Tag Archives: Buddy Holly

Buddy Holly

Buddy Holly wasn’t with us for long, yet he helped shape rock and roll into what it is today.    With just four years of full-time music performances out of his 22 years total, he earned his spot as one of the founding fathers of rock and roll.

Buddy Holly and The Crickets album cover
Buddy Holly and The Crickets album cover

In the early days of rock where most songs were borrowed from R&B, Country, or other genres, Buddy Holly was one of the first that wrote, produced and recorded his own materials.  The results were unique and spectacular.

It seems like it’s always been that way, but music historians credit Buddy with defining the setup of the traditional rock band.   Most bands were still transitioning from the big band or jazz mix with orchestral instruments, pianos, horns, and woodwinds.  Buddy Holly set rock and roll standard setup: Lead guitar, rhythm guitar, bass, and drums.

Music Career

Any band coming from Lubbock, Texas in the 50s had to feature country music, and Buddy’s was no exception.  Somewhere along the way he caught the R&B bug, probably from late night radio.  AM radio reception during the day was so-so, but at night, distant stations came through, and Buddy was hooked.  His style slowly changed.  Mix Country with R&B and you get rock.  Buddy was good at it; he rocked!

After high school, Buddy’s band was chosen to open for Elvis at several local concerts.  That led to a gig opening for Bill Haley & His Comets where he was noticed by a Nashville scout that led to a recording contract and an unplanned name change.  Buddy Holley’s name on the contract was accidentally misspelled as Holly, and that became his professional name.

The hits started coming from there.  “That’ll Be the Day” hit the charts and soon climbed to the top.  A contractual dispute prevented Buddy from putting his name on it so “That’ll Be the Day” is credited to just The Crickets.  Other hits soon followed as the problem was cleared and  “Peggy Sue” and “Oh, Boy” were released as coming from Buddy Holly and the Crickets.

By 1958, Buddy Holly was an international star after having toured England and Australia, mixed in with a couple of appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show and The Arthur Murray Party.

The Winter Dance Party Featuring Buddy Holly

Winter Dance Party poster featuring Buddy Holly
Winter Dance Party poster featuring Buddy Holly

Alan Freed’s Winter Dance Party was a high point of rock and roll history.   A group of the best of the early rockers toured the Midwest.  It was the first of it’s kind tour being dance music set in traditional concert theater settings.  The rest is the downside of the history.  The weather was terrible, and the tour buses had heat problems.  Buddy Holly charted a plane to skip the bus trip and fly himself, Ritchie Valens, and J.P. Richardson (The Big Bopper)to the next stop.  The plane crashed, killing all three, on the day immortalized by Don McLean’s song as “The Day the Music Died”.

Buddy Holly was inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986 as part of its first class of inductees.

The Day The Music Died

The golden age of  rock suffered a tremendous loss on February 3, 1959.  Rock was still in its infancy when 3 of it’s biggest and most promising new stars were lost in a plane crash.  The day has been immortalized as The Day the Music Died.  Rock lost Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J. P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson.

Buddy Holly was the star of the show.  He already had 3 hit albums out.  His Peggy Sue and Oh Boy had made the top 10 and That’ll Be The Day was a #1 hit.

Ritchie Valens was a newcomer to rock recording.  He released his first album barely 8 months before.  Ritchie had a few hits including La Bamba.

J. P.” Richardson, known best as “The Big Bopper” was a DJ and songwriter.  J. P. wrote several songs that became #1 country hits for George Jones and Johnny Preston.

Winter Dance Party

The Winter Dance Party tour was planned to visit 24 midwest cities in only 3 weeks.  Just about every night was a concert and every day was travel.  It was winter in the midwest, the weather stank, and the tour bus had heater problems.  Some of the band members caught the Flu and drummer Carl Bunch had to be hospitalized for frostbite on January 31st.  It was a long way from the way that we pamper rock stars today.

The Winter Dance Party tour poster that led to the day the music died
Poster for the Winter Dance Party tour that led to the day the music died

Their next date was February 1st in Green Bay, Wisconsin with Dion and the Belmont’s Carlo Mastrangelo filling in on drums for everyone.  Richie Valens and Buddy Holly filled in on drums when Carlo was singing with the Belmonts.

February 2nd brought them to the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa.  Their next concert was in Moorhead, Minnesota, almost 400 miles away.  Buddy Holly wanted to avoid the long trip on the unheated bus and arranged for a small charter plane.

The Day the Music Died

As the story goes, the plane had room for the pilot and only 3 others.  Buddy Holly and J. P. Richardson claimed the first 2 sets, Dion DiMucci decided that the $36 share of the charter was too much and didn’t go, and that left Waylon Jennings and Ritchie Valens to fight over the remaining seat.  They flipped a coin and Ritchie Valens got the seat.   I can’t really say that he won because the plane crashed shortly after take off and all aboard were killed.

The fateful day was given its historical name “The Day The Music Died” by Don McLean in his 1971 opus American Pie.