Holly, Buddy 1936-1959

views updated

HOLLY, Buddy 1936-1959

PERSONAL: Born Charles Hardin Holley, September 7, 1936, in Lubbock, TX; died in a plane crash February 3, 1959, near Mason City, IA; buried in City of Lubbock Cemetery, Lubbock, TX; son of Lawrence and Ella Holley; married Maria Elena Santiago (a receptionist), 1958.

CAREER: Musician, singer, and songwriter.

AWARDS, HONORS: Inducted into Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, 1986.


songwriter: with others

The Chirping Crickets, Brunswick Records (New York, NY), 1957, released as Buddy Holly and the Crickets, 1962.

Buddy Holly, Coral Records (New York, NY), 1958.

That'll Be the Day, Decca (New York, NY), 1958, released as The Great Buddy Holly, 1967.

The Buddy Holly Story, 2 vols., Coral Records (New York, NY), 1959-1960.

Reminiscing, Coral Records (New York, NY), 1963.

Showcase, Coral Records (New York, NY), 1964.

Holly in the Hills, Coral Records (New York, NY), 1965.

The Best of Buddy Holly, Coral Records (New York, NY), 1966.

Buddy Holly's Greatest Hits, Coral Records (New York, NY), 1967.

Giant, Coral Records (New York, NY), 1969. Good Rockin', Vocalion (New York, NY), 1971.

Buddy Holly: A Rock and Roll Collection Decca (New York, NY), 1972.

Buddy Holly and the Crickets: 20 Golden Greats, MCA Records (Universal City, CA), 1978.

The Complete Buddy Holly, MCA Records (Universal City, CA), 1981.

For the First Time Anywhere, MCA Records (Universal City, CA), 1983.

Legend: From the Original Master Tapes MCA Records (Universal City, CA), 1985.

Twentieth-Century Masters: The Millennium Collection: The Best of Buddy Holly, MCA Records (Universal City, CA), 1999.

Buddy Holly: The Ultimate EP Collection, See for Miles (Ashford, Middlesex, England), 2001.

SIDELIGHTS: Buddy Holly was one of the most influential rock 'n' roll performers of the 1950s. Born Charles Hardin Holley, he began learning the piano at age eleven and soon after took up the violin and guitar. He began performing while still in high school as part of a duo with friend Bob Montgomery. The two, billed as Buddy and Bob, were inspired by the local country and western sound.

Holly's talent caught the interest of a scout from the record company Decca, who saw "Buddy and Bob" open for concerts by Hank Snow, Bill Haley and Marty Robbins. The scout took Holly, then age twenty, to Nashville where he first experienced recording professionally. The record company, however, decided against pursuing a contract with Holly at the time, so he returned to Lubbock. This proved a blessing in disguise for the musician: upon returning he began to collaborate with a new group that included Niki Sullivan on guitar, Joe Mauldin on bass guitar, and Jerry Allison on drums; they called themselves the Crickets. Producer Norman Petty worked with the group to record their first songs in Clovis, New Mexico. Petty's guidance led to a contract with a Decca subsidiary, and the producer also co-wrote several of their hits. The group's greatest fame came with the song "That'll Be the Day," which Holly composed along with Petty and Allison. It is Holly's only song that topped the charts, reaching there in 1957.

"That'll Be the Day" was included on Holly and the Crickets' first album, The Chirping Crickets. Other notable songs on it are "Oh Boy!," "Not Fade Away," and "Maybe Baby." Their unique sound, sometimes labeled Rockabilly, blended the country and western influence of Texas with rhythm and blues. And Holly's own vocal style featured stretched syllables and high energy. In 1958 Holly and the Crickets successfully toured England.

Decca also signed Holly to his own recording contract on Coral Records, one of its other labels. In 1957 Holly recorded his first solo hit, "Peggy Sue," written with Petty and Allison. It was released on the 1958 album Buddy Holly, which also includes "Rave On." His solo style resembled a stripped-down version of his songs with the Crickets, emphasizing simplicity. Without the backing vocals of the Crickets, the songs featured mainly drums, guitar, or piano, and Holly's distinct voice.

Soon Holly decided to concentrate on his solo work. After marrying a receptionist at the record company, he left Lubbock and his band behind to move to New York City. He gathered a group of musicians to back him, including future country music star Waylon Jennings, and began a tour of the United States. They spent ten days promoting and playing Holly's music at local Midwest venues. Holly's last concert was at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa, in 1959.

Holly's career was tragically cut short following his show in Clear Lake. While flying to the next show with fellow musicians Richie Valens and Jiles Perry "Big Bopper" Richardson, the plane crashed and all died, including pilot Roger Peterson. Holly left behind his wife, Maria Elena, who was pregnant with their first child (shortly thereafter she suffered a miscarriage). A few weeks after his death, his last hit song, "It Doesn't Matter Anymore," reached No. 13 on the Hot 100.

Although Holly's contribution to music includes only about two years of work before his death, he left a lasting impression. He was a strong influence on the Beatles and, in particular, Paul McCartney, who eventually acquired the rights to Holly's music. In fact, the Beatles named themselves in tribute to the Crickets, and recorded a cover of Holly's "Words of Love" that sounds almost exactly like the original version. And several other musicians have paid tribute to Holly's talent as well, including Don McLean, Linda Ronstadt, Susan Allanson and soloist John Lennon. A writer for Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism explained, "His impact on the subsequent generations of musicians . . . extended to guitar technique and such innovations as overdubbing recording tracks and utilizing symphonic backing instruments in rock recordings." Holly was among the first inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986.

Contemplating Holly's achievements and fame in the Journal of Popular Culture, Richard Aquila wrote, "His creativity and career had come to a final close. As is often the case, individuals were prepared to bestow accolades and fame on the dead artist. Many recognized his achievements. Others thought wistfully about what might have been. Fate never gave Holly the chance to fail at his art. He died a success and therefore would be remembered as such. In this way the martyred rock star joined the roster of artists whose art became even greater in death."



Goldrosen, John, and John Beecher, RememberingBuddy: The Definitive Biography, Penguin Books, 1987.

Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism, Volume 65, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1997.


Journal of Popular Culture, spring, 1982, Richard Aquila, "Not Fade Away: Buddy Holly and the Making of an American Legend," pp. 75-80.

Knight-Ridder/Tribune News Service, February 1, 1999, Raad Cawthon, "Forty Years Later, Clear Lake, Iowa, Remembers 'the Day the Music Died. '"p. K5753.*