Buddy Holly - The Day The Music Died
Buddy Holly Tribute
Buddy Holly was one of the most influential singer-songwriters of the 20th Century. His music has left an indelible impression. Holly was well-versed in a number of musical styles and early on in his career became a seasoned performer. Holly was a continuous innovator; he wrote his own music and was among the first to use unconventional studio methods, such as ‘double-tracking.’
His wide range of songs include ‘That’ll Be the Day,’ ‘Peggy Sue,’ and ‘Maybe Baby.’ Apart from music, he is also remembered for his signature horn-rimmed glasses. His influence was immense. The ‘Rolling Stones’ had their first major hit with Holly’s ‘Not Fade Away.’ He was also one of the most important and earliest influences on many other popular musicians, including Elvis Costello, The Hollies, The Beatles, Bob Dylan and Eric Clapton.
A Young Buddy Holly
Buddy Holly was born Charles Hardin Holley on September 7, 1936, in Lubbock, Texas, to Lawrence Odell and Ella Pauline. Holly was the youngest of four children in a family of devout Baptists, and gospel music was an important part of his life from an early age. A good student possessed of infectious personal charm, Holly was declared “King of the Sixth Grade” by his classmates. He became seriously interested in music at about age 12 and pursued it with remarkable natural ability.
He teamed up with his friend Bob Montgomery in 1952 at the ‘Hutchinson Junior High School’ where they studied and formed a musical duo called ‘Buddy and Bob.’ The duo performed at a number of school events and sang harmony duets at local clubs. They became so popular that they were even given a slot at a local radio station for Sunday broadcast. He made his first appearance on local television in 1952.
In 1955, after opening for Elvis Presley, he decided to pursue a career in music. He opened for Presley three times that year; his band's style shifted from country and western to entirely rock and roll. In October that year, when he opened for Bill Haley & His Comets, he was spotted by Nashville scout Eddie Crandall, who helped him get a contract with Decca Records.
Decca Records' country music division signed him in early '56 (chopping the 'e' out of his last name), and amidst heavy Executive Meddling, he recorded some material, including an early version of "That'll Be The Day". But Decca didn't know what to do with him, and didn't renew his contract.
In late '56, in need of a fresh start, he contacted independent record producer Norman Petty. Petty advised him to go back home to Lubbock, and put together a band and some songs. Buddy formed the Crickets in early 1957, with Jerry, rhythm guitarist Niki Sullivan, and bassist Joe B. Mauldin. They recorded a new version of "That'll Be the Day", and a B-Side, "I'm Looking for Someone to Love", at Norman's studio in Clovis, New Mexico.
Buddy Holly - The Day The Music Died
These demos landed Buddy two contracts, with Brunswick as The Crickets, and with Coral as a solo artist. (Ironically, both labels were Decca subsidiaries.) Brunswick finally released "That'll Be the Day" in May, and it took a couple of months to take off. Meanwhile, Buddy and the Crickets recorded more songs at Norman's studio. The bulk of Buddy's most famous work was recorded at these sessions, between February and July 1957.
Buddy Holly - The Chirping Crickets
"That'll Be the Day" was their first big hit. They hired Norman as manager, and set off on tour in August 1957. As they toured, more singles from the Clovis sessions were released, including the hits "Peggy Sue" and "Oh Boy!", and after a new session to fill it out, the album The "Chirping" Crickets. They played on American Bandstand and The Ed Sullivan Show, and were international stars by the time they came back home in December.
Niki Sullivan left the band at this point, sick of touring, and the Crickets continued as a trio. They toured Australia, Britain, and America again in early 1958. Meanwhile, the Clovis sessions produced more singles, including the hit "Maybe Baby". A session in New York produced the hit "Rave On!" and filled out his next album, Buddy Holly. Decca cashed in on his success by releasing his mediocre work from 1956 on the album That'll Be the Day, which would turn out to be the last album released during Buddy's lifetime.
Finger Clicking Buddy Holly
The touring finally slowed down in late spring. Buddy got back to writing and recording, with and without the Crickets. He also met Maria Elena Santiago in June. They married in August of the same year. Back home in Lubbock, he met new friends, including Tommy Allsup, who joined the Crickets on lead guitar.
Shocking Rockstar Deaths
Buddy experimented with pop ballads, recording four songs in New York with an orchestra. On a short tour in October, rifts developed in the band, and Buddy decided to leave Norman Petty and move to New York. The band stayed behind.
In New York, he made many plans: An album with Ray Charles, a gospel album, a country-rock album, a new home for his parents, a studio in Lubbock, maybe even a career in movies. He also made some home demos, known today as the Apartment Tapes, in December '58 and January '59. Meanwhile, the last single released during his lifetime, "It Doesn't Matter Anymore"/"Raining in My Heart", from the New York orchestral sessions, came out on January 5.
