The youngest of four children Buddy grew up in a modest environment. His father Lawrence Holley worked various odd jobs and throughout 1930s and 1940s was employed as a tailor and salesman in a local clothing store. His mother Ella Drake Holley was a full time mother and housewife. The "e" in Hollys name was dropped due to a spelling error on his first recording contract. Excited, and not wanting to jeopardize his contract, he simply signed his name as Buddy, a childhood nickname, Holly.
Buddy Holly, als CHARLES HARDIN HOLLEY am 7.9.36 in Lubbock in Texas geboren. Er wuchs mit 3 älteren Geschwistern in familiärer Atmosphäre auf. Sein Vater LAWRENCE HOLLEY hatte verschiedene Anstellungen und arbeitete in den 30ern und 40ern als Schneider und Verkäufer in einem örtlichen Textilgeschäft. Seine Mutter ELLA DRAKE HOLLEY war rund um die Uhr als Hausfrau und Mutter ausgelastet.
Das fehlende "e" in seinem Nachnamen (Holly statt Holley) resultierte daraus, dass jemand in seinem ersten Plattenvertrag genau dieses "e" zu schreiben vergass.
Buddy war sehr aufgeregt und über diesen Vertrag sehr erfreut, dass er, um ihn nicht zu gefährden, einfach ohne Änderung des Namens unterschrieb. Das ist der Ursprung des Namens BUDDY HOLLY.
Buddy began his musical journey at the age of eleven with piano lessons. His older brothers Larry and Travis already played a couple of instruments and his mother thought it was time Buddy learned to play something too.
Oddly enough, after only nine months of lessons and being applauded by his teacher as one of her top students Buddy, quit the lessons. No comment, why. He told his parents that he wanted to play the guitar, and even though they had financial problems they still found a way to grant his request. It wasnt long before Buddy was entertaining his friends on the school bus and contemplating a musical career.
Autographs from the 1958 U.K. Tour.
Mit 11 Jahren begann Buddy seine musikalische Entwicklung mit Klavierunterricht. Seine beiden älteren Brüder LARRY und TRAVIS, die heute noch leben, spielten bereits einige Instrumente. Buddy's Mutter war der Meinung, er solle auch etwas in der Richtung erlernen. Das war aber alles nicht nach Buddy's Wunsch. 9 Monate nach Beginn des Unterrichts schmiss er alles hin, obwohl ihm seine Lehrer glänzende Noten erteilten.
Der Mann, der Buddy Holly entdeckte. HiPockets Duncan.
This is the man who first recognized the talent of Buddy Holly as a
singer, HiPockets Duncan, DJ of a local radio Station in Lubbock.
Buddy's größter Wunsch war es, Gitarre zu spielen. Dies erzählte er seinen Eltern, die stets große finanzielle Probleme hatten, es aber dennoch irgendwie schafften, dem Sohn diesen Wunsch zu erfüllen. Nur wenig später fing Buddy schon an, seine Mitschüler im Schulbus mit seinem Gitarrespiel zu unterhalten und damit einen Grundstein zu legen für seine Musikkarriere.
Buddy performed during his teen years with his close friend Bob Montgomery. Billing themselves as Buddy and Bob, they performed local events throughout Lubbock,TX. It was after opening a show for Elvis at a local gig in 1955 that Buddy knew exactly what he wanted to do. Success, however, didn't come until Holly formed his new group, the Crickets, as there were Jerry Ivan Allison on drums, Niki Sullivan on guitar, and Joe B. Mauldin on bass. The Crickets recorded "That'll Be The Day" in the Clovis, New Mexico studios of producer Norman Petty. The record was on top of the charts for the first time in September of 1957.
Als Teenager machte Buddy mit seinem Jugendfreund Bob Montgomery Musik bei lokalen Ereignissen, sie nannten sich Buddy und Bob. Nachdem er mit Bob als Vorgruppe für Elvis 1955 auftrat, wusste er, was er wollte. Der Erfolg stellte sich allerdings erst ein, als er die Gruppe "The Crickets" zusammenstellte mit Jerry Ivan Allison am Schlagzeug, Niki Sullivan an der Gitarre und Joe B. Mauldin am Bass. Diese Gruppe incl. Buddy nahm den Titel "THAT'LL BETHE DAY" in den Studios des Produzenten NORMAN PETTY in Clovis in New Mexico auf. September 1957 war dieser Titel erstmalig Spitzenreiter in der Hitparade.
