Buddy Holly - Biography
Charles Hardin Holley
(September 7, 1936–February 3, 1959), better known as Buddy Holly,
was an American singer, songwriter, and a pioneer of Rock and Roll.
Holley was born in Lubbock, Texas.
The Holleys were a musical family and as a young boy Holley learned
to play the violin, piano and guitar. In the fall of 1949 he met Bob
Montgomery at Hutchison Jr. High School. They shared a common
interest in music, and soon teamed up to perform as the duo "Buddy
and Bob." Initially influenced by bluegrass music, they sang harmony
duets at local clubs and high school talent shows. Holley's big
break came when they opened for Bill Haley and his Comets at a local
rock show organized by Eddie Crandall who was also the manager for
Marty Robbins. As a result of this performance, Holley was offered a
contract with Decca Records to work alone. However, early success as
a solo artist eluded him.
Back in Lubbock, Holley formed his
own band, "The Crickets", and began making records at Norman Petty's
studios in Clovis, New Mexico. Among the songs they recorded was
That'll Be the Day, which takes its title from a phrase which
John Wayne's character says repeatedly in the movie, The
Searchers. Norman had music industry contacts, and believing
that That'll Be the Day would be a hit single, he contacted
publishers and labels. Coral Records, a subsidiary of Decca, signed
Buddy Holly and The Crickets. This put Buddy in the unusual position
of having two record contracts at the same time.
Holly's music was sophisticated for
its day, including the use of instruments considered novel for rock
and roll, such as the celesta. Holly was an influential lead and
rhythm guitarist, notably on songs such as "Peggy Sue" and "Not Fade
Away". While Holly could pump out boy-loves-girl songs with the best
of his contemporaries, other songs featured more sophisticated
lyrics and more complex harmonies and melodies than had been
previously shown in the genre.
Many of his songs feature a unique
vocal "hiccup" technique, a clipped "uh" sound used to emphasize
certain words in any given song, especially the rockers. Example,
the start of the raucous number Rave On: "We-UH-ell, the
little things you say and do, make me want to be with you-UH-ou..."
Holly also managed to bridge some
of the racial divide that punctuated rock, notably winning over an
all-black audience when accidentally booked for New York's Apollo
Theater (though, unlike the fictional portrayal in his movie
biography, it took several performances for audiences to be
convinced of his talents).
After the release of several highly
successful songs, in March of 1958, he and the Crickets toured the
United Kingdom. In the audience were teenagers named John Lennon and
Paul McCartney, who later cited Holly as a primary influence (the
band's name, The Beatles, was later chosen partly in homage to
Holly's Crickets). The Beatles did a cover version of Words of
Love that was an almost perfect reproduction of Holly's version.
The Rolling Stones did a cover of Not Fade Away. The group The
Hollies were named in homage.
Holly's personal style, more
controlled and cerebral than Elvis's and more youthful and
innovative than the country and western stars of his day, would have
an influence on youth culture on both sides of the Atlantic for
decades to come, reflected particularly in the New Wave movement in
artists such as Elvis Costello and Marshall Crenshaw, and earlier in
folk rock bands like The Byrds and The Turtles.
He married Maria Elena Santiago on
August 15, 1958
In 1959, Holly split with the
Crickets and began a solo tour with other notable performers
including Ritchie Valens and J.P. Richardson, "The Big Bopper". One
audience member at the tour stop in Duluth, Minnesota was a young
Bobby Zimmerman who would later be known as Bob Dylan.
Following the February 2nd
performance at the Surf Ballroom in
Clear Lake, Iowa, the performers and their road crew drew straws to
decide who would fly in the airplane, and who would ride in the
unheated tour bus. The unlucky winners were Holly, Valens and
Richardson. The four-passenger Beechcraft Bonanza took off into a
blinding snow storm and crashed into Albert Juhl's corn field
several miles after takeoff at 1.05 a.m. The crash killed Holly,
Valens, Richardson, and pilot Roger Peterson, leaving Holly's
pregnant bride, Maria Elena Holly, a widow. (She would miscarry soon
after.) Funeral services were held at the Tabernacle Baptist Church
in Lubbock, Texas, and Buddy Holly was interred in the City of
Holly's headstone carries the
correct spelling of his name, Buddy Holley. It also features a
carving of his favourite guitar. Downtown Lubbock has a "walk of
fame" with plaques to various area artists such as Mac Davis and
Waylon Jennings, with a life-size statue of a guitar playing Buddy
as its centerpiece.
The tragic plane crash inspired
singer Don McLean's popular 1971 ballad American Pie, and
immortalized February 3rd as The Day The Music Died. Contrary
to popular myth, "American Pie" was not the name of the
The Surf Ballroom, a popular and
old-fashioned dance hall that dates to the height of
Big Band Era, continues to put on
shows, notably an annual Buddy Holly tribute on the anniversary of
his last performances.
In 1988, Ken Paquette, a Wisconsin
fan of the '50s era, erected a stainless steel monument depicting a
steel guitar and a set of three records bearing the names of each of
the three performers. It is located on private farmland, about one
quarter mile west of the intersection of 315th Street and Gull
Avenue, approximately eight miles north of Clear Lake. He also
created a similar stainless steel monument to the three musicians
near the Riverside Ballroom in Green Bay, Wisconsin. That memorial
was unveiled on July 17, 2003.
The dramatic arc of Holly's life
story inspired a Hollywood biography The Buddy Holly Story,
for which actor Gary Busey received a nomination for Academy Award
for Best Actor for his portrayal of Holly, as well as a successful
Broadway musical documenting his career. This musical is still alive
in various countries.
Buddy Holly is considered one of
the founding fathers of rock 'n roll and one of its most
influential. Although his career was cut short, his body of work is
considered some of the best in rock music history and his music
would influence not only many of his recording contemporaries, but
also the future direction music would take. As one of the caprocks
of Rock 'n' Roll Buddy influenced groups for decades.
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