Holly, Buddy (actually, Charles Hardin)

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Holly, Buddy (actually, Charles Hardin)

Holly, Buddy (actually, Charles Hardin), pioneering rock and roll songwriter and performer who was a prime inspiration to The Beatles and the British Invasion; b. Lubbock, Tex., Sept. 7, 1936; d. near Mason City, Iowa, Feb. 2, 1959.the crickets: Buddy Holly, lead gtr., voc; Niki Sullivan, rhythm gtr.; Joe Mauldin, standup bs.; and Jerry Allison, drm. (b. Hillsboro, Tex., Aug. 31, 1939). Other members included guitarists Sonny Curtis (b. Meadow, Tex., April 9, 1937), Tommy Allsup, and Glen D. Hardin; vocalists Earl Sinks and Jerry Naylor; and bassist Waylon Jennings. Buddy Holly took up violin and piano at the age of 11, soon switching to acoustic guitar. In the seventh grade, he met guitarist Bob Montgomery, with whom he created a popular local performing duo. The two played “western and bop” music on radio station KDAV in Lubbock between 1953 and 1955, recording a number of songs later issued as Holly in the Hills. Adding bassist Larry Welborn and guitarist Sonny Curtis, the group opened shows for Bill Haley and Elvis Presley in Lubbock. Holly was soon signed to Decca Records, and, three times during 1956, he traveled to Nashville to record under veteran producer Owen Bradley, the second time accompanied by The Three Tunes: Curtis, bassist Don Guess, and drummer Jerry Allison. These recordings, issued in 1958 as That’ll Be the Day, included an early version of “That’ll Be the Day,” as well as “Rock Around with Ollie Vee” and “Midnight Shift.” However, none of Decca’s 1956 singles releases became hits.

Subsequently released by Decca, Buddy Holly started recording at producer Norman Petty’s studio in Clovis, N.Mex., in February 1957 with rhythm guitarist Niki Sullivan, bassist Larry Welborn, and Three Tunes drummer Jerry Allison. The session yielded another version of the Holly-Allison collaboration “That’ll Be the Day” that found its way to executive Bob Thiele after being rejected by Roulette Records. Thiele released the song on Brunswick Records under the name The Crickets and quickly signed the group. By September, the song had become a smash pop, R&B and British hit.

In April 1957 The Crickets came together with Sullivan, Allison, and standup bassist Joe B. Mauldin. Norman Petty took over the career of Buddy Holly and The Crickets as manager, producer, sessions leader and occasional keyboardist, negotiating separate contracts for The Crickets with Brunswick and for Holly with Coral Records. Holly soon scored a smash pop and R&B hit with the classic “Peggy Sue” (backed with “Everyday”), while The Crickets had major crossover hits with “Oh, Boy!” (backed with “Not Fade Away”) and “Maybe Baby.” The Crickets played black theaters such as N.Y.’s Apollo and Washington, D.C/s Howard Theater and their debut album, The “Chirping” Crickets, was released at the end of 1957. Buddy Holly and The Crickets soon appeared on television’s Ed Sullivan Show, but Niki Sullivan left the group in December. Reduced to a trio, Holly was obliged to play both lead and rhythm guitar on tours of the U.S., Australia and England.

1958’s pop-only hits included “Think It Over” for The Crickets, and “Rave on” and Bobby Darin’s “Early in the Morning” for Buddy Holly. Holly had recorded “Early in the Morning” in N.Y. without The Crickets, but with vocal choir and saxophonist Sam “The Man” Taylor. However, “It’s So Easy,” “Heartbeat” and “Love’s Made a Fool of You,” recorded with new guitarist Tommy Allsup, fared poorly. In the fall of 1958, Jerry Allison achieved a minor hit with the frantic “Real Wild Child” as Ivan, backed by Buddy Holly on lead guitar. In September, Holly produced Waylon Jennings’s first single, “Jole Blon,” with backing by saxophonist King Curtis, who also played on Holly’s “Reminiscing.” By October, The Crickets had split from Holly, and Holly had left Norman Petty.

Buddy Holly married Maria Elena Santiago in August and moved to N.Y, where he recorded “True Love Ways,” “Raining in My Heart” and Paul Anka’s “It Doesn’t Matter Anymore” under producer Dick Jacobs, utilizing Jacobs’s orchestra. Holly then embarked on a tour of the Midwest with guitarist Allsup, drummer Charlie Bunch, and guitarist-turned- bassist Waylon Jennings. Following a concert at Clear Lake, Iowa, on Feb. 2, 1959, Buddy Holly, then 22, Ritchie Valens (”Donna,” “La Bamba”), and J. P. “Big Bopper” Richardson (”Chantilly Lace”) died when their chartered plane crashed shortly after takeoff. Jennings had been bumped from the plane, and Dionand The Belmonts, also on the tour, had made other travel arrangements.

