Ritchie Valens (real name Richard Valenzuela) was born in California on 13 May 1941.
As a youngster he sang and played the guitar at school and in 1958 he signed to Del-Fi records in Hollywood and had his first US hit with the single Come On Let’s Go, which was a UK hit for Tommy Steele.
He achieved huge success with the follow-up singles Donna – which he had written for his high school sweetheart, Donna Ludwig – and La Bamba, and Valens seemed set to become one of the biggest singers in the world.
Tragically, he was killed in the same plane crash which claimed the lives of Buddy Holly and the Big Bopper on 3 February 1959. The Beechcraft Bonanza plane smashed into a cornfield at Ames, Iowa, during a blizzard, killing its distinguished passengers instantly.
Valens was still only 17 years old. He had won his seat in a coin-toss with Holly’s guitarist Tommy Allsup, who lived until January 2017 when he passed away at the age of 85 after complications from hernia surgery.