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Buddy Holly

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Buddy Holly
Buddy Holly in concert
Buddy Holly in concert
Background information
Birth name Charles Hardin Holley
Genres Rock and roll , Rockabilly
Occupations Singer-songwriter, Guitarist
Instruments Vocals, Guitar, Piano, Fiddle, Violin
Years active 1949 – 1959
Labels Decca
Associated acts The Crickets
Notable instruments
Fender Stratocaster
Norman Petty Recording Studios in Clovis, New Mexico

Charles Hardin "Buddy" Holley ( September 7 1936 February 3 1959) was an American singer-songwriter and a pioneer of rock and roll. The change of spelling of "Holley" to "Holly" came about because of an error in a contract he was asked to sign, listing him as Buddy Holly. That spelling was then adopted for his professional career.

Although his success lasted only a year and a half before his death in an airplane crash, Holly is described by critic Bruce Eder as "the single most influential creative force in early rock and roll." His works and innovations were copied by his contemporaries and later musicians, notably The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, and exerted a profound influence on popular music. In 2004, Rolling Stone Magazine ranked Holly #13 on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.


Charles Hardin Holley was born in Lubbock, Texas to Lawrence Odell Holley and Ella Pauline Drake in 1936. The Holleys were a musical family and as a young boy Holley learned to play piano, guitar and violin (his brothers oiled the strings so much that no one could hear him play). In 1949 Buddy cut a demo of Hank Snow's 'My Two-Timin' Woman' on a home tape recorder, his first known recording. During the fall of that year he met Bob Montgomery in Hutchinson Junior High School. They shared a common interest in music and soon teamed up as the duo "Buddy and Bob." Initially influenced by bluegrass music, they sang harmony duets at local clubs and high school talent shows. His musical interests grew throughout high school while singing in the Lubbock High School Choir.

Holly turned to rock music after seeing Elvis Presley sing live in Lubbock in early 1955. A few months later, he appeared on the same bill with Presley, also in Lubbock. Holly's transition to rock was finalized when he opened for Bill Haley & 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, Holly was offered a contract with Decca Records to work alone, which he accepted. According to the Amburn book (p. 45), his public name changed from "Holley" to "Holly" on February 8, 1956, when he signed the Decca contract. Among the tracks recorded for Decca was an early version of " That'll Be The Day", which took its title from a phrase that John Wayne's character said repeatedly in the 1956 film, The Searchers.

Buddy Holly statue on the Lubbock Walk of Fame

Back in Lubbock, Holly formed his own band, The Crickets and began making records at Norman Petty's studios in Clovis, New Mexico. 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 Holly in the unusual position of having two record contracts at the same time. Before "That'll Be The Day" had its nationwide release, Holly played lead guitar on the hit-single "Starlight", recorded in April, 1957, featuring Jack Huddle. The initial, unsuccessful version of "That'll Be The Day" played more slowly and about half an octave higher than the hit version.

Holly managed to bridge some of the racial divide that marked rock n' roll music. While Elvis made black music more acceptable to whites, Holly won over an all-black audience when the Crickets were accidentally booked at New York's Apollo Theatre (though, unlike the immediate response depicted in the 1978 movie The Buddy Holly Story, it actually took several performances for his talents to be appreciated).

After the release of several highly successful songs in 1958, Holly and the Crickets toured Australia in January and later the United Kingdom.

That same year, he met Maria Elena Santiago (born 1935 in San Juan, Puerto Rico) while she was working as a receptionist for Peer-Southern Music, a New York music publisher. He proposed to her on their very first date. She initially thought he was kidding, but they were married in Lubbock, Texas on August 15, 1958, less than two months after they met. Maria traveled on some of the tours, doing everything from the laundry to equipment set-up to ensuring the group got paid.

The ambitious Holly became increasingly interested in the New York music/recording/publishing scene, while his easygoing bandmates wanted to go back home to Lubbock. As a result, in 1959, the group split.


Holly's headstone in the City of Lubbock Cemetery

Holly began a solo tour with other notable performers, including Dion and the Belmonts, Ritchie Valens, and J.P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson. One night after a performance in Green Bay, Wisconsin at the Riverside Ballroom, the three headliners gave a show at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa on February 2, 1959. Afterwards, Buddy Holly chartered a Beechcraft Bonanza to take him and his new back-up band ( Tommy Allsup and Waylon Jennings) to Fargo, North Dakota, enroute to play the next leg of the Winter Dance Party tour at the Armory in Moorhead, Minnesota. Carl Bunch missed the flight as he had been hospitalized with frostbite three days earlier. The Big Bopper asked Jennings for his spot on the four-seat plane, as he was recovering from the flu. Ritchie Valens was still signing autographs at the concert site when Allsup walked in and told him it was time to go. Allsup pulled a 50 cent coin out of his pocket and the two men flipped for the seat. Allsup lost.

