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Charles Hardin Holley (September 7, 1936 – February 3. 1959), known as Buddy Holly, was an American musician and singer-songwriter and a pioneer of rock and roll. Although his success lasted only a year and a half before his death in 1959, Holly is described by critic Bruce Eder as "the single most influential creative force in early rock and roll."[1] His works and innovations inspired and influenced contemporary and later musicians, notably the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, and Elvis Costello, and exerted a profound influence on popular music.[2] In 2004, Rolling Stone magazine ranked Holly number 13 on its list of the 100 greatest artists of all time.[3]



  • 1 Early life
  • 2 Career
    • 2.1 The Crickets
    • 2.2 Holly in New York
  • 3 Death
  • 4 Influence
  • 5 Discography
    • 5.1 Studio albums
  • 6 Film and musical depictions
  • 7 Lubbock
  • 8 Hollywood Walk of Fame
  • 9 See also
  • 10 References
  • 11 Further reading
  • 12 External links

Early life[edit][]

Charles Hardin Holley was born on September 7, 1936, in Lubbock, Texas, to Lawrence Odell Holley (November 14, 1901 – July 8, 1985) and Ella Pauline Drake (August 29, 1902 – May 20, 1990).

Holly was always called "Buddy" by his family. The youngest of three siblings, his older brothers Larry and Travis taught him to play a variety of instruments, including the guitar, four-string banjo and lap steel guitar. At the age of five, Holly's young voice and exuberance won him a talent contest singing a then-popular song, "Have You Ever Gone Sailing (Down the River of Memories)."[4] In 1949, while still retaining his youthful soprano voice, he recorded a bluesy solo rendering of Hank Snow's "My Two Timin' Woman" on a wire recorder borrowed by a friend who worked in a music shop.[5]

In 1952, Holly met Bob Montgomery at J. T. Hutchinson Junior High School, now Hutchinson Middle School, which Holly attended from 1949 to 1952.[6] Holly and Montgomery shared an interest in music, and teamed up as "Buddy and Bob". Initially influenced by bluegrass, they sang harmony duets at local clubs and high school talent shows. The duo performed on a local radio station KDAV Sunday broadcast that made them a top local act. Hutchinson Junior High School now has a mural honoring Holly. Lubbock High School, where Holly sang in the school choir, also honors him.[7]


The Crickets[edit][]

Main article: The Crickets

Buddy Holly and The Crickets in 1957 (top to bottom: Allison, Holly and Mauldin).

Holly saw Elvis Presley sing in Lubbock in 1955, and began to incorporate a rockabilly style, similar to the Sun Records sound, which had a strong rhythm acoustic and slap bass.[4] On October 15, 1955, Holly, along with Bob Montgomery and Larry Welborn, opened the bill for Presley[5] in Lubbock, catching the eye of a Nashville talent scout.[8]Holly's transition to rock continued when he opened for Bill Haley & His Comets at a local show organized by Eddie Crandall, the manager for Marty Robbins.[5]

Decca Records signed him to a contract in February 1956, following this performance, misspelling his name as "Holly".[5] He thereafter adopted the misspelled name for his professional career. Holly formed his own band, later to be called the Crickets, consisting of Holly (lead guitar and vocals), Niki Sullivan (rhythm guitar), Joe B. Mauldin (bass), and Jerry Allison (drums). They went to Nashville for three recording sessions with producer Owen Bradley.[9] Holly, however, chafed under a restrictive atmosphere that allowed him little input during the sessions.[9] Among the tracks he recorded was an early version of "That'll Be The Day", which took its title from a line delivered repeatedly byJohn Wayne's character, Ethan Edwards, in the 1956 film The Searchers.[10] This initial version of the song was played slower and about four steps higher than the later hit version. Decca released two Holly singles, "Blue Days, Black Nights" and "Modern Don Juan", that failed to make an impression. On January 22, 1957, Decca informed Holly his contract would not be renewed,[5] insisting, however, that he could not record the same songs for anyone else for five years.[11]

Norman Petty Recording Studios.

Holly then hired Norman Petty as manager, and the band began recording at Petty's studios in Clovis, New Mexico. Petty contacted music publishers and labels, and Brunswick Records, a subsidiary of Decca, signed the Crickets on March 19, 1957.[12] Holly signed as a solo artist with another Decca subsidiary, Coral Records. This put him in the unusual position of having two recording contracts at the same time.[13]

On May 27, 1957, "That'll Be The Day" was released as a single, credited to the Crickets to try to bypass Decca's claimed legal rights. When the song became a hit, Decca decided not to press its claim. "That'll Be the Day" topped the Billboard US "Best Sellers in Stores" chart on September 23, and was No. 1 on the UK Singles Chart for three weeks in November. The Crickets performed "That'll Be the Day" and "Peggy Sue" on The Ed Sullivan Show on December 1, 1957, (followed by "Oh, Boy!" on Sunday, January 26, 1958).[5] They also sang "Peggy Sue" on The Arthur Murray Party on December 29 and were given a polite introduction by Kathryn Murray.[14] The kinescopes of these programs are the only record of their 1957 television appearances.