Buddy Holly and The Crickets continued their success with songs like
"OhBoy" and "Peggy Sue".
Buddy, however, was growing restless, and in the fall of '58, due to legal
problems concerning royalty money, he split from the Crickets and
Norman Petty, his manager.
1st of October 1957:
1 millioncopies sold of
"THAT'LL BE THEDAY"
Am 1. Oktober 1957 war es soweit:
1 Million Exemplare von "THAT'LL BE THE DAY" waren verkauft, ein
denkwürdiger Tag in der Karriere von Buddy Holly und den Crickets.
He married Maria Elena Santiago from Puerto Rico and moved to
Greenwich Village in New York City.
In October 1958, Buddy Holly recorded "True Love Ways" and
a Paul Anka composition, "It Doesnt Matter Anymore".
The songs were powerful and filled with promise.
Sadly, Buddy would never realize their potential.
Weitere Erfolge kamen zwangsläufig: "Oh, Boy" und "Peggy Sue". Im Herbst 1958 kam es aber zum Bruch zwischen Buddy und den Crickets auf der einen Seite und Norman Petty auf der anderen Seite. Finanzielle Aspekte gaben dabei den Ausschlag. Buddy gab den Crickets die Freigabe, den Namen "Crickets" weiter zu führen.
Buddy heiratete Maria ElenaSantiago und zog um nach New York City, dort in Greenwich Village mietete er für seine Frau und sich ein Apartment an. Im Oktober des gleichen Jahres nahm er "True love ways" u. "It doesn't matter anymore" auf. Der zweite Song war eine Komposition von Paul Anka. Leider konnte Buddy das, was er mit diesen wunderbaren Liedern geschaffen hatte, nicht mehr so weiter verwirklichen, wie es ihm zugestanden hätte, da er tragisch verstarb.
Ritchie Valens am Schlagzeug. Carl Bunch war bei der WDP mit Erfrierungen an den Füßen ausgefallen. Da musste Ersatz her, also half einer dem anderen. Diese Foto ist aus dem Riverside Ballroom. Eine von den Stationen, wo der etatmässige Schlagzeuger Carl Bunch, mein verstorbener guter Freund, nicht dabei war.
Carls Erfrierungen fesselten ihn einige Tage an's Bett im Krankenhaus,
bevor er nach Buddy's Tod wieder zurück in die Tour gehen konnte.
Ritchie Valens on drums, Carl Bunch was unable to continue,
as he had frostbites. WDP 1959. Riverside Ballroom.
In January of 1959, Buddy along with Ritchie Valens, the Big Bopper and other acts embarked on what was billed as the WINTER DANCE PARTY. Though billed as a dance party the tour for the performers was anything but a party.
24th of January, 1959. Eagles Ballroom, Kenosha, WI. Left to right: Jim Lounsbury (wbkb-tv DJ), The Big Bopper, Singer Debbie Stevens, Frankie Sardo and Buddy Holly.
24.1.59: Eagles Ballroom in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
Jim Lounsbury (DJ), The Big Bopper, Sängerin Debbie Stevens,
Frankie Sardo und Buddy Holly.
From the very beginning, the tour was plagued with difficulty. The tour buses ( 11 times they broke down during the complete tour *) inability to stay running, faulty heaters, and the series of one-night shows caused many of the performers to display cold and flu symptoms. The temperatures had a record depth.
* My late friend CARL BUNCH told me about the number of bus breakdowns
during the complete tour.
Werbung eines Radiosenders.
Im Januar 1959 startete Buddy mit Ritchie Valens, The Big Bopper und anderen Künstlern mit der sogenannten Winter Dance Party. Obwohl als Party angekündigt, war es für die Teilnehmer der Tour alles andere als eine Party.
Buddy, hier noch mit den frühen Crickets. Eine der seltenen Aufnahmen.
Von Beginn an gab es Schwierigkeiten mit insgesamt 11* Busdefekten, dazu noch Heizungsausfall. Die Abfolge von einmaligen Gastspielen in voneinander weit entfert liegenden Auftrittsorten forderte die ersten Opfer in punkto Grippe und Erfrierungen. Minusrekorde bei den Temperaturen. Die "Tourplaner" gingen unverantwortlich mit den Künstlern um und haben am Tod der 3 Stars einen gehörigen Anteil in meinen Augen!