The plane took off in light snow and gusty winds at around 12:55 A.M., but crashed after only a few minutes. The wreckage was discovered several hours later by the plane's owner, Jerry Dwyer, some 8 miles (13 km) from the airport on the property of Albert Juhl. The crash killed Holly, Valens, Richardson, and the 21-year-old pilot, Roger Peterson. Holly's body, along with those of Valens and Richardson, was thrown from the wreckage. Holly and Valens lay 17 feet (5.2 m) south of the wreckage and Richardson was thrown around 40 feet (12 m) to the north of the wreckage. The pilot's body remained in the wreckage. All had suffered severe and multiple injuries. Without any doubt, all had died on impact, with the plane hitting the ground at 170 mph (270 km/h). While theories abound as to the exact cause of the crash, an official determination of pilot error was rendered by the Civil Aeronautics Board. Although the crash received a good deal of local coverage, it was displaced in the national news by an accident that occurred the same day in New York City, when American Airlines Flight 320 crashed during an instrument landing approach at LaGuardia Airport, killing 65. Don McLean referred to it as "The Day the Music Died".

Holly's pregnant wife became a widow after barely six months of marriage and miscarried soon after.

Holly's funeral services were held at 2:00 p.m., Saturday, February 7, 1959 at the Tabernacle Baptist Church in Lubbock under the direction of Sanders Funeral Home. His body was interred in the City of Lubbock Cemetery in the eastern part of the city. Holly's headstone carries the correct spelling of his surname (Holley) and a carving of his Fender Stratocaster guitar.

Posthumous record releases

Buddy Holly's music did not die with him. He had recorded so prolifically that his record label was able to release brand-new Buddy Holly albums and singles for 10 years after his death. Holly's simple demonstration recordings were overdubbed by studio musicians, to bring them up to then-commercial standards. The best of these records is often considered to be the first posthumous single, the 1959 coupling of " Peggy Sue Got Married" and " Crying, Waiting, Hoping", produced by Jack Hansen, with added backing vocals by the Ray Charles Singers in simulation of an authentic Crickets record. "Crying, Waiting, Hoping" was actually supposed to be the "A" side of the 45, with the backup group effectively echoing Buddy's call-and-response vocal. The Hansen session, in which Holly's last six original compositions were overdubbed, was issued on the 1960 Coral LP The Buddy Holly Story, Vol. 2' '.

Buddy Holly continued to be promoted and sold as an “active” artist, and his records had a loyal following, especially in Europe. The demand for unissued Holly material was so great that Norman Petty resorted to overdubbing whatever he could find: alternate takes of studio recordings, originally rejected masters, “Crying, Waiting, Hoping” and the other five 1959 tracks (adding new surf-guitar arrangements), and even Holly's amateur demos from 1954 (where the low-fidelity vocals are often muffled behind the new orchestrations). The last new Buddy Holly album was Giant (featuring the single, “ Love Is Strange”), issued in 1969. Between the 1959-60 Jack Hansen overdubs, the 1960s Norman Petty overdubs, various alternate takes, and Holly's undubbed originals, collectors can often choose from multiple versions of the same song.


Holly's music was sophisticated for its day, including the use of instruments considered novel for rock and roll, such as the celesta (heard on "Everyday"). 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 previously appeared in the genre.

Many of his songs feature a unique vocal "hiccup" technique, a glottal stop, to emphasize certain words in any given song, especially the rockers. Other singers (such as Elvis) have used a similar technique, though less obviously and consistently. Examples of this can be found at the start of the raucous "Rave On": "Weh-eh-ell, the little things you say and do, make me want to be with you-ou..."; in "That'll Be the Day": "Well, you give me all your lovin' and your -turtle dovin'..."; and in "Peggy Sue": "I love you Peggy Sue - with a love so rare and tr-ue ..."


Contrary to popular belief, teenagers John Lennon and Paul McCartney did not attend a Holly concert; Tony Bramwell, a school friend of McCartney and George Harrison, did. Bramwell met Holly, and freely shared his records with all three. Lennon and McCartney later cited Holly as a primary influence. (Their band's name, The Beatles, was chosen partly in homage to Holly's Crickets.) The Beatles did a cover version of "Words of Love" that was a close reproduction of Holly's version. Fan McCartney owns the publishing rights to Holly's song catalogue.

A young Bob Dylan attended the January 31, 1959 show, two nights before Holly's death. Dylan referred to this in his 1998 Grammy acceptance speech for his 1997 Time out of Mind winning Album of the Year:

"And I just want to say that when I was sixteen or seventeen years old, I went to see Buddy Holly play at Duluth National Guard Armory and I was three feet away from him...and he LOOKED at me. And I just have some sort of feeling that he was — I don't know how or why — but I know he was with us all the time we were making this record in some kind of way."