He agreed to headline a package tour with J. D. "The Big Bopper" Richardson, Ritchie Valens, and Dion and the Belmonts. He put together a new Crickets, with Tommy Allsup, and a couple of aspiring young Lubbock musicians: Waylon Jennings on bass, and Carl Bunch on drums.
The Winter Dance Party Tour was planned to cover 24 cities in just three weeks and Holly would be the biggest headliner. Waylon Jennings, a friend from Lubbock, Texas, and Tommy Allsup joined the tour as backup musicians. Ritchie Valens, probably the hottest of the artists at the time, The Big Bopper, and Dion and the Belmonts made up the list of other performers.
The grueling tour schedule had taken the acts to the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa the previous night. Due to mechanical difficulty with their chartered bus, the group arrived at Surf Ballroom less than two hours before the performance. The ballroom was packed with over 1500 fans, many of whom had driven hundreds of miles on snow-covered roads to see the stars perform.
1950s Pop Culture Music
Buddy was fed up with the chartered bus with its faulty heater, so before the performance, he asked the Surf manager Carroll Anderson about renting a chartered plane to fly him to his next destination in Moorhead, Minnesota. Anderson knew the owner of Dwyer Flying Service in nearby Mason City whom he contacted to arrange the flight. Anderson was not able to get hold of the owner so he called one of the pilots, Roger Peterson, who agreed to take Buddy plus two others to Moorhead.
After the performance, the group got ready to travel to their next show on the tour bus. Holly boarded the 1947 Beechcraft Bonanza aircraft to Fargo, North Dakota, the nearest airport to Moorhead. Two other members of the group had the option to fly with him at $36 per person. Dion didn’t want to pay, but Waylon Jennings was keen to fly with Buddy, but exchanged his seat with J.P. Richardson because he had a cold.
Tommy Allsup was included in the group, but Ritchie Valens offered to flip him for the seat since he was ill. The local host of the Winter Dance Party, Bob Hale, flipped the coin. Ritchie called heads and won the toss. Years later, Tommy Allsup would open a dance club named the Heads Up Saloon to commemorate this life-saving coin toss.
In his 1996 autobiography, Waylon Jennings stated that he was disappointed that he had to ride in the freezing bus, so his parting remark to Buddy was, “I hope your damn plane crashes!” Jennings said this remark has haunted him ever since then.
The plane took off around 1:00 AM from Mason City Airport into a blinding snowstorm and crashed only minutes later in a cornfield, killing all three musicians and the pilot. Because the plane didn’t catch fire when it crashed, no one noticed the wreckage until the next day, about a quarter mile from the nearest country road.
Early reports from the scene suggest the aircraft spun out of control during a light snowstorm. Only the pilot’s body was found inside the wreckage as the performers were thrown clear on impact. The Civil Aeronautics Board concluded that the primary cause of the crash was pilot error due to the 21-year-old Peterson’s inability to accurately interpret the newly installed Sperry F3 attitude indicator, which he was forced to rely upon in the poor weather conditions. The theory was that Peterson may have read the gyroscope backwards as a result of vertigo and thought that the plane was gaining altitude when it was actually descending.
Buddy Holly’s body was buried a few days later on 7 February. Services were held in Lubbock, Texas, at the Tabernacle Baptist Church where over a thousand mourners attended the service.In 1988, Buddy fan Ken Paquette built a monument to the singers, from stainless steel, and placed it at the crash site where the current owners of the land also planted four trees in memory of the victims.
Holly is often described as the most influential of the early rock and roll musicians, and has been cited as such by John Lennon and Paul McCartney (McCartney owns the publishing rights to Holly’s catalog of songs). The death of Holly is now commonly referred to as “the day the music died” after Don McLean immortalised the tragedy with his 1972 hit “American Pie.” McLean has stated that he first learned about Buddy Holly’s death while delivering newspapers on the morning of February 3, 1959, and in his song uses the line, “February made me shiver/with every paper I’d deliver.”
Four Killed in Clear Lake Plane Crash
The Beatles took their name in tribute to Buddy Holly and The Crickets. John Lennon and Paul McCartney were both inspired to write their own songs after learning that Holly wrote (or co-wrote) many of his own songs. In the period of 1958 to 1960, the band had been using many different names, most prominently "The Quarrymen" (after the school they attended) and "Johnny and the Moondogs". According to some stories, it was Stuart Sutcliffe (the famed "fifth Beatle") who suggested the name "The Beetles" and that John changed the spelling to give the name a double meaning.
Buddy Holly - The Day The Music Died
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