Buddy Holly appeared on American Bandstand hosted by Dick Clark on ABC twice: on August 26, 1957, and October 28, 1958, as well as on Clark's primetime TV seriesSaturday Night Beechnut Show on October 25, 1958.

Buddy Holly and the Crickets in their first Ed Sullivan Show appearance, on December 1.

Buddy Holly and Ed Sullivan, second appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, New York, January 26, 1958.

Holly helped win over an all-black audience to rock and roll/rockabilly when the Crickets were booked at New York's Apollo Theater for August 16–22, 1957.[5] Unlike the immediate acceptance shown in the 1978 movie The Buddy Holly Story, it actually took several performances for the audience to warm up to him. In August 1957, the Crickets were the only white performers on a national tour including black neighborhood theaters.[8]

As Holly was signed both as a solo artist and a member of the Crickets, two debut albums were released: The "Chirping" Crickets on November 27, 1957 and Buddy Holly on February 20, 1958.[15] His singles "Peggy Sue" and "Oh Boy!", with backing vocals later dubbed on by the Picks,[16] reached the top ten of United States and United Kingdom charts. Buddy Holly and the Crickets toured Australia in January 1958 and the UK in March.[17] Their third and final album, That'll Be the Day, was put together from early recordings and was released in April.

In the liner notes to Buddy Holly: The Definitive Collection, Billy Altman notes that "Peggy Sue" was originally written as "Cindy Lou" (after Holly's niece), but Holly changed it prior to recording as a tip of the hat to Crickets drummer Jerry Allison's girlfriend, Peggy Sue Gerron. Allison wanted the song to be named after Gerron to make up for a recent fight. The two later married.

Holly wrote "True Love Ways" about his relationship with his wife, Maria Elena. The song was recorded on October 21, 1958, at Decca's Pythian Temple with Maria in attendance. Dick Jacob, Coral-Brunswick's new head of Artists and Repertoire, served as both producer and conductor of the song's 18-piece orchestra that included members of the New York Symphony Orchestra, NBC Television's house orchestra and Abraham "Boomie" Richman, formerly of Benny Goodman's band.[18]

Holly in New York[edit][]

In June 1958, Holly met Maria Elena Santiago, a receptionist for Murray Deutch, an executive for New York publisher Peer-Southern Music.[18] Holly managed to have Santiago invited to a luncheon at Howard Johnson's, thanks to Deutch's secretary, Jo Harper. He asked her to have dinner with him that night at P. J. Clarke's. Holly proposed marriage to her on their very first date. "While we were having dinner, he got up and came back with his hands behind his back. He brought out a red rose and said, 'This is for you. Would you marry me?' Within the beautiful red rose, there was a ring. I melted." Holly went to her guardian's house the next morning and Maria came running at him and jumped into his arms, which was a sign to him that it was a "yes".

They married in Lubbock on August 15, 1958, less than two months later.[18] On what would have been their 50th wedding anniversary, she told the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal:[19]

The newlyweds honeymooned in Acapulco.[18] Maria Elena traveled on tours, doing everything from the laundry to equipment setup to ensuring the group got paid. However, many fans became aware of his marriage only after his death.[18]

The ambitious Holly became increasingly interested in the New York music/recording/publishing scene, while his bandmates wanted to go back home to Lubbock.[citation needed] As a result, the group split up in late 1958. The Hollys settled in Apartment 4H of the Brevoort Apartments located at 11 Fifth Avenue in Greenwich Village. Here he recorded the series of acoustic songs, including "Crying, Waiting, Hoping" and "What to Do," known as the "Apartment Tapes," which were released after his death.[20]

The Hollys frequented many of New York's music venues, including The Village Gate, Blue Note, Village Vanguard, and Johnny Johnson's.[citation needed] Maria Elena reported Buddy was keen to learn fingerstyle flamenco guitar, and would often visit her aunt's home to play the piano there.[citation needed] He wanted to develop collaborations between soul singers and rock 'n' roll, hoping to make an album with Ray Charles and gospel legend Mahalia Jackson. He also had ambitions to work in film, like Elvis Presley and Eddie Cochran, and registered for acting classes with Lee Strasburg's Actors Studio, where the likes of Marlon Brando andJames Dean had trained.[18]

According to Billy Altman's liner notes to the Geffen/Universal compilation, Buddy Holly: The Definitive Collection, in addition to "True Love Ways", during the October 1958 sessions at Decca's Pythian Temple, Holly also recorded two other songs, "It Doesn't Matter Anymore" and "Raining In My Heart." The songs were firsts for Holly, not only in the use of orchestral backing players, but also the tracks were his first stereo recordings. They were also to be his last formal recording studio sessions.