“It Doesn’t Matter Anymore” (backed with “Raining in My Heart”) soon became a major pop hit for Buddy Holly. With Holly’s death, Sonny Curtis, Joe Mauldin, Jerry Allison and vocalist Earl Sinks continued as The Crickets, recording for Brunswick and Coral. Curtis, Sullivan and Allison recruited vocalist Jerry Naylor and switched to Liberty in 1961, staying until 1965. Subsequently reuniting in the early 1970s, The Crickets centered around Curtis, Allison and guitarist Glen D. Hardin, who left in 1973 to join Elvis Presley’s band.

Sonny Curtis wrote “Walk Right Back/’ a near-smash pop hit for The Everly Brothers in 1961, and “I Fought the Law,r/ a near-smash pop hit for The Bobby Fuller Four in 1966. He also wrote the theme song of CBS- TV’s Mary Tyler Moore Show and co-wrote, with Jerry Allison, “More than I Can Say,” a minor hit for Bobby Vee in 1961 and a smash hit for Leo Sayer in 1980. Curtis recorded into the 1980s, scoring major country hits with “Love Is All Around” in 1980 and “Good Ol Girls” in 1981. Bob Montgomery proved successful as a songwriter (”Misty Blue”) and independent producer for Johnny Darrell and Bobby Goldsboro. Waylon Jennings struggled as a country-and-western artist through the 1970s, finally achieving recognition as an “outlaw” country musician in 1976. Norman Petty died on Aug. 15, 1984, in Lubbock after a long illness. In 1987 Allison, Mauldin and guitarist-vocalist Gordon Payne recorded Three Piece, released on Allison’s Rollercoaster label. The album became T-Shirt on Epic Records with the addition of the title track, produced by Paul McCartney.

During the 1960s Buddy Holly’s legacy was kept alive as The Rolling Stones debuted in the American charts with “Not Fade Away,” Peter and Gordon hit with “True Love Ways,” and The Bobby Fuller Four scored a major hit with Holly’s “Love’s Made a Fool of You.” In the latter half of the 1970s, Linda Ronstadt recorded a number of Holly’s songs, hitting with “That’ll Be the Day” and “It’s So Easy.” In 1976 Paul McCartney bought the Holly song catalog and initiated the annual Buddy Holly Week (in September) celebration in London. In May 1978, The Buddy Holly Story, starring Gary Busey, was released, becoming a surprise film hit and sparking revitalized interest in Holly. Buddy Holly was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in its inaugural year, 1986, and the movie Peggy Sue Got Married featured his title song. Buddy, a stage musical based on the life and songs of Buddy Holly, debuted in London in October 1989 and toured the U.S. the following year. In 1996 Decca issued Not Fade Away (Remembering Buddy Holly), which contained cover versions of Holly’s songs by the likes of Marty Stuart and Steve Earle, Nanci Griffith, Los Lobos, Joe Ely and The Tractors.


buddy holly and bob montgomery:Holly in the Hills (1965); The Hills (1965).buddy holly and the crickets:The “Chirping” Crickets (1957). buddy holly:That’ll Be the Day (1958); Buddy Holly (1958); The Buddy Holly Story (1959); The Buddy Holly Story, Vol. 2 (1960); Reminiscing (1963); For the First Time Anywhere (1983); The Nashville Sessions (1986). the crickets:In the Style with The Crickets (1961); Bobby Vee Meets The Crickets (1962); Something Old, Something New, Something Blue, Something Else (1963); California Sun (1964); Rockin 50s Rock and Roll (1971); Remnants (1974); T-Shirt (1988).


D. Laing, B. H (N.Y., 1971); E. Peer and R. Peer II , B. H: A Biography in Words, Pictures and Music (N.Y., 1972); J. Goldrosen, B. H.: His Life and Music (Bowling Green, Ohio, 1975); C. Flippo, ’The B. H. Story: Friends Say Movie’s Not Cricket,” Rolling Stone 274 (Sept. 21, 1978); J. Goldrosen, The B. H. Story (N.Y., 1979); J. Goldrosen and J. Beecher, Remembering Buddy: The Definitive Biography (N.Y., 1987); E. Amburn. B. H: A Biography (N.Y., 1995); L. Lehmer, The Day the Music Died: The Last Tour ofB. H, the Big Bopper, and Richie Valens (N.Y., 1997); P. Norman,Rave on: The Biography ofB. H. (N.Y., 1996).

—Brock Helander

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