The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is full of classic rockers with great stories to tell. But few can match Hall of Famer Dion DiMucci, who as the 19-year-old leader of Dion and the Belmonts ("A Teenager in Love") coheadlined the doomed Winter Dance Party Tour 42 years ago, along with Buddy Holly, the Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens. "It was 30 below zero and we were on this little yellow school bus," recalls Dion. The cold caused Holly to charter a plane, which crashed shortly after takeoff from Clear Lake, Iowa, on Feb. 2, 1959, killing all aboard. Frugality spared Dion, who had balked at the $36 ticket price–the amount his parents paid for rent back in The Bronx. "My brain hadn't stretched out to where I could spend a month's rent on a 45-minute flight."
Now 61 and living in Boca Raton, Fla., with Susan, his wife of 37 years, Dion has a box set of hits, Dion: King of the New York Streets, in stores as well as a new album called Déjá Nu. But it took a toon, Chicken Run, which features "The Wanderer" on its soundtrack, to turn on a new generation. The music's enduring appeal is not strictly nostalgic, insists Dion: "It was heavy, it was deep. It was as bad as rap. There was a sense of urgency."