Although Holly had already begun to become disillusioned with Norman Petty before meeting Maria Elena, it was through her and her aunt Provi, the head of Latin American music at Peer-Southern, that he began to fully realize what was going on with his manager, who was paying the band's royalties into his own company's account.[18] Holly was having trouble getting his royalties from Petty, so he hired the noted lawyer Harold Orenstein at the recommendation of his friends the Everly Brothers, who had engaged Orenstein following disputes with their own manager, Wesley Rose. Yet, with the money still being withheld by Petty and with rent due, Buddy was forced to go back on the road.[18]


Buddy Holly died at 22.


Holly set the template for the standard rock-and-roll band: two guitars, bass, and drums. He was one of the first in the genre to write, produce, and perform his own songs.

Holly managed to bridge the racial divide that marked music in America. Along with Elvis and others, Holly made rock and roll, with its roots in rockabilly country music and blues-inspired rhythm and blues music, more popular among a broad white audience.[citation needed] From listening to their recordings, one had difficulty determining whether the Crickets, the name of Buddy's band, were white or black singers. Holly indeed sometimes played with black musicians Little Richard and Chuck Berry, and incorporated the Bo Diddley beat in several songs. The Crickets were only the second white rock group to tour Great Britain[citation needed].

Holly was also famous for his distinctive, black-framed eyeglasses, which have since become a lasting part of his iconic image. As a result, countless other musicians (Roy Orbison, Hank Marvin, John Lennon, Elton John and Elvis Costello) were inspired to wear their own glasses during their performances.[citation needed] Initially, Holly was hesitant to wear his glasses on stage, out of fear that they would contrast with his "rebellious" image. But since Holly had very poor vision (his visual acuity was allegedly 20/800) and contact lenses weren't as prevalent in the 1950s, Holly was left with little choice but to wear his glasses.

Contrary to popular belief, teenagers John Lennon and Paul McCartney did not attend a Holly concert, although they watched his television appearance on Sunday Night at the London Palladium. Ian Whitcomb once said "Buddy Holly and the Crickets had the most influence on the Beatles."[27] Lennon and McCartney later cited Holly as a primary influence.[28] (Their bug-themed band's name, the Beatles, was chosen partly in homage to Holly's Crickets.)[27] During breaks in the Beatles' first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show on February 9, 1964, CBS coordinator Vic Calandra talked with Paul McCartney and John Lennon. Lennon asked him if he was working on the show in 1957 when one of their favorite groups was a guest. "They were huge fans of Buddy Holly and the Crickets and John asked me, 'Buddy Holly, was this the stage he was on?' I said, 'Yeah, in fact, I held cue cards for them.' And he said, 'Oh, my God.' It was quite an experience."[29]

The Beatles did a cover version of "Words of Love" that was a close reproduction of Holly's version, released on late 1964's Beatles for Sale (in the U.S., in June 1965 on Beatles VI). During the January 1969 sessions for the Let It Be album, the Beatles played a slow impromptu version of "Mailman, Bring Me No More Blues" – although not written by Holly, it was popularized by him – with Lennon mimicking Holly's vocal style;[citation needed] the recording was eventually released in the mid-1990s on Anthology 3. Also, Holly's "That'll Be the Day", which had been covered by the Quarrymen, was released on Anthology 1. In addition,John Lennon recorded a cover version of "Peggy Sue" on his 1975 album Rock 'n' Roll. McCartney owns the publishing rights to Holly's song catalogue.[30]

A 17-year-old Bob Dylan attended the January 31, 1959, show, 5 years before Holly's death. Dylan referred to this in his 1998 Grammy acceptance speech for his Time Out of Mind being named Album of the Year:

Keith Richards attended one of Holly's performances, where he heard "Not Fade Away" for the first time.[citation needed] The Rolling Stones had an early hit with the song.[32]

The launch of Bobby Vee's successful musical career resulted from Holly's death, when he was selected to replace Holly on the tour that continued after the plane crash. Holly's profound influence on Vee's singing style can be heard in such songs as "Rubber Ball" (the flip side of which was a cover of Holly's "Everyday") and "Run to Him."[citation needed]

Holly influenced many other singers during and after a career that lasted barely two years. Keith Richards once said Holly had "an influence on everybody."[33] In an August 24, 1978, Rolling Stone interview, Bruce Springsteen told Dave Marsh, "I play Buddy Holly every night before I go on; that keeps me honest."[34]

The Grateful Dead performed "Not Fade Away" 530 times over the course of their career, making it their seventh-most-performed song.[citation needed] The song also appears on eight of their official live recording releases.

