Friday, September 7, 8936
Buddy Holly (1936-1959)
Charles Hardin Holley (September 7, 1936 – February 3, 1959) known professionally as Buddy Holly, was an American singer-songwriter and a pioneer of rock and roll. Although his success lasted only a year and a half before his death in an airplane crash, Holly is described by critic Bruce Elder as "the single most influential creative force in early rock and roll."
His works and innovations inspired and influenced contemporary and later musicians, notably The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Don McLean, and Bob Dylan, and exerted a profound influence on popular music.
Holly was amongst the first group of inductees to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986.
Charles Hardin Holley was born on September 7, 1936, in Lubbock, Texas, U.S.A. to Lawrence Odell and Ella Pauline (Drake) Holley. Holly was always called "Buddy" by his family. Older brothers Travis and Larry taught their younger brother to play a variety of instruments including the guitar, 4-string banjo and lap steel guitar. At the age of five his young voice and exuberance won him a talent contest singing a then-popular song, Have You Ever Gone Sailing (Down the River of Memories).
In 1949, still retaining his childish soprano, 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.
This recording demonstrates a gift for guitar riffs and phrasings and for vocal turns of phrase.
In 1952 he met Bob Montgomery at Hutchinson Junior High School. They shared an interest in music and teamed up as "Buddy and Bob." Initially influenced by bluegrass music, 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 and Lubbock High School, where he sang in the Lubbock High School Choir, also honors the late musician.
Holly saw Elvis Presley sing in Lubbock in 1955 and began to incorporate a rockabilly style with Chet Atkins style lead guitar, strong rhythm acoustic and slap bass into his music.
On October 15 he opened the bill for Presley in Lubbock, catching the eye of a Nashville talent scout.
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.
Following this performance Decca Records signed him to a contract in February 1956, misspelling his name as "Holly."
He thereafter adopted the misspelled name for his professional career. Holly formed his own band, later to be called The Crickets and consisting of Holly (lead guitar and vocalist), Niki Sullivan (guitar), Joe B. Mauldin (bass), and Jerry Allison (drums). They went to Nashville for three recording sessions with producer Owen Bradley.
However, he chafed under a restrictive atmosphere that allowed him little input.
Among the tracks he recorded was an early version of That'll Be The Day, which took its title from a line that John Wayne's character says repeatedly in the 1956 film, The Searchers.
This initial version of the song played more slowly and about half an octave higher than the later hit version.
Decca released two singles, Blue Days, Black Nights and Modern Don Juan, that failed to make an impression. On January 22, 1957, Decca informed Holly that his contract would not be renewed, insisting however that he could not record the same songs for anyone else for five years.
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.
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.
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 US Best Sellers in Stores chart on September 23 and was 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.
They also sang Peggy Sue on The Arthur Murray Party on December 29 and were given a polite introduction by Kathryn Murray.
The kinescopes of these programs are the only record of their 1957 television appearances.
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.
Unlike the immediate acceptance shown in the 1978 movie The Buddy Holly Story, it actually took several performances for the audience to warm to him. In August 1957, the Crickets were the only white performers on a national tour including black neighborhood theaters.
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.
His singles "Peggy Sue" and "Oh Boy!" 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.
Their third and final album, That'll Be the Day, was put together from early recordings and was released in April.
In June 1958, he met Maria Elena Santiago, who worked as a receptionist for Murray Deutch, an executive for New York publisher Peer-Southern Music.
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?'" He went to her guardian's house the next morning to get her approval.
Santiago at first thought he was kidding, but they married in Lubbock on August 15, 1958, less than two months later.
"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," she told the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal on what would have been their 50th wedding anniversary.
The newlyweds honeymooned in Acapulco.
Maria Elena traveled on tours, doing everything from the laundry to equipment setup to ensuring the group got paid. Although Holly had already begun to become disillusioned with Norman Petty before meeting his bride, it was through Maria Elena and her aunt Provi, who was 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.
Holly wrote the song "True Love Ways" about his relationship with his young wife. It was recorded in her presence on October 21, 1958 at Decca's Pythian Temple, with Dick Jacob, Coral-Brunswick's new head of Artists & Repertoire, serving as both producer and conductor of the eighteen-piece orchestra, which included members of the New York Symphony Orchestra, NBC Television's house orchestra and