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Have a Holly, jolly Dance Party

Every year in Clear Lake, Iowa, the Surf Ballroom holds a Winter Dance Party in honor of legendary musicians Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens, who died in a plane crash after performing at the venue in 1959.

Last year, local musicians Denny Charnecki and the DC Drifters performed at the Surf event, but gave a preview of their performance at the Historic Paramount Theatre in Austin. Honored to perform in Iowa this year as well, Charnecki and crew will have the Paramount hopping once again when they take the stage Saturday.

"Some people can't afford to go to the Surf," Charnecki said. "This will be the same program."

While it is the same program that will be featured at the Surf Ballroom, the show called "Dance Party" will not be a carbon copy of the performance last year. Charnecki is always looking to keep things lively and mix it up, even with such established tunes.

"There's some variations, extra things," Charnecki said.


But the music will remain largely the same, being songs from the classic rockers as well as some hits from Motown. Charnecki said the legacy of the music, and its enduring appeal, stem from one basic element.

"It's the real thing, it's not all taped up," said Charnecki, comparing it to today's music that is sometimes produced to the extreme. "It had that raw, rock 'n' roll feeling. It's not something

that's got 9 million electronic sounds."

The crowds that show up at the Paramount seem to agree. Jennie Knoebel, executive director of the theater, said attendance was over 400 people last year, and she expects there to be more this year.

"They really enjoyed the music that everyone knows and loves," said Knoebel. "It's just fun, upbeat music. Denny always throws in something new."

A little historical context is something Charnecki likes to throw in the performance. For him, it isn't just a matter of playing the music, but showing the audience how some of the sounds were achieved back in Holly's era.

"We're going to show people how they put some music and sounds on those records," Charnecki said. One example was the use of legs, boxes, and other items with microphones for drum effects.

"You don't know it 'til you hear it."


Expanding things even more is the theme of this year's event at the Surf, The British Invasion, and the 35th anniversary celebration of the movie "The Buddy Holly Story" with a screening of the movie and appearance by star Gary Busey.

Charnecki and the DC Drifters will perform Jan. 30-31 surrounded by members of Ricky Nelson's family and musicians such as Gary U.S. Bonds and Albert Lee. More information about the Surf's Winter Dance Party can be found at www.surfballroom.com.

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