* Die Zahl 11 bei den Busausfällen habe ich von meinem verstorbenen Freund
Carl Bunch, der bei dieser Tour Schlagzeug spielte.
It was after a show in Clear Lake, Iowa that Buddy, tired of the miserable conditions, decided to charter a plane. He hoped that he and his buddies Waylon Jennings and Tommy Allsup could wash their clothes and get a decent nights' sleep before the next performance.
Buddy's producer NORMAN PETTY and his wife VI PETTY.
The word quickly spread through the whole troop and soon both Jennings and Allsup were getting requests to give up their seats.
J.P Richardson, the Big Bopper, convinced Waylon Jennings to give up his seat stating that a man of his size wasn't able to put up with the cramped conditions on the bus.The greatest fault in J.P. Richardson's life and the best thing that could happen to Waylon.
Ritchie Valens appealed to Allsups gambling side by proposing they flip a coin for the seat.Unfortunately for Valens, he won the toss. Tommy Allsup was the lucky loser. He's still alive working in the music business.
Einige Offizielle bei der Untersuchung des Wracks.
One of the best Buddy photos I know.
Nach einer Show in Clear Lake, Iowa, entschied sich Buddy, ein Flugzeug zu
chartern, um die Wäsche zu waschen und vielleicht in einem Hotel ein paar
Stunden Schlaf zu bekommen, bevor der nächste Auftritt anstand. Man muss
sich das mal heute vorstellen: Jeden Tag 1 oder 2 Bühnenshows, danach
spätabends Abfahrt in einem alten Bus, der keine verstellbaren Rücksitze
hat. Wie soll man da schlafen auf einer Fahrt zum nächsten Auftritt, die
manchmal viele Stunden dauert ? Mitten im Winter auf Landstraßen !
Ein Unding, das schließlich in einer Tragödie endete . . .
Buddy Holly wollte mit Waylon Jennings und Tommy Allsup fliegen, aber
der "Big Bopper", J.P. Richardson, und Ritchie Valens überredeten die beiden
Fluganwärter mit Argumenten bzw. mit einem Münzwurf, dass sie die Plätze
einnehmen durften. Eine fatale Entscheidung für Ritchie und den Bopper,
lebensrettendes Glück für Waylon und Tommy.
Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J.P. Richardsonalong with their pilot Roger Peterson took off from the Mason City airport on February 3rd at 00:40 A.M. All four men perished soon after when their four seat Beechcraft Bonanza crashed after takeoff. The surviving members of the tour did not want to perform without their stars but soon succumbed to the pressures of the promoters and continued the final show.The promotor told about extra money if they continued.
However, when Buddys band stepped on stage without their leader there wasn't a dry eye in the audience. It was a terrible tragedy that took the musical community many years to realize.And it still does.
Buddy in Aktion.
As Don McLean hauntingly put it in his 1971 hit "American Pie",
"The day the music died".
As I don't have a photo of Buddy's coffin, here is one of The Big Bopper's coffin.
Big Bopper's Sarg, da ich kein Foto von Buddy's Sarg habe.
Wir alle kennen das traurige Ende. Schade, dass die Verantwortlichen für
die Tour nicht die Charakterstärke hatten, auf Grund der Ereignisse diese
Tour abzusagen. Stattdessen mussten Ersatzleute wie etwa Bobby Vee
einspringen und die Tournee zu einem Ende bringen.
Mit Zusagen, man wolle eine extra Prämie zahlen, wenn alle weiter
aufträten, wurden die Tourteilnehmer zum Weitermachen überredet.
Dies habe ich aus sicherer Quelle von meinem Freund Carl Bunch, der
als Schlagzeuger Buddy auf dessen Tour begleitet. Als die Crickets ohne
Buddy auftraten, konnten die Zuschauer ihre Tränen nicht zurückhalten.
Buddy Holly is perhaps the most anomalous legend of '50s rock & roll -- he had his share of hits, and he achieved major rock & roll stardom, but his importance transcends any sales figures or even the particulars of any one song (or group of songs) that he wrote or recorded. Holly was unique, his legendary status and his impact on popular music all the more extraordinary for having been achieved in barely 18 months. Among his rivals, Bill Haley was there first and established rock & roll music; Elvis Presley objectified the sexuality implicit in the music, selling hundreds of millions of records in the process, and defined one aspect of the youth and charisma needed for stardom; and Chuck Berry defined the music's roots in blues along with some of the finer points of its sexuality, and its youthful orientation (and, in the process, intermixed all of these elements). Holly's influence was just as far-reaching as these others, if far more subtle and more distinctly musical in nature. In a career lasting from the spring of 1957 until the winter of 1958-1959 -- less time than Elvis had at the top before the army took him (and less time, in fact, than Elvis spent in the army) -- Holly became the single most influential creative force in early rock & roll.