Various rock and roll histories have asserted that the singing group The Hollies were named in homage to Buddy Holly. According to the band's website, although the group admired Holly (and years later produced an album covering some of his songs), their name was inspired primarily by the sprigs of holly in evidence around Christmas of 1962. However, the site also admits to a degree of uncertainty about that story.

Other followers

After the death of Buddy he would leave a trail of followers from Bob Dylan, to Elvis Costello, Paul Simon, and The Beatles. Also, one of The Rolling Stones early hits was a cover of "Not Fade Away".



Don McLean's popular 1971 ballad " American Pie" is inspired by the " The Day the Music Died" (the day of the plane crash). He has also covered " Every Day."

Eddie Cochran, good friend and fellow rock 'n' roll pioneer was so distraught by the deaths of Holly, Valens and The Big Bopper that he recorded the song "Three Stars" as a tribute. Ironically, the song was not released until after Cochran's own premature death.

A 1980 Gyllene Tider song is called "Ska vi älska, så ska vi älska till Buddy Holly". ("If We'll Make Love, We'll Make Love (listening) to Buddy Holly").

The Smithereens' song "Maria Elena" is a Buddy Holly tribute as sung to his widow.

Blink 182 has a song named "Peggy Sue" which is a tribute to Holly.

Phil Ochs famously sang a long tribute to Buddy Holly on the infamous Gunfight at Carnegie Hall album.

Mike Berry released a 1961 single called " Tribute to Buddy Holly". It was written by Geoff Goddard and produced by Joe Meek, who was a great Buddy Holly fan. In the USA, it was released on Coral, Buddy Holly's label.

Weezer's self-titled debut album features the band's popular single " Buddy Holly".

The Ramones video for the song " Do You Remember Rock 'n' Roll Radio?" features an extended clip of Buddy Holly performing on The Ed Sullivan Show.

The Dixie Chicks mentioned him in "Lubbock or Leave It" on Taking The Long Way - "International airport / A quarter after nine / Paris, Texas, Athens, Georgia's not what I had in mind / As I'm getting out I laugh to myself / 'cause this is the only place / Where as you're getting on the plane you see Buddy Holly's face / I hear they hate me now just like they hated you / Maybe when I'm dead and gone, I'm gonna get a statue too."

In 1985 the German rock band Die Ärzte sang a song named "Buddy Hollys Brille" (Buddy Holly's glasses), in which they discussed in a humorous way the question of what happened to Buddy Holly's glasses after his death.

Mac Davis' "Texas In My Rearview Mirror" also references Buddy Holly, with these lines:

Humming an old Buddy Holly tune called "Peggy Sue"
With my favorite jeans
And a cheap guitar
I ran off chasing a distant star
If Buddy Holly could make it that far
I figured I could too

"Sleep Walk" is an instrumental steel guitar-based song recorded and released in 1959 by Santo & Johnny. It was recorded at Trinity Music in Manhattan. "Sleep Walk" entered Billboard's 'Top 40' on August 17, 1959. It rose to the No. 1 position for two weeks in September (the 21st and the 28th) and remained in the Top 40 list until November 9. It is also recognized as a tribute to Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and The Big Bopper.

Musician Albert Hammond, Jr. has a cover of "Well... Alright" on his 2007 album Yours To Keep.

Run-DMC's music video for the song " King of Rock" has an extended video on Buddy Holly performing on The Ed Sullivan Show.


Fan monument in a private cornfield at the site of the airplane crash, near Clear Lake, Iowa

Downtown Lubbock has a "walk of fame" with plaques to various area artists such as Glenna Goodacre, Mac Davis, Maines Brothers Band, and Waylon Jennings, with a life-size statue of Buddy by sculptor Grant Speed (1980), playing his Fender guitar, as its centerpiece. Downtown Lubbock also features Buddy Holly Avenue and the Buddy Holly Centre, which is a museum dedicated to Texas art and music.

In 1988, Ken Paquette, a Wisconsin fan of the 1950s, erected a stainless steel monument at the site of the airplane crash, 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 approximately five miles north of Clear Lake. He also created a similar stainless steel monument to the three musicians at the Riverside Ballroom in Green Bay, Wisconsin. That memorial was unveiled on July 17 2003.


The Surf Ballroom hosts an annual tribute on the anniversary of Holly's last performances. The 'Winter Dance Party Tour' is a tribute tour to Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, The Big Bopper and early rock and roll. It gets its name from the tour that ended the lives of Holly, Valens, and Richardson. This reproduction of the tour ends every year at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa.

