Buddy Holly was a rock and roll singer/songwriter from Lubbock, Texas. He was from a large musical family, and performed in local talent contests with his older brothers at an early age. He took piano lessons at age eleven; within a year he switched permanently to guitar. Raised on country music, he started taking an interest in rhythm and blues music, listening to late night radio. He formed his own trio after high school, and fully transitioned to rock and roll after watching Elvis Presley perform in Lubbock. In 1956, a Nashville talent scout saw Holly perform, and signed him to a contract with Decca Records.
The Nashville recording sessions proved to be frustrating. Holly’s desire for a spare, rocking sound was in direct conflict with producer Owen Bradley’s popular “countrypolitan” arrangements. The trio returned home, and contacted Norman Petty, who owned a small recording studio in Clovis, New Mexico. These sessions were better, and a demo version of “That’ll Be The Day” was leaked to Brunswick Records, who released the song after disk jockeys began playing it. For the next twenty months, Buddy Holly and his band, The Crickets, achieved great popularity, with many hit songs and national television appearances. Sadly, Holly was killed in a small plane crash on February 2nd, 1959, a tragedy famously eulogized by songwriter Don McLean as “the day that music died”. Posthumously, he gained great critical acclaim for his work, and was a significant influence on The Beatles and other major artists of the 1960s. Holly is among the first class of inductees to the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame in 1986.
Charles Hardin Holley, known as Buddy Holly (1936-1959), singer, songwriter, guitar, arranger
The Buddy Holly Story
By modern standards, Buddy Holly’s music is basic. However, he is considered a pioneer in overdubbing vocals (“Words Of Love”) and the use of different instruments (for instance, celeste and knee slapping on “Everyday”) in rock and roll. Most of the songs deal with that most important facet of life for young adults, the game of young love, its triumphs and tragedies.
I’ll never forget the rainy winter evening when I took my first love Andrea to see The Buddy Holly Story. We were staying at her family home in Mill Valley, and drove to Larkspur to see the show. One of the great and memorable movies of my life. Back in those days, the actors would learn how to sing and play to emulate their subjects. Gary Busey earned a well deserved Oscar for becoming Buddy Holly. A realistic and believable movie, the tragic ending is handled tastefully, but with great impact. Andrea and I silently drove back to her home.
Despite his youth, Buddy Holly was an important, seminal influence in rock and roll music. The universal nature of his songs is somewhat similar to Chuck Berry, though Holly’s songs are more intimate and personal. He possesses a characteristic sweet sound when singing love songs, and there’s a tangible country and western influence. He is also capable of talking tough; a key example is “Not Fade Away”. Another Chess Records artist, Bo Diddley, appears to be a primary influence on Holly’s sense of rhythm and timing.
Holly’s songs seem so natural and unforced. The voice and words glide over the music seamlessly. It’s hard to believe he was only twenty two when the music died.
Buddy Holly Song Notes:
1. Good recordings of most songs can be found on The Buddy Holly Collection.
“Crying, Waiting, Hoping (Alt)” (acoustic version)
“Rock Around With Ollie Vee (Alt)”
“Learning The Game (Demo)”
can be found on Not Fade Away: The Complete Studio Recordings, which is a near complete catalog of Holly’s music.
Buddy Holly Songs:
Crying, Waiting, Hoping, Buddy Holly ✭✭✭
Everyday, Buddy Holly ✭✭✭
Well…All Right, Buddy Holly ✭✭✭
Peggy Sue, Buddy Holly ✭✭✭
Not Fade Away, Buddy Holly & The Crickets ✭✭✭
Maybe Baby, Buddy Holly & The Crickets ✭✭✭
That’ll Be The Day, Buddy Holly & The Crickets ✭✭✭
What To Do, Buddy Holly ✭✭
Dearest, Buddy Holly ✭✭
Peggy Sue Got Married, Buddy Holly ✭✭
Words Of Love, Buddy Holly ✭✭
Oh, Boy!, Buddy Holly & The Crickets ✭✭
It’s So Easy, Buddy Holly & The Crickets ✭✭
True Love Ways, Buddy Holly & The Crickets ✭✭
It Doesn’t Matter Anymore, Buddy Holly & The Crickets ✭✭
Love’s Made A Fool Of You, The Crickets ✭✭
Midnight Shift, Buddy Holly ✭
Rock Around With Ollie Vee, Buddy Holly & The Crickets ✭
Rock Around With Ollie Vee (Alt), Buddy Holly ✭
Rave On!, Buddy Holly & The Crickets ✭
Crying, Waiting, Hoping (Alt), Buddy Holly ✭
Learning The Game (Demo), Buddy Holly ✭
Not Fade Away, The Rolling Stones ✭✭✭✭
Not Fade Away (Live), The Rolling Stones ✭
Not Fade Away/Goin’ Down The Road Feelin’ Bad (Live), Grateful Dead ✭✭✭✭
Crying, Waiting, Hoping (Live), The Beatles ✭✭
Words Of Love, The Beatles ✭
Dearest, Mickey & Sylvia ✭✭✭
American Pie, Don McLean ✭✭✭