Friday, 3 February 2012

Buddy Holly - 1936-1959

3rd February 1959

I remember few events of national or international significance from my prep school days. The invasion of Hungary by the Soviet tanks in 1956 is probably the one I remember most clearly. Even without the aid of television, my form mistress managed to convey the horror and significance of what was happening. The only other occasion that really stands out was the day the music died in February 1959.

I wasn't 'into' rock music at the time - few nine year olds were in those days. But we had all heard of Buddy Holly - the man who was revolutionising the musical world and producing such marvellous new sounds. It seemed so wrong that he should die in a plane crash at the age of 22.

Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and "The Big Bopper" died on February 3rd 1959, just after performing in a concert at the now famous Surf Ballroom. They took off from the Mason City airport in the middle of a snowstorm, bound for another concert. The four-seater plane crashed in a cornfield about five miles north of Clear Lake in Iowa killing the pilot and the three musicians. Although three performers died in the plane crash, I don't recall appreciating at the time that Ritchie Valens (aged 21) and J.P. 'The Big Bopper' Richardson (aged 24) were as musically important as I now realise they were. The latter's best known song is probably "Chantilly Lace" whilst Valens had a record in the charts at the time. Also killed was the pilot of the plane, Roger Peterson, aged 21 from Clear Lake.

Buddy Holly - the Legend

Buddy, from Lubbock, Texas, was born Charles Hardin Holley and was just 22 when he died, but he had already recorded dozens of songs (including "That'll Be the Day", "Oh Boy", "Peggy Sue", and "Rave On"); had had hits since 1957 during which year he and the Crickets first appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show; ahd pioneered double tracking; and had created the standard rock grouping of drums, bass, rhythm, and lead guitar. Buddy Holly revolutionised the nature of rock'n'roll and introduced a style for which the Beatles were later to become famous - that of performing live in the same way as their recordings came across - without the aid of loads of studio musicians. His style of playing the guitar was unconventional (indeed downright 'wrong' since he only played on the downstrokes instead of both down and up) but brilliant.

Buddy Holly had proved that it was OK to wear spectacles on stage. As a nine-year with glasses (otherwise known as 'Four-eyes') that was of the deepest significance to me. It was Buddy and Chuck Berry who showed the world that you could be a songwriter and perform the music. His lyrics had popular appeal and his style an injection of uniqueness that made him amongst the most memorable and easily recognized of performers.

His legend has grown with time. In 1972 Don McLean described his death as "the day the music died" in his hit "American Pie" and artists from Bob Dylan to Paul McCartney have said their music was influenced by his style.

He is ranked no 13 (an appropriate number) in Rolling Stone Magazine’s 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.

(All photos from the Web and appear to lack copyright information)


  1. Such a lovely tribute.

    My nephew Michael Flintoff is a rock musician whose band The Tranzmiters has toured and traveled in the UK and the southwest US, as well as in Western Canada. He and his group have a lot of fans in and around the Greater Vancouver area.

    Physically, Michael looks very much like Buddy Holly -- tall, thin, with horned rim glasses. So far our Michael has been much luckier than Buddy Holly, and has a lovely wife and a beautiful 3-year-old daughter.

    I hope Michael's luck continues to hold -- traveling from gig to gig is a very tough way to make a living, but he seems to love it and thrive on it.

    Thanks for a thoughtful post, which gives me a chance to honour two of my favourite musicians -- Buddy Holly and Michael Flintoff.

    Hugs, Carol

  2. He was way ahead of his time. Makes you wonder what else he could have done if he had lived...
    Still, I am grateful for what songs he DID record and for the influence that he had on music.
    I know you don't see movies much but there is a movie called "The Buddy Holly Story" and even though Buddy HOlly is played by Gary Busey, it's quite good.

    Oh, and since today is Groundhog day, please tell me you have seen the comedy film "Groundhog Day"! It's so funny!

  3. How odd... we seem to be on the same wavelength here! I am just now shopping for some vintage eyeglass frames to have my prescription lenses installed in. The ones I like best look VERY like Buddy Holly's! (If you're interested in vintage anything, you must check out - that's where I'm shopping eyeglasses right now, but they have loads of great vintage barware, table linens, and much else!)

  4. Yes, Kay, Groundhog Dayis one of the few films I've seen but like the others I've watched it lots of times. Very appropriate considering the content!

  5. Meant to say, Kay, that I haven't seen the Buddy Holly film but Jo and I went to see The Buddy Holly Story at the theatre and despite my initial reservations it was really well done with a star who sounded very like him.

  6. Marcheline - I too am an Etsy fan. I got some really original gloves there for Jo recently.

  7. In the early 1990s, I often was in London and once I went to watch "The Buddy Holly Story" on stage in some plushy red Westend theatre. It was an unforgettable experience. Like Kay, I wonder what direction his music would have taken had he lived longer.
    Somehow, I had always been of the opinion that Ritchie Valens (most famous for "La Bamba" and "Donna") was even younger than that, but maybe I am mixing things up.

  8. Librarian - it seems you are right ("Of course," I hear you say). According to wikipedia Ritchie Valens was only 17. Gosh - that seems to make it worse some how.

  9. I took three, less than enthusiastic teenage girls to see the Buddy Holly Story, (I'm a big fan) and within ten minutes of it starting they were having the time of their lives.

    His music certainly stands the test of time.


  10. A grand tribute to an artist whose work I admire but don't really enjoy. It, like so much early rock is a little naive to me. Still he was undoubtedly responsible for inspiring much of what followed.

  11. A very appropriate tribute and an interesting post. I, too, can recall the incident. What is really odd, though, is that I sometimes think that I remember Glen Miller's demise which is peculiar since I was less than a year old at the time!


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