades and how their show became the success it is today.
“…It’s just fun, happy music…before rock and roll was steeped in political lyrics and so on,” Mueller said. “I think that says a lot about the longevity of the music and also the longevity of our show; people have a great time at our shows (and) they get really excited and dancing and jumping up and down…. They tell us it makes them feel like teenagers again, so that’s always nice to hear.
Additionally, Mueller has three CDs of his own original music and plays one of his tracks “Hey, Buddy” near the end of the show.
“It’s kind of an emotional type of song…that people seem to really appreciate (and) relate to,” Mueller said.
For tonight’s show, Mueller looks forward to audiences having a joyful, retro experience.
“They can definitely expect a high energy show. It won’t be like watching a nostalgic act from yesteryear or anything like that,” Mueller said. “We really want people to feel like they’re at a 1950s concert…. I want people to walk away with how fun this 50s music was and its claim to live forever, I hope.