Various rock-and-roll histories have asserted the singing group the Hollies were named in homage to Buddy Holly.[35] According to the band's website, although the group admired Holly (and years later produced an album covering some of his songs), their name was inspired primarily by the sprigs of holly in evidence around Christmas of 1962.[36]

On September 7, 1994 (Holly's 58th birthday), Weezer released their single "Buddy Holly".

In 1980, Gyllene Tider scored a hit with the song Ska vi älska, så ska vi älska till Buddy Holly.


Main article: Buddy Holly discography

Studio albums[edit][]

  • The "Chirping" Crickets (1957)
  • Buddy Holly (1958)
  • That'll Be the Day (1958)

Buddy Holly released three albums in his lifetime. However, he recorded so prolifically that Coral Records was able to release brand-new albums and singles for 5 years after his death, although the technical quality was mixed, some being studio quality and others home recordings.

Buddy Holly continued to be promoted and sold as an "active" artist, and his records had a loyal following, especially in Europe. The demand for unissued Holly material was so great that Norman Petty resorted to overdubbing whatever he could find: alternate takes of studio recordings, originally rejected masters, "Crying, Waiting, Hoping" and the other five 1959 tracks (adding new surf-guitar arrangements), and even Holly's amateur demos from 1954 (where the low-fidelity vocals are often muffled behind the new orchestrations). The last new Buddy Holly album was Giant (featuring the single "Love Is Strange"), issued in 1969. Between the 1959–60 overdubs produced by Jack Hansen (with vocal backings imitating the Crickets' sound), the 1960s overdubs produced by Petty, various alternate takes, and Holly's undubbed originals, collectors can often choose from multiple versions of the same song. There are also many different versions of Holly's "Greatest Hits" as well as covers/compilation albums of Buddy's songs performed by various artists.

Film and musical depictions[edit][]

Holly's life story inspired a Hollywood biographical film, The Buddy Holly Story (1978). Star Gary Busey received a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of Holly. The movie was widely criticized by the rock community and Holly's friends and family for its inaccuracies.[citation needed] This led Paul McCartney to produce and host his own documentary about Holly in 1985, titled The Real Buddy Holly Story. This video includes interviews with Keith Richards, Phil and Don Everly, Sonny Curtis, Jerry Allison, Holly's family, and McCartney himself, among others.

In 1987, Marshall Crenshaw portrayed Buddy Holly in the movie La Bamba. He is featured performing at the Surf Ballroom and boarding the doomed airplane with Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper. Crenshaw's version of "Crying, Waiting, Hoping" is featured on the La Bamba original motion picture soundtrack.

Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story, the jukebox musical depicting his life, is credited as being the first of its kind, spawning a breed of jukebox shows, including the likes of Mamma Mia! and We Will Rock YouBuddy – as it is abbreviated on occasion – is still running in the UK after 22 years, with a UK tour that went out in February 2011.

Holly was depicted in the Quantum Leap episode entitled "How the Tess Was Won" although his identity isn't revealed until the very end of the episode. According to this episode, Dr. Sam Beckett (Scott Bakula) influences Buddy Holly to change the lyrics from "piggy, suey" to "Peggy Sue", thus setting up Holly's future hit song.

There are also a number of acts in both the US (Johnny Rogers, John Mueller) and the UK (Marc Robinson, Spencer J etc.) who specialize in performing Holly's songs.

In 2010, Guy Kent portrayed a modern-day interpretation of Holly in the independent film The Day the Music Died.[38][39]


The Buddy Holly Center, a museum located in Lubbock

Holly was based in Lubbock, Texas, as his career took off between 1956 and 1958. In 1980, Grant Speed sculpted a statue of Holly playing his Fender guitar. This statue is the centerpiece of Lubbock's Walk of Fame, which honors notable people who contributed to Lubbock's musical history. Other memorials to Buddy Holly include a street named in his honor and The Buddy Holly Center, which contains a museum of Holly memorabilia as well as a Fine Arts Gallery. The Center is located on Crickets Avenue, one street over from Buddy Holly Avenue, in what used to be the Fort Worth and Denver South Plains Railway Depot.[40]

In 2010, Grant Speed's statue was taken down for refurbishment, and construction began on a new Walk of Fame. On May 9, 2011, the City of Lubbock held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Buddy and Maria Elena Holly Plaza, the new home of the statue and the Walk of Fame.[41] The plaza is across the street from the museum.

Hollywood Walk of Fame[edit][]

On September 7, 2011 (what would have been Holly's 75th birthday), he received his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame posthumously. His widow, Maria Elena Santiago, attended, as did Phil Everly, Peter Asher, Priscilla Presley and actor Gary Busey, who played Holly in The Buddy Holly Story.