Born in Lubbock, TX, on September 7, 1936, Charles Hardin "Buddy" Holley (he later dropped the "e") was the youngest of four children. A natural musician from a musical family, he was proficient on guitar, banjo, and mandolin by age 15 and was working as part of a duo with his boyhood friend Bob Montgomery, with whom he had also started writing songs. By the mid-'50s, Buddy & Bob, as they billed themselves, were playing what they called "western and bop"; Holly, in particular, was listening to a lot of blues and R&B and finding it compatible with country music. He was among those young Southern men who heard and saw Elvis perform in the days when the latter was signed to Sam Phillips' Sun Records -- indeed, Buddy & Bob played as an opening act for Elvis when he played the area around Lubbock in early 1955, and Holly saw the future direction of his life and career.
By mid-1955, Buddy & Bob, who already worked with an upright bass (played by Larry Welborn), had added drummer Jerry Allison to their lineup. They'd also cut some sides that would have qualified as rock & roll, though no label was interested at that particular time. Eventually Montgomery, who leaned toward more of a traditional country sound, left the performing partnership, though they continued to compose songs together. Holly kept pushing his music toward a straight-ahead rock & roll sound, working with Allison, Welborn, and assorted other local musicians, including guitarist Sonny Curtis and bassist Don Guess. It was with the latter two that Holly cut his first official recording session in January of 1956 in Nashville for Decca Records. They found out, however, that there was a lot more to playing and cutting rock & roll than met the eye; the results of this and a follow-up session in July were alternately either a little too tame and a little too far to the country side of the mix or were too raw. Some good music and a pair of near classics, "Midnight Shift" and "Rock Around With Ollie Vee," did come out of those Decca sessions, but nothing issued at the time went anywhere. At the time, it looked as though Holly had missed his shot at stardom.
Fate intervened in the guise of Norman Petty, a musician-turned-producer based in Clovis, NM, who had an ear for the new music and what made it sound good, especially over the radio, to the kids. Petty had a studio where he charged by the song instead of by the hour, and Holly and company had already begun working there in the late spring of 1956. After Decca's rejection, Holly and his band, which now included Niki Sullivan on rhythm guitar, threw themselves into what Petty regarded as the most promising songs they had, until they worked out a tight, tough version of one of the failed originals that Holly had cut in Nashville, entitled "That'll Be the Day." The title and lyrical phrase, lifted from a line that John Wayne was always quoting in the John Ford movie The Searchers, had staying power, and the group built on it. They got the song nailed and recorded, and with Petty's help, got it picked up by Murray Deutsch, a publishing associate of Petty's who, in turn, got it to Bob Thiele, an executive at Coral Records, who liked it. Ironically, Coral was a subsidiary of Decca, the same company to which Holly had previously been signed.
Thiele saw the record as potential hit, but there were some major hurdles to overcome before it could actually get released. For starters, according to author Philip Norman in his book Rave On, Thiele would get only the most begrudging support from his record company. Decca had lucked out in 1954 when, at Milt Gabler's urging, they'd signed Bill Haley & His Comets and subsequently saw his "Rock Around the Clock" top the charts, but very few of those in charge at Decca had a real feel or appreciation for rock & roll or any sense of where it might be heading, or whether the label could (or should) follow it there. For another, although he had been dropped by Decca Records the previous year, the contract that Holly had signed prohibited him from re-recording anything that he had cut for Decca, regardless of whether it had been released or not, for five years; though Coral Records was a subsidiary of Decca, there was every chance that Decca's Nashville office could hold up the release and might even haul Holly into court. Amid all of these possibilities, good and bad, Welborn, who had played on "That'll Be the Day," was replaced on bass by Joe B. Mauldin.
