Sunday, September 7, 2014

Buddy Holly

"... a man who creates songs, performs them, and has a great deal to do with the activities of our music world, and he's still a very young man and a successful one at that." -Dick Clark, 28 October, 1958
Today, the year 2014, we've developed what has become a known trend of "Hipster" glasses, but where did the Hipster glasses come from?  It wasn't the loveable Steve Urkel from the popular show, Family Matters nor was it the new (and in my opinion, annoying) One Direction, but we have Charles Hardin Holley, or as others may know him as Buddy Holly, to thank for the "new" trend. Not only do we have Buddy to thank for what's been adapted as Hipster glasses but we have to thank him for music, for early foundations of Rock 'n' Roll. Whether it's from his popular "That'll Be The Day" with The Crickets or as a solo artist with another well-known track, "Peggy Sue" and many other classics that define the 1950s and would go on to influence hundreds of other musicians, from The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan....  I'd like to dedicate this post to to the late-great rock 'n' roll pioneer and an influence to all, Buddy Holly who was born 78 years ago today.

A tailor by trade, Odell Holley and wife Ella Pauline Drake gave birth to their fourth and final child  in there home in Lubbock, Texas on 7 September, 1936, naming him Charles Hardin Holley. The Holley's resided in Texas where Charles became known as "Buddy" by his peers and family after being given the nickname by his mother. At a very young age Buddy had became interested in music after learning how to play the fiddle, violin and piano by his older brothers, Larry and Travis, which later lead to winning first place in a talent contest at age five singing "Have You Ever Gone Sailing (Down the River of Memories)". At age eleven his parents had bought him a steel guitar after Buddy had made it clear that the violin didn't interest him. I could tell you all about his music beginnings but Travis and Larry Holley will probably do a much better job, the following video is from The Real Buddy Holly Story, go to time 5:30 for an interview with Buddy's older brothers;

When Buddy was thirteen years old he had borrowed a friends wire recorder and recorded "My Two Timin' Woman" by Hank Snow.  Three years later, while attending and singing in the choir at Hutchinson Junior High School, Buddy met Bob Montgomery who was highly influenced by music himself, the two later recorded themselves singing "Takes These Shackles From My Heart and I'll Just Pretend" and "Footprints in the Snow".
Holly and Montgomery
In  September 1953 Lubbock began broadcasting all-country music on KDAV radio station, featuring a talent scout and disc jockey, Hipockets Duncan, who would give local acts a chance to perform live on the stations The Sunday Party.  Buddy teamed with Jack Neal forming a duo called Buddy and Jack, performing on The Sunday Party making Buddy a well-known musician. In 1954 Jack Neal got married leading to Buddy to team with Bob Montgomery to form their own duo as Buddy and Bob.
 Now at age eighteen the Buddy and Bob duo began playing bluegrass style set-list at school talent shows, local clubs, and even landed a weekly position on The Sunday Party. The two added Larry Welborn, a school friend who played the bass, and entered the Lubbock High School talent show performing Bob's song "Flower of My Heart", which won them the contest and became the Senior Class of 1954's song. The Buddy and Bob duo would go on to perform on 13 February, 1955 opening for Elvis Presley, who lent Holly his Martin guitar  for the show - the group would open for Elvis twice more that year at the Fair Park Coliseum in Lubbock, Texas.
 "When Elvis came along, Buddy fell in love with Elvis and we began to change. The next day we became Elvis clones."- Sonny Curtis, friend of Holley's
 On 14 October, 1955 Buddy and Bob, along with bassist Larry Welborn, opened for Bill Haley and His Comets at the Fair Park Auditorium, where Eddie Crandall mentioned he'd be interested in starting a  career for Buddy.  At the beginning of summer of 1955, Buddy Holly graduated High School

The following February (1956) Decca Records signed the group misspelling Buddy's name, dropping the 'e' in Holley; thus Buddy Holley became known as Buddy Holly. By this time Larry Welborn, along with Sonny Curtis, joined the band, calling themselves Buddy Holly and the Two Tunes.The group  traveled to Nashville where they recorded three sessions with producer Owen Bradley of Decca. During these sessions Buddy would record one of his most recognizable and an icon song from the 1950s, "That'll Be The Day", a song written by Holly and Jerry Allison after a line from the 1956 film The Searchers.  However, Decca released only two singles from these sessions (both credited to Buddy Holly); "Blue Days, Black Nights" and "Modern Don Juan" with little chart success and Decca dropped the group on 22 January, 1957, stating that they could not record or release any of the songs recorded during the three sessions with any other company within the next five years. Buddy Holly and The Two Tunes didn't work out in the end, leading to Holly forming his own band with Niki Sullivan, Joe B. Mauldin, and Jerry Allison. 
The Crickets

Norman Petty came on the scene after the Decca drop and became the bands manager, who allowed the group to play in his studio in Clovis, New Mexico.  New opportunities for his music career took off from there as they were offered, and accepted, a deal with Brunswick Records on 19 March, 1957 - During this time Buddy had also signed as a solo artist with Coral Records.  The band  had yet made the charts and had decided under Brunswick Records to go against Decca's five year contract, and released "That'll Be The Day"on 27 May, 1957. In hopes of getting by with the single release the group searched for a new band name, when Jerry Allison searched through an encylopedia under the "Insect" category, originally thinking of calling themselves The Beetles, but as time grew closer to the release they went with The Crickets.

The song began to top the charts with titles of "Best Sellers in Stores" and was number one on the UK Singles Chart for three weeks! The Crickets released their first album, The "Chirping" Crickets, on 27 November, 1957 followed by Buddy's solo debut album, Buddy Holly, which was released on 20 February, 1958. The Crickets went on to  land a spot on The Ed Sullivan show on 26 January, 1958, along with many other tours and television appearances. Niki Sullivan however quit the band within a year or so to resume his education.

In early-mid June, 1958 Buddy flew to New York, where he would later move to with Norman Petty to try to break into the promotion scene, leaving Allison and Mauldin who wished to stay in Texas. During his stay he met Maria Elena Santiago, the receptionist at the New York publisher Peer- Southern Music. On their meeting Buddy asked her out to dinner at the P.J. Clarke's and proposed to her on their first date;
Maria and Buddy
"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."- Maria Elena Santiago
The two married in Lubbock on 15 August, 1958 and honey mooned in Acapulco. Maria became part of the tours from doing laundry to setting up the equipment.
"I'd never had a boyfriend in my life. I'd never been on a date before. But when I saw Buddy, it was like magic. We had something special: love at first sight. It was like we were made for each other. He came into my life when I needed him, and I came into his."- Maria Elena Santiago, Lubbock Avalanche- Journal
Jennings and Holly during the Winter Dance Party tour
The couple resided in the Brevoort Apartments at 11 Fifth Avenue in Greenwich Village where he recorded  a series of acoustic tracks, known as "Apartment Tapes".   Without The Crickets Buddy had spent his time thinking about future plans, such as working with Ray Charles and possibly going into the film industry as his influence, Elvis, had done, it was then he had found out that his manager had been paying Holly and his band's royalties to his own company. After Holly's close friends,  The Everly Brothers, suggested he hire Harold Orenstein a lawyer, but even with help from Orenstein, Petty refused to cave and withheld the money. With bills to pay Buddy was forced to go back to touring  this time he'd be performing a three-week tour (The Winter Dance Tour) across the Midwest with Dion and the Belmonts, The Big Bopper, and Ritchie Valens, forming a new group, which he also called The Crickets, with Tommy Allsup, Waylon Jennings, and Carl Bunch.

The Big Bopper, Ritchie Valens, and Buddy Holly
The February of 1959 was frigid, causing many trips where the tour bus broke down and stuck in thirty degrees below zero, with no heat but burning newspapers. Unfortunately, Carl Bunch had developed frostbite and was taken to the hospital.  The tour however did go one with performances in Clear Lake, Iowa at the Surf Ballroom where Buddy, Tommy, and Waylon performed as back- up musicians. That night Holly had called in a small airplane and twenty-one year old pilot Roger Peterson to take him and two others to their next gig in Moorhead, Minesota when the air began to wisp and moaned as a severe snow storm came through. Everyone tossed coins to see who would be fortunate enough to take the plane with Buddy; Valens one a toss against Tommy Allsup and The Big Bopper had gained his seat after Waylon Jennings gave it up due to The Big Bopper contracting influenza.  The Beechcraft Bonanza plane took off at Mason City Airport at around 12:30 AM 3 February, 1959 after Peterson was given the clearing from the control tower. Traveling at 220 mph it's said that Peterson had flew directly into the storm and had lost his bearings along with his sight. By next morning a Beechcraft Bonaza plan was found destroyed in a cornfield, the three musicians bodies were found a few yards away from the wreckage along with Buddy's glasses. Due to the storm the bodies of all passengers, including the pilot, laid in the snow and wind for ten hours until being discovered. Historian Harry Hepcat discribes the situation as;
"... February indeed made us shiver, but it was more than cold of February that third day of he month in 1959. It was the shiver of a greater, sometimes senseless, reality invading our sheltered, partying, teenaged life of the 50's." 

Buddy Holly had and is still influencing many musicians. He is remembered through friends and fellow musicians who have recorded Holly covers, from The Beatles "Words Of Love", "Crying, Waiting, Hoping", "That'll Be The Day", "Don't Ever Change", to The Rolling Stones "Not Fade Away", to Denny Laine (with help from Paul McCartney and Linda McCartney) releasing a full album of Buddy Holly covers in Holly Days, and many others. His iconic glasses inspired many other musicians to begin to wear theirs, such as John Lennon, Roy Orbison, and Elton John. The popular 1960s group, The Hollies, had adapted their name from the artist;  The Cricket's name however influenced The Beatles as well.

CBS coordinator, Vic Calandra, had talked with John Lennon and Paul McCartney prior to their Ed Sullivan debut, where Lennon asked if Calandra was there for 1957 when Buddy played;
"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." - Vic Calandra
 McCartney even held annual Buddy Holly parties on the idol's birthday, bought the rights to Buddy Holly's songs, and would work on a Buddy Holly documentary, The Real Buddy Holly Story.

Bruce Springsteen admitted in a Rolling Stone interview in 1978;
"I play Buddy Holly every night before I go on; that keeps me honest."

Bob Dylan in 1998 while accepting Album of The Year at The Grammy's for Time Out Of Mind;
"And I just want to say that when I was sixteen or seventeen years old, I went to see Buddy Holly play at Duluth Nation Guard Armory and I was three feet away from him... and he was - I don't know how or why - but I know he was with us all the time we were making this record in some kind of way." 
 Keith Richards states that Buddy Holly had " an influence on everybody". The Grateful Dead even made "Not Fade Away" their seventh most-performed song, performing it five hundred- thirty times during their career.  But Buddy is probably most remember through Don McLean's 1971 song, "American Pie" written about the day the music died, 3 February, 1959.

In Lubbock a statue of Buddy Holly playing his iconic Fender guitar stands proudly along with street names and a Center/ museum being named after him.  On what would of been Holly's 75th birthday he was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

A long, long time ago
I can still remember how that music used to make me smile

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