Did Buddy Holly’s ‘tour from hell’ ended in Issaquah?

August 18, 2009

By David Hayes

José Enciso reaches out to a friend while standing in front of his newly acquired Kenworth coach, decorated as a 1958 rock ‘n’ roll band’s tour bus, on display at the XXX Rootbeer Drive-in. By Greg Farrar

José Enciso reaches out to a friend while standing in front of his newly acquired Kenworth coach, decorated as a 1958 rock ‘n’ roll band’s tour bus, on display at the XXX Rootbeer Drive-in. By Greg Farrar

Many people have private collections featuring a piece of rock ’n’ roll history. Jose Enciso jumped at the chance to acquire a huge chunk.

As the owner of the XXX Rootbeer Drive-in, Enciso said he’s always searching to bring something else into Issaquah that gives it a signature attraction. The interior of his restaurant already features a museum’s worth of kitsch. Now, his parking lot features the biggest item yet — Buddy Holly’s tour bus.

Maybe.

Enciso cannot confirm the chain of ownership of the 1950s Kenworth. He can only share what he’s been told. But the mystique, whether true or not, of possibly owning something out of rock infamy is what he hopes draws in customers.“The beauty of that bus is I really don’t want to know the truth,” Enciso said. “As is, it’s a magical bus. You look at it and your mind takes an imaginary journey.”

The journey began in 1959 when singer Buddy Holly was on what would become known as the “tour from hell” during a bitterly cold jaunt across the upper Midwest. He was performing in small music halls with other artists of the day, including Waylon Jennings, The Big Bopper, Dion and Ritchie Valens.

When the bus broke down, yet again, after a performance at the Duluth Armory in Clear Lake, Wis., he’d had enough. So he, Valens and the Bopper chartered a small plane at Mason City. Their Bonanza Beechcraft crashed minutes after takeoff into a nearby cornfield, killing all aboard. The incident was memorialized in the Don McClain song, “The Day the Music Died.”

Skip forward to modern day. Enciso is told quite the tale by a longtime customer from Eastern Washington who has a habit of stopping by the XXX whenever on this side of the mountains.

“He said he learned about a bus sitting on a farm that was Buddy Holly’s bus and wanted to know if I was interested in it,” Enciso said.

Absolutely.

Apparently the farmer came into possession of the bus after the original owner defaulted on storage payments. Before that, the bus was part of a diner in Wenatchee, where diners could sit inside the restaurant or inside the bus to eat. When the restaurant closed, the bus, originally from upstate New York, ended up in storage, awaiting its fate.

The new owner wasn’t willing to let just anyone have it. Enciso said the farmer was very reluctant until he learned who was trying to acquire it.

“What broke the ice was he was told the people from the XXX were interested,” he said. “Then, there was a spark in his eyes.”

Luckily, he had a special affinity for the drive-in. When the farmer was a boy, his father used to drive them across the mountains to eat at the XXX.

But negotiations still took several months. Enciso realized he was dealing with a heart that just didn’t want to let something go. So, he sweetened the deal. He promised to also purchase from the farmer two antique horse-drawn wagons as a package deal.

The next phase was finding a truck big enough to haul the vehicles to Issaquah.

After several thousand dollars, the Buddy Holly bus now sits at the entrance to XXX, drawing gawkers to the rock ’n’ roll oddity. Enciso said a Kenworth bus enthusiast bought, on his own dime, new five-inch track lights and traveled all the way to Vancouver, Wash., to get new parts for the door.

“He just comes out and sits inside the bus. He wouldn’t take any money for his contributions,” Enciso said.

A veteran of car renovation, Enciso is torn between restoring the bus or leaving it as is. He knows it requires a complete overhaul to get it running perfectly again and looking new. But he also knows if done wrong, the nitpickers would be hard to satisfy. Regardless, he said he figures he’s made the right move acquiring the bus for his restaurant patrons.

“It already is paying for itself for what it does for people,” he said. “People look at it and can make their own imaginary journey.”

Reach Reporter David Hayes at 392-6434, ext. 237, or dhayes@isspress.com. Comment on this story at www.issaquahpress.com.

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Comments

3 Responses to “Did Buddy Holly’s ‘tour from hell’ ended in Issaquah?”

  1. Rebecca L. Simpson on May 13th, 2010 2:29 am

    I was recently showed a 1950′s Kenworth & told the VIN number was traced back to the bus that Buddy Holly used and it is sitting in a different state then Washington. I find it hard to believe the owner of this bus in the state of Washington can’t confirm the chain of ownership all vehicles have VIN numbers. Even if I was lied too which I am not sure I was since I would first have to know why this bus in the state of Washington can’t have its VIN Numbers traced………just wanted to share this infomation.

  2. Dave White on August 27th, 2010 9:57 pm

    I built this bus for my restaurant called Gasoline Alley in 1990 in Dayton, Washington…It isn’t the original bus but I am glad it is again pleasing people…It and the restaurant are some of my proudest achievements.

    Dave White

  3. Troy LaVerne Mayes on November 13th, 2010 10:17 am

    I’m restoring a 1952 kenworth bus like this one. It has an rv conversion.
    Its going to be painted a sports car yellow, with polished aluminum wheels.
    Once i’ve had some fun with it I will likely sell it .I also just installed a 5.9 cummins and allison auto in it

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