The Day The Music Died: Buddy Holly Drummer Carl Bunch Shares Memories With Me and Takes a Souvenir
I first met Carl at a media event for the Winter Dane Party in the Duluth National Guard Armory. Most of the crowd hadn't arrived yet, there were just three or four people in the hall. One of those being a man, standing off to the side by himself. "Hi, I'm Rayman from Kool 101.7" I said as I reached out to shake his hand. "I'm Carl Bunch," he replied, and that's how our relationship started.
I remember I'd made a comment about his hat and he let me try it on. We made small talk about my station Kool 101.7, and rock and roll generalities to break the ice. He told me the story of freezing his feet after the Duluth show, on the way to Appleton and then he pretty much went silent. Thinking he might be tired, I suggested we get a coffee and sit down somewhere and he agreed.
Looking around for something to sit on I discovered the staff had not yet put out tables and chairs, so I said "Let's go sit on the stage awhile Carl" As I spoke a sad look came over his face. He seemed scared as together we walked to the front of the stage. He stopped and stared at that stage for what seemed like the longest time, turned to me with a tear and said "The last time I was on this stage, I didn't know I'd never play with the boys again".
This was the first time he'd seen the stage since that night in 1959. He was overcome for several minutes, then turned to me and said "Rayman, do you think it would be o.k. if I took a piece of the stage with me, will you come with me?" I helped him on stage, and he picked two pieces, remarking "I want a smaller one because I have to pack it in my case". It took him several minutes to find exactly what he wanted and he finally came down from the stage with a huge smile and said " I've got two, one for me and one for you", as he held one out for me. "Only if you sign it for me Carl" I said, which he happily did, then placed his carefully in his briefcase. He kept that briefcase with him the entire afternoon... We exchanged emails and autographs and soon it was time for him to do the media interviews for the Winter Dance Party Tour. We shook hands, hugged, and he was off with that wonderful smile on his face, hat on his head, and his briefcase in hand.
Although I never saw Carl again, we e-mailed and stayed in touch with each other three or four times a month for several years. Carl shared stories about the boys, what he was doing in his professional and personal life. Over time, I sensed he was ill, ( trouble with his legs) as my emails hadn't been answered regularly. I found out from a relative he had suffered a stroke. Our visits became less and less, and reading between the lines I could tell it was difficult for him to communicate. Around that time I'd hear from him maybe two or three times a year.
Carl died in March of 2011. He was one of the kindest and most humble people I've known in my lifetime. I miss him, especially when I see that piece of stage he gave me...