Buddy Holly premieres on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1957

The was the first of three Buddy Holly performances at the famous TV show

Buddy Holly premieres on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1957

Buddy Holly and The Crickets first appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show on December 1st, 1957, fresh off the release of their debut album. They all wore bow-ties and sport coats, and Buddy wore his trademark horn-rimmed glasses. The foursome played “That’ll be the Day,” the first single off their album. The result was pure gold: the track would reach #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 soon after their performance on the show. That night they also played “Peggy Sue”, a song named for The Crickets’Jerry Allison’s girlfriend and future wife. That song shot up the charts to #3 on the Billboard Hot 100. On January 26, 1958 Holly returned to The Ed sullivan Show. A relaxed Holly let fly with “Oh, Boy!”, another single off The Chirpin’ Crickets, a catchy tune that subsequently reached #10 on the Billboard Hot 100, however, this second performance didn’t went as well as the first. Holly and the band were scheduled to perform two songs, but Sullivan wanted the band to substitute a different song for their record hit “Oh, Boy! ,which he felt was too raucous. Holly had already told his hometown friends in Texas that he would be singing “Oh, Boy!” for them, and told Sullivan as much. During the afternoon the Crickets were summoned to rehearsal at short notice, but only Holly was in their dressing room. When asked where the others were, Holly replied, “I don’t know. No telling.” Sullivan then turned to Holly and said “I guess The Crickets are not too excited to be on The Ed Sullivan Show” to which Holly caustically replied, “I hope they’re damn more excited than I am.” Sullivan, already bothered by the choice of songs, was now even angrier. He cut the Crickets’ act from two songs to one, and when introducing them mispronounced Holly’s name, so it came out vaguely as ‘Hollered’ or “Holland.” In addition, Sullivan saw to it that the line feed for Holly’s electric guitar was turned off.

Holly tried to compensate by singing as loudly as he could, and repeatedly trying to turn up the volume on his guitar. For the instrumental break he cut loose with a dramatic solo, making clear to the audience that the technical fault wasn’t his. The band was received so well that Sullivan was forced to invite them back for a third appearance. Holly’s response was that Sullivan didn’t have enough money. Film of the performance survives; photographs taken that day show Sullivan looking angry and Holly smirking and perhaps ignoring Sullivan. On February 3, 1959, almost exactly a year after his last appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, Buddy Holly’s plane crashed over Iowa. Only 22 years old, he was killed along with Ritchie Valens and “The Big Bopper.” Don McLean called it “The Day the Music Died” in his song “American Pie,” showing just how much Buddy meant to music.

Watch Buddy Holly and The Crickets performing “That’ll Be The Day” on The Ed Sullivan Show, December 1st, 1957

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