Buddy Holly in popular culture

Film and musical depictions

  • The dramatic arc of Holly's life story inspired a Hollywood biographical film, The Buddy Holly Story. Star Gary Busey received a nomination for Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of Holly. The movie was widely criticized by the rock community for its inaccuracies. This led Paul McCartney to produce and host his own tribute to Holly, titled The Real Buddy Holly Story. This authoritative video includes interviews with Keith Richards, Phil and Don Everly, Sonny Curtis, Jerry Allison, Holly's family, and McCartney himself, among others.
  • In 1987 Marshall Crenshaw portrayed Buddy Holly in the movie La Bamba. He is featured performing at the Surf Ballroom and boarding the doomed airplane with Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper. Crenshaw's version of Crying, Waiting, Hoping is featured on the La Bamba original motion picture soundtrack.
  • There were also successful Broadway and West End musicals documenting his career. Buddy - The Buddy Holly Story ran in the West End for 13 years. This was followed by a tour and return to the West End on the 3rd August 2007.
  • Holly, The Crickets and The Big Bopper are also depicted in a touring tribute act, Buddy Holly and The Cricketers. They recently appeared on BBC1's The One and Only.
  • In the 1994 film Pulp Fiction, a scene depicts John Travolta and Uma Thurman's characters dining at a fictional 1950's themed restaurant named Jack Rabbit Slims. The waiter in the movie is dressed as Buddy Holly. He is played by Steve Buscemi.
  • The 1998 film Six-String Samurai, a surreal romp through an alternate-timeline post-apocalyptic America (Russia bombed and then invaded the United States in 1957), features a rock-and-rolling martial arts hero named "Buddy" who sports familiar black horn-rimmed glasses and a tuxedo. The film follows Buddy's journey to "Lost Vegas", the last outpost of freedom in the world, to claim the crown of the recently-deceased King Elvis.
  • A fictional and comedic take on his final moments will appear in the 2009 film Lives and Deaths of the Poets, Holly will be portrayed by Gordon Gantt.
  • Holly will be depicted in a 2009 movie, The Day the Music Died. The film is set to be released on February 3, 2009, the 50th anniversary of the crash that claimed the lives of Holly, Valens, and Richardson.
  • A short clip of Buddy Holly can be seen in the background of the beginning of the guitar solo in the music video for "Majesty of Rock, The" by Spinal Tap.
  • The Ramones video for the song " Do You Remember Rock n' Roll Radio" features an extended clip of Buddy Holly performing on the Ed Sullivan show.
  • In the 2007 film Walk Hard, Frankie Muniz portrays Buddy Holly for a brief moment while trying to calm the nerves of John C. Reilly's fictional character Dewey Cox.


The science fiction novel Buddy Holly Is Alive and Well on Ganymede, by Bradley Denton ( ISBN 0-688-10822-9 and ISBN 0-380-71876-6), begins when television sets throughout the world suddenly begin broadcasting a concert by an apparently living Buddy Holly, who says he is on Ganymede.

In Soul Music, part of Terry Pratchett's Discworld, a character by the name of Imp y Celyn appeared as a bard-cum-guitar-playing-rocker from the fictional Cymric country of Llamedos. He became the Disc's greatest musician under the name Buddy in the Band with Rocks In, before dying in a cart crash (a reference to Buddy Holly as Imp's name translates as "bud of the holly").


"Oil", an episode of The Young Ones features Mike ( Christopher Ryan) discovering Buddy Holly, alive and well and tangled in parachutes, in the attic of a house in London.

A fictional version of a young pre-fame Buddy Holly is a main character in an episode of Quantum Leap, working as a veterinarian's assistant.

In the Simpsons episode " Colonel Homer", the manager of the recording studio fondly recalled how "Buddy Holly stood on this spot in 1958 and said, 'There is no way in hell, I am gonna record in this dump.'" In a later episode, Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper appear on an Itchy and Scratchy cartoon. Itchy sabotages the plane's engine, resulting in the crash that kills the musicians and pilot Scratchy. In yet another episode, Lisa discovers Sideshow Bob had won election as mayor through votes by her two dead cats, Snowball I and Snowball II, as well as Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper (whose tombstone reads "good bye, baaaaby!!").

In an episode of the MTV series Clone High, Holly "guest stars", along with Ritchie Valens, The Big Bopper, and several other musicians who died in plane crashes.

In episode " Victor Echo November" of The Venture Bros., Triana Orpheus says that Dean Venture "dresses like Buddy Holly, but I think he does it by accident".

In the Miami Vice episode "Heart of Darkness", Crockett gets mad at Elvis, his pet alligator for devouring his "entire Buddy Holly collection".

In episode " Cabin Fever", of " Lost", John Locke's mother is dancing to Holly's " Everyday".


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