"That'll Be the Day" was issued in May of 1957 mostly as an indulgence to Thiele, to "humor" him, according to Norman. The record was put out on the Brunswick label, which was oriented more toward jazz and R&B, and credited to the Crickets, a group name picked as a dodge to prevent any of the powers-that-were at Decca -- and especially Decca's Nashville office -- from having too easy a time figuring out that the singer was the same artist that they'd dropped the year before. Petty also became the group's manager as well as their producer, signing the Crickets -- identified as Allison, Sullivan, and Mauldin -- to a contract. Holly wasn't listed as a member in the original document, in order to hide his involvement with "That'll Be the Day," but this omission would later become the source of serious legal and financial problems for him.
When the smoke cleared, the song shot to the top spot on the national charts that summer. Of course, Decca knew Holly's identity by then; with Thiele's persuasion and the reality of a serious hit in their midst, the company agreed to release Holly from the five-year restriction on his old contract, leaving him free to sign any recording contract he wanted. In the midst of sorting out the particulars of Holly's legal situation, Thiele discovered that he had someone on his hands who was potentially a good deal more than a one-hit wonder -- there were potentially more and different kinds of potential hits to come from him. When all was said and done, Holly found himself with two recording contracts, one with Brunswick as a member of the Crickets and the other with Coral Records as Buddy Holly, which was part of Thiele's strategy to get the most out of Holly's talent. By releasing two separate bodies of work, he could keep the group intact while giving room for its obvious leader and "star" to break out on his own.
There was actually little difference in the two sets of recordings for most of his career, in terms of how they were done or who played on them, except possibly that the harder, straight-ahead rock & roll songs, and the ones with backing vocals, tended to be credited to the Crickets. The confusion surrounding the Buddy Holly/Crickets dual identity was nothing, however, compared to the morass that constituted the songwriting credits on their work.
It's now clear that Petty, acting as their manager and producer, parceled out writing credits at random, gifting Niki Sullivan and Joe B. Mauldin (and himself) the co-authorship of "I'm Gonna Love You Too," while initially leaving Holly's name off of "Peggy Sue." Petty usually added his name to the credit line as well, a common practice in the 1950s for managers and producers who wanted a bigger piece of the action. In fairness, it should be said that Petty did make suggestions, some of them key, in shaping certain of Holly's songs, but he almost certainly didn't contribute to the extent that the shared credits would lead one to believe. Some of the public's confusion over songwriting was heightened by complications ensuing from another of the contracts that Holly had signed in 1956. Petty had his own publishing company, Nor Va Jak Music, and had a contract with Holly to publish all of his new songs; but the prior year, Holly had signed an exclusive contract with another company -- eventually a settlement and release from the old contract might be sorted out, but in order to reduce his profile as a songwriter until that happened, and to convince the other publisher that they weren't losing too much in any settlement, he copyrighted many of his new songs under the pseudonym "Charles Hardin."
The dual recording contracts made it possible for Holly to record an extraordinary number of sides in the course of his 18 months of fame. Meanwhile, the group -- billed as Buddy Holly & the Crickets -- became one of the top attractions of rock & roll's classic years, putting on shows that were as exciting and well played as any in the business. Holly was the frontman, singing lead and playing lead guitar -- itself an unusual combination -- as well as writing or co-writing many of their songs. But the Crickets were also a totally enveloping performing unit, generating a big and exciting sound (which, apart from some live recordings from their 1958 British tour, is lost to history). Allison was a very inventive drummer and contributed to the songwriting bit more often than his colleagues, and Joe B. Mauldin and Niki Sullivan provided a solid rhythm section.
The fact that the group relied on originals for their singles made them unique and put them years ahead of their time. In 1957-1958, songwriting wasn't considered a skill essential to a career in rock & roll; the music business was still patterned along the lines that it had followed since the '20s, with songwriting a specialized profession organized on the publishing side of the industry, separate from performing and recording. Once in a while, a performer might write a song or, much more rarely, as in the case of a Duke Ellington, count composition among his key talents, but generally this was an activity left to the experts. Any rock & roller with the inclination to write songs would also have to get past the image of Elvis, who stood to become a millionaire at age 22 and never wrote songs (the few "Presley" songwriting credits were the result of business arrangements rather than any creative activity on his part).
Buddy Holly & the Crickets changed that in a serious way by hitting number one with a song that they'd written and then reaching the Top Ten with originals like "Oh, Boy" and "Peggy Sue," and regularly charging up the charts on behalf of their own songwriting. This attribute wasn't appreciated by the public at the time, and wouldn't be noticed widely until the 1970s, but thousands of aspiring musicians, including John Lennon and Paul McCartney, took note of the fact, and some of them decided to try and emulate Holly.
