Stories that belong on page one don’t always land there. On a cold February evening more than 50 years ago, Minneapolis Tribune editors settled on a front-page lineup that included an outboard-motor theft ring, a nursing home strike, a failed missile test, a congressional hearing attended by two monkeys training for space flight, the resignation of the secretary of the Navy and a short about a bleacher collapse in Portsmouth, Va., in which 29 people were injured. The lead story: An American Airlines flight from Chicago to New York’s LaGuardia Airport crashed in the East River, killing 65 of 72 aboard.

The newsy mix was typical for the Tribune of that era, heavy on wire news, politics, crime and mayhem, leavened with a bright or two. What’s missing? Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper were killed in a plane crash in northern Iowa early that morning of Feb. 3, 1959. Tribune editors decided that the deaths of three “rock 'n’ roll idols” merited only this extended photo caption on page 11 the next day:

Singers Killed

These three rock ’n’ roll singing idols were killed Tuesday when their plane crashed near Mason City, Iowa, en route to play an engagement at Moorhead, Minn. Buddy Holly, 22, left, Ritchie Valens, 17, center, and J.P. (The Big Bopper) Richardson, 24, were killed along with the pilot of the chartered plane. The three took the plane after playing an engagement near Mason City so they could arrive early and get their clothes laundered. The rest of the troupe went by bus. The Moorhead performance went on last night although members of the troupe said they didn’t have the heart to perform. Some 1,000 advance tickets had been sold.

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