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On February 3, 1959 in a field near Clear Lake, Iowa, three rock legends died. Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. ("Big Bopper") Richardson were tragically killed in a plane crash after previously playing at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake.

Thousands of people, young and old, were devastated, but for "Terry Teene" that night really hit close to home. Terry was with Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens the night before their deaths.

Terry Knutson or better known as "Terry Teene" is the son of Mr. and Mrs. Kermit Knutson.

Terry's musical career started at the mere age of four when he began taking piano lessons. At the beginning of his junior year in high school, Terry was asked to try out for choir; he did and in doing so he changed the course of his life. He started singing regularly in church when a local disc jockey urged him to appear on a local television program. After appearing for eight straight weeks, Terry had his own band, Terry and the Pirates, and was on his way to stardom.

After graduating from EGHS in 1960, Terry headed for Minneapolis, MN, to make a record but the leader of the band didn't think the song material was good enough. That didn't make him give up. He then packed his bags once again and ventured to Clovis, NM where he recorded two songs, "Just Wait Til I Get You Alone" and "Orchids Mean Good-bye," under Norman Petty.

Since then, Terry has recorded over 300 songs, about 25 records were released when he was a major artist and about 75 records were released where he played a part. At his last count he believes he has recorded using 70 different names.

Some of his song titles are "Curse of the Hearse," "Pussy Galore," "Happiness is Coming," (which he recorded under the name of Blaine Bel Aire), and "We're Going to put Iowa on the Map." Terry's personal favorites are "Fun To Be With" and "Perfect 36."

"Terry Teene" appeared in concert with Alice Cooper, Nazerath, Flo and Kinks, S H A N A N A, Knack, Cheap Trick, Bobby Vee and many, many more.

He was the opening act for Kenny Rogers on New Year's Eve in 1981 and 1984 in Los Angeles Forum with 18,000 plus in attendance. Loretta Lynn, Larry Gatlin, Rick Dees, The Solid Gold Dancers and Dolly Parton were all the featured performers.

"Terry Teene" has performed private parties for such celebrities as Sonny and Cher, Helen Reddy, Jo Ann Flugg, Olivia Hussy, England Dan, Ray Ruff and Susie Allenson, and Jay Burnstein.
by Tiffini Riley


Clowns - you see them at the circus, on television, in parades - but rarely do you meet the man behind the mask.

Terry Teene also has been earning a living since 1963 by performing professionally as Tobo the Clown - and appearing as a singer, entertainer, Santa, and stiltman.

He credits good luck, a few accidents, plus dilligent effort in seeking jobs with the fact that he is one of the few in the business that make a success of it fulltime with no need of an "ordinary" 8 to 5 job to make ends meet.

The Iowa native got into clowning by accident when the Fireballs, a rock group he was singing with, disbanded.

"My clown act includes a little magic, quite a lot with balloons, making them into animals, talking with the children," Teene said.

by Gayle Johnson

  • Raging Bull
  • Die Laughin
  • Dempsy
  • The Trip
  • Psyched Out
  • 4th Nework
  • On The Other Side of The Moon (Jim Carey)
  • I Love Basketball (Spike Lee)
  • Little Nickey (Adam Sandler)
  • In Living Color (Daymon Wayons, David Allen Geer, Jenifer Lopez, etc)
  • The Gong Show (3 times)
  • Jenny Jones
  • TV Special with Arsenal Hall, Woody Harrelson, Pat Boone and Andrew Stevens
  • Santa's Village (commercial)
  • Dodge (Latin America) (commercial)
  • Kodak (commercial)
  • Kids - TV (commercial)


  • Terry is also a writer and a teacher. He has three unpublished books that he has written about Clowning, other views about the business and what he has learned over the years. He teaches "Clownology" at the Learning Tree in Canoga Park and The Business of Show Business in CA. Terry also holds seminars at UCLA each Spring.

  • He has performed at over 2500 private parties, over 500 night clubs and appeared at over 200 grand openings and company picnics. He was the President of Cavalcade of Clowns in 1978 - 1980. He appeared with Circus Vargas for six years, Big John Strong Circus, Mexican International Circus, the Safari Circus where he was Producing Clown, Emmet Kelly Jr. Circus and co-editor of Cavalcade of Clowns.

    Posted February, 2006

  • Rockabilly Hall of Fame