Less obvious at the time, Holly and company also broke up the established record industry method of recording, which was to bring the artist into the label's own studio, working on a timetable dictated by corporate policy and union rules. If an artist were extremely successful -- à la Sinatra or Elvis, or later on, the Beatles -- they got a blank check in the studio and any union rules were smoothed over, but that was a rare privilege, available only to the most elite of musicians. Buddy Holly & the Crickets, by contrast, did their work, beginning with "That'll Be the Day," in Clovis, NM, at Petty's studio. They took their time, they experimented until they got the sound they wanted, and no union told them when to stop or start their work, and they delivered great records; what's more, they were records that didn't sound like anyone else's, anywhere.
The results were particularly telling on the history of rock music. The group worked out a sound that gave shape to the next wave of rock & roll and, especially, to early British rock & roll and the subsequent British Invasion beat, with the lead and rhythm guitars closely interlocked to create a fuller, harder sound. On songs such as "Not Fade Away,""Everyday," "Listen to Me," "Oh Boy!," "Peggy Sue," "Maybe Baby,""Rave On," "Heartbeat," and "It's So Easy," Holly advanced rock & roll's range and sophistication without abandoning its fundamental joy and excitement. Holly and the band weren't afraid to experiment even on their singles, so that "Peggy Sue" made use of the kind of changes in volume and timbre on the guitar that were usually reserved for instrumental records; similarly, "Words of Love" was one of the earliest successful examples of double-tracked vocals in rock & roll, which the Beatles, in particular, would embrace in the ensuing decade.
Buddy Holly & the Crickets were very popular in America, but in England they were even bigger, their impact serious rivaling that of Elvis and, in some ways, even exceeding it. This was due, in part, to the fact that they actually toured England -- they spent a month there in 1958, playing a series of shows that were still being written about 30 years later -- which was something that Elvis never did. But it also had to do with their sound and Holly's stage persona. The group's heavy use of rhythm guitar slotted right in with the sound of skiffle music, a mix of blues, folk, country, and jazz elements that constituted most of British youth's introduction to playing music and their way into rock & roll. Additionally, although he cut an exciting figure on-stage, Holly looked a lot less likely a rock & roll star than Elvis -- tall, lanky, and bespectacled, he looked like an ordinary guy who simply played and sang well, and part of his appeal as a rock & roll star was rooted in how unlikely he looked in that role. He provided inspiration -- and a way into the music -- for tens of thousands of British teenagers who also couldn't imagine themselves rivals to Elvis or Gene Vincent in the dark and dangerous department.
At least one star British guitarist of the late '50s, Hank Marvin of the Shadows, owed his look (and the fact that he wore his glasses proudly on stage) to Holly, and his look can be seen being propagated into the 1970s by Elvis Costello. Additionally, although he played several different kinds of guitar, Holly was specifically responsible for popularizing -- some would say elevating to mystical, even magical status -- the Fender Stratocaster, especially in England. For a lot of would-be rock & rollers on the Sceptered Isle, Holly's 1958 tour was the first chance they'd had to see or hear the instrument in action, and it quickly became the guitar of choice for anyone aspiring to stardom as an axeman in England. (Indeed, Marvin, inspired by Holly, later had what is reputed to be the first Stratocaster ever brought into England.)
The Crickets were reduced to a trio with the departure of Sullivan in late 1957, following the group's appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, but that was almost the least of the changes that would ensue over the following year. The group consolidated its success with the release of two LPs, The Chirping Crickets and Buddy Holly, and did two very successful international tours as well as more performing in the United States. Holly had already developed aspirations and interests that diverged somewhat from those of Allison and Mauldin. The thought apparently had never occurred to either of them of giving up Texas as their home, and they continued to base their lives there, while Holly was increasingly drawn to New York, not just as a place to do business, but also to live. His romance with and marriage to Maria Elena Santiago, a receptionist in Murray Deutsch's office, only made the decision to move to New York easier.
By this time, Holly's music had grown in sophistication and complexity to the point where he had relinquished the lead guitar duties in the studio to session player Tommy Alsup, and he had done a number of recordings in New York utilizing session musicians such as King Curtis. It was during this period that his and the group's sales had slackened somewhat. The singles such as "Heartbeat" didn't sell nearly as well as the 45s of 1957 had rolled out of stores. He might even have advanced farther than a big chunk of the group's audience was prepared to accept in late 1958. "Well...All Right," for example, was years ahead of its time as a song and a recording.
Holly's split with the group -- and Petty -- in the fall of 1958 left him free to pursue some of those newer sounds, but it also left him short of cash resources. In the course of ending the association, it became clear to Holly and everyone else that Petty had manipulated the numbers and likely taken an enormous slice of the group's income for himself, though there was to prove almost no way of establishing this because he never seemed to finish his "accounting" of the moneys due to anyone, and his books were ultimately found to be in such disarray that when he came up with various low five-figure settlements to those involved, they were glad to get what they got.
With a new wife -- who was pregnant -- and no settlement coming in from Petty, Holly decided to earn some quick money by signing to play the Winter Dance Party package tour of the Midwest. It was on that tour that Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J.P. "Big Bopper" Richardson were killed in a plane crash, on February 3, 1959.
The crash was considered a piece of grim but not terribly significant news at the time. Most news organizations, run by men who'd come of age in the 1930s or 1940s, didn't take rock & roll very seriously, except to the degree that it could be exploited to sell newspapers or build viewing audiences. Holly's clean-cut image and scandal-free life, coupled with the news of his recent marriage, did give the story more poignancy than it otherwise might have had and probably got him treated more respectfully than would have been the case with other music stars of the period.
For teenagers of the period, it was the first public tragedy of its kind. No white rock & roller of any significance had ever died before, forget three of them, and the news was devastating. Radio station disc jockeys were also shaken -- for a lot of people involved in rock & roll music on any level, Holly's death may well have been the first time that they woke up the next day wishing and hoping that the previous day's news had all been a dream.
The suddenness and the whole accidental nature of the event, coupled with the ages of Holly and Valens -- 22 and 17, respectively -- made it even harder to take. Hank Williams had died at 29, but with his drinking and drug use he had always seemed on the fast track to the grave to almost anyone who knew him and even to a lot of fans; Johnny Ace had died in 1954 backstage at a show, but that was also by his own hand, in a game of Russian roulette. The emotional resonances of this event was totally different in every way possible from those tragedies.
A few careers were actually launched in the wake of the tragedy. Bobby Vee leaped to stardom when he and his band took over Holly's spot on the tour. In America, however, something of a pall fell over rock & roll music -- its sound was muted by Holly's death and Elvis' military service, and this darkness didn't fully lift for years. In England, the reaction was much more concentrated and pronounced -- Holly's final single, "It Doesn't Matter Anymore," rose to number one on the British charts in the wake of his death, and it seemed as though the new generation of English rock & rollers and their audiences wouldn't let Holly's music or spirit die. Two years after the event, producer Joe Meek and singer Mike Berry combined to make "Tribute to Buddy Holly," a memorial single that sounded like the man himself reborn and still brings smiles and chills to listeners who know it; it is said that Meek never entirely got over Holly's death, and he did kill himself on the anniversary. On the less extreme front, players from Lennon, McCartney, and Keith Richards on down all found themselves influenced by Holly's music, songs, and playing. Groups like the Searchers -- taking their name from the same Wayne movie whence the phrase "that'll be the day" had been lifted -- sounded a lot like the Crickets and had a handful of his songs in their repertory when they cut their earliest sides, and it wasn't just the hits that they knew, but album cuts as well. Other bands, like a Manchester-spawned outfit fronted by Allan Clarke, Graham Nash, and Tony Hicks began a four-decade career by taking the name the Hollies.
Holly's record label continued to release posthumous albums of his work for years after his death, beginning with The Buddy Holly Story in early 1959, and they even repackaged the 1956 Decca sides several times over under various titles (the mid-'70s British LP The Nashville Sessions is the best of the vinyl editions). The company also engaged Petty to take various Holly demos and early country-flavored sides done by Buddy & Bob and dub new instruments and backing voices, principally using a band called the Fireballs. Those releases, including the albums Reminiscing and Showcase, did moderately well in America, but in England they actually charted. New recordings of his music, including the Rolling Stones' bone-shaking rendition of "Not Fade Away" -- taking it back to its Bo Diddley-inspired roots -- and the Beatles gorgeous rendition of "Words of Love" helped keep Holly's name alive before a new generation of listeners. In America, it was more of an uphill struggle to spread the word -- rock & roll, like most American popular culture, was always regarded as more easily disposable, and as a new generation of teenagers and new musical phenomena came along, the public did gradually forget. By the end of the 1960s, except among older fans (now in their twenties) and hardcore oldies listeners, Holly was a largely forgotten figure in his own country.
The tide began to turn at the very tail-end of the 1960s, with the beginning of the oldies boom. Holly's music figured in it, of course, and as people listened they also heard about the man behind it -- even Rolling Stone magazine, then the arbiter of taste for the counterculture, went out of its way to remind people of who Holly was. His image constituted a haunting figure, frozen forever in poses from 1957 and 1958, bespectacled, wearing a jacket and smiling; he looked like (and was) a figure from another age. The nature of his death, in an air crash, also set him apart from some of the then-recent deaths of contemporary rock stars such as Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Jim Morrison -- they'd all pushed life right to the edge, till it broke, where Holly stood there seemingly eternally innocent, both personally and in terms of the times in which he'd lived.
Then, in 1971, a little-known singer/songwriter named Don McLean, who counted himself a Holly fan, rose to international stardom behind a song called "American Pie," whose narrative structure was hooked around "the day the music died." After disposing of the erroneous notion that he was referring to President Kennedy, McLean made it clear that he meant February 3, 1959, and Holly. Coverage of "American Pie"'s popularity and lyrics as it soared to the top of the charts inevitably led to mentions of Holly, who was suddenly getting more exposure in the national press than he'd ever enjoyed in his lifetime.
His music had never disappeared -- even the Grateful Dead performed "Not Fade Away" in concert -- and now there was a song that seemed to give millions of people a series of personal and musical reference points into which to place the man. Until "American Pie," most Americans equated November 22, 1963, the day of President Kennedy's murder, with the loss of national innocence and an opening of an era of shared grief. McLean pushed the reference point back to February 3, 1959, on a purely personal basis, and an astonishingly large number of listeners accepted it.
In 1975, McCartney's MPL Communications bought Holly's publishing catalog from a near-bankrupt Petty. To some, the sale was Petty's final act of theft -- having robbed Holly and his widow blind in settling the account of what was owed him as a performer, he was profiting one last time from his perfidy. The truth is that it was a godsend to Maria Elena Holly and the Holly family in Lubbock; amid the events of the years and decades that followed, MPL was able to sell and exploit those songs in ways that Petty in Clovis, NM, never could have, and earn hundreds of thousands of dollars for them that Petty never would have. And with McCartney -- a Holly fan from the age of 15, and probably the most successful fan Holly ever had -- as publisher, they were paid every cent they had coming.
Amid the growing interest in Holly's music, the record industry was very slow to respond, at least in America. At the end of the 1960s, there were exactly two Holly LPs available domestically, The Great Buddy Holly, consisting of the 1956 Decca sides, which hardly represented his best or most important work, and the even more dispensable Giant album, consisting of overdubbed demos and outtakes. British audiences got access to more and better parts of his catalog first, and a collection, 20 Golden Greats, actually topped the charts over there in 1978, in conjunction with the release of the movie The Buddy Holly Story, starring Gary Busey in the title role. It was a romanticized and very simplified account of the man's life and career, and slighted the contributions of the other members of the Crickets -- and never even mentioned Petty -- but it got some of the essentials right and made Busey into a star and Holly into a household name.
In 1979, Holly became the first rock & roll star to be the subject of a career-spanning box set, ambitiously (and inaccurately) called The Complete Buddy Holly. Initially released in England and Germany, it later appeared in America, but it only seemed to whet hardcore fans' appetites for more -- two or three Holly bootlegs were circulating in the early '80s, including one that offered a handful of songs from the group's 1958 British tour. In a rare bold move, mostly courtesy of producer Steve Hoffman, MCA Records in 1983 issued For the First Time Anywhere, a selection of raw, undubbed masters of original Holly recordings that had previously only been available with extra instruments added on -- it was followed by From the Original Master Tapes, the first attempt to put together a Holly compilation with upgraded sound quality. Those titles and The Great Buddy Holly were the earliest of Holly's official CD releases, though they were soon followed by Buddy Holly and The Chirping Crickets. In 1986, the BBC aired The Real Buddy Holly Story, a documentary produced by McCartney as a counteractive to the Busey movie, which covered all of the areas ignored by the inaccuracies of the movie and responded to them. There have followed stage musicals and plays, upgraded and audiophile reissues of his work, and tribute albums, all continuing to flow out at a steady pace more than 50 years after Holly's death.