Tuesday, Feb. 3 marked the 50th anniversary of the death of Buddy Holly. Charles Hardin (Buddy) Holly was a pioneering rock artist with a short but highly productive and influential career.

 

Tuesday, Feb. 3 marked the 50th anniversary of the death of Buddy Holly. Charles Hardin (Buddy) Holly was a pioneering rock artist with a short but highly productive and influential career. Born in 1936 in Lubbock, Texas, to a musical family, he turned to rock and roll after attending an Elvis Presley concert in early 1955 and later that year he opened for Presley and Bill Haley and His Comets. In early 1956 he signed his first professional contract.

 With his backup band, the Crickets, he began his recording career with his first #1 hit, “That’ll Be The Day.” “Peggy Sue” followed shortly and reached #3. In December 1957 he performed both songs on the Ed Sullivan Show. In January, he released “Oh Boy” his third Top-10 hit.

In each of these songs his style was already well established: driving rhythm, solid guitar work and clean lyrics. It was great dance music. In that era, rock was new and fun. This was no pretentious art form, just driving straight ahead music. During 1957 and 1958 he had seven Top 40 hits and numerous other popular hits. Holly and the Crickets were also the first all-white group to play at the Apollo Theater in Harlem.

On Oct. 3, 1958 Holly was in “The Biggest Show of Stars for 1958—The Autumn Edition,” which kicked off in Worcester, Massachusetts. Buddy Holly and the Crickets share the bill with Bobby Darin, Dion and the Belmonts, Clyde McPhatter, and the Coasters.

In early 1959 the Crickets broke up and Holly and his new wife, Maria Elena, moved to Greenwich Village where he enjoyed playing in Washington Square and local clubs. Late in January, with a new back up group he began the Winter Dance Party Tour with Richie Valens and J. P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson. Following an initial stop at Green Bay, Wisconsin, the tour performed at Clear Lake, Iowa.

 After the show, Holly was eager to get to the next stop on the tour, so he chartered a small plane to take him and his new back up group. Richardson talked Waylon Jennings, one of Holly’s back up players, off the plane. Richie Valens and the other back-up man, Tommy Allsup, flipped a coin to decide which one would fly. Valens won and jumped on the plane. The weather was snowy and gusty and the plane crashed a few minutes after take off. All three performers and the pilot died in the crash.

One month later “It Doesn’t Matter Anymore,” written by Paul Anka and recorded by Buddy Holly at his last studio session, became a posthumous hit. Buddy Holly was so prolific that his record company was still releasing original material 10 years later.

During his very brief career, he created such acclaimed hits as “Peggy Sue,” “Lonesome Tears,” and “Crying, Waiting, Hoping.” Other hits were “Rave On,” “You’re So Square,” and “Maybe Baby.” In 1969 the album “The Buddy Holly Story” which has been in print for 50 years reached platinum status.

He has also been identified as an important influence by the Beatles (the group’s name was derived from the Crickets,) Bob Dylan, and Paul Simon. In 1976 Paul McCartney purchased the rights to Holly’s catalogue and in September of that year on Holly’s 40th birthday, he organized a weeklong tribute.

Lastly, in 1986: Buddy Holly was one of the original inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Holly’s widow, Maria Elena, accepted on his behalf. The induction statement stated “Buddy Holly played rock and roll for only two short years, but the wealth of material he recorded in that time made a major and lasting impact on popular music.”

Don MacLean’s 1971 hit song, “American Pie”, related the story of the plane crash in Iowa and immortalized the tag line “the day the music died.”

To commemorate the death of Buddy Holly, I fired up my turntable, pulled out my vinyl Holly album “Buddy Holly: A Rock and Roll Collection”, turned up the volume and remembered a rock era when the music was truly great fun for listening and dancing.

The music has not died – it is alive and well.

Paul Carlson lives on Old Coach Road.