Remembering the legendary Buddy Holly

Celebrating the life of one of Rock’s most influential musicians on his 84th birthday

Remembering the legendary Buddy Holly*

‘Buddy Holly’ was born Charles Hardin Holley on September 7, 1936, in Lubbock, Texas, he became known as Buddy as a child, and Holly later on his life when Decca mispelled his name on the contract. Buddy Holly is one of rock’s most influential artists, individually he has influenced names such as The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Elton John, Freddie Mercury, Eric Clapton among many others. Holly begun playing music as a child, initially piano, which he switched quickly to guitar at 11, when he was a teenager he was influenced by Country & Western music as back in the early 50’s was the strongest musical expression in Southern United States. By the mid 1950’s Buddy turns to Blues and R&B artists, and is when he starts developing his musical style and composing his famous songs that blend both Country and Blues, making him one of the first Rock musicians to play with the blending of genres. After a succession of conflicts with Decca, the label that first signed him as an individual artist, he puts together his own band The Crickets,they become known as Buddy Holly and The Crickets. In a very short career he puts out a string of hit songs that became Rock classics, so strong that are still popular to this day such as his own compositions “That’ll Be The Day”, “Peggy Sue”, “Words Of Love”, “Everyday” and the covers of “Rave On” and “You’re So Square (Baby I Don’t Care)”. Buddy decided to pursue his musical career in full time after attending an Elvis Presley concert in Lubbock, 1955. His rise to fame happened quickly after the release of “That’ll Be The Day” in 1957, Buddy becomes one of the first Rock artists to do an international tour and plays Australia and the U.K in 1958, this is the first time John Lennon and Paul McCartney makes contact with Buddy as they watch him on British TV, a young Mick Jagger attends one of his U.K shows and remembers being stunned by his “Not To Fade Away” performance, later on both The Beatles and The Rolling Stones would cover Buddy Holly in their careers. Between 1957 and 1958 Buddy Holly and The Crickets put out 3 albums, all of enormous importance to Rock music.

Style, Death and Legacy

Holly’s singing style was characterized by his vocal hiccups and his alternation between his regular voice and falsetto. His “stuttering vocals” were complemented by his percussive guitar playing, solos, stops, bent notes, and rhythm and blues chord progressions, his image is associated to the Fender Stratocaster guitar and his horn-rimmed glasses a model that has became known as “Buddy Holly glasses”. In 1959 on February 2nd during the “Winter Dance Party Tour” that Buddy was sharing with The Big Bopper, Tommy Allsup and Ritchie Valens, Holly chartered a four-seat Beechcraft Bonanza airplane from Dwyer Flying Service in Mason City, Iowa. Holly’s idea was to depart following the show at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake and fly to their next venue, in Moorhead, Minnesota, via Fargo, North Dakota, allowing them time to rest and launder their clothes and avoid a rigorous bus journey. Immediately after the Clear Lake show (which ended just before midnight), Allsup lost a coin toss and gave up his seat on the plane to Ritchie Valens, while Waylon Jennings voluntarily gave up his seat to J. P. Richardson (the Big Bopper), who had influenza and complained that the tour bus was too cold and uncomfortable for a man of his size. Shortly after 1:00 am on February 3, 1959, Holly, Valens, Richardson, and Peterson were killed instantly when their plane crashed into a cornfield five miles northwest of the Mason City, Iowa airport shortly after take-off, an event that has became known as “The Day The Music Died”. Buddy was only 22 but in his short meteoric career he left a body of work that has influenced so many of the world’s favorite Rock artists and still does. On a side note, Buddy’s music publishing rights are owned by one of his most famous fans, Paul McCartney.

Look Back at Buddy Holly’s life in pictures

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Watch Buddy Holly and The Crickets playing at The Ed Sullivan Show in 1957

Listen to some of Buddy Holly’s best songs on a compilation made by Pop Expresso on Spotify

*Article originally published on Pop Expresso, September 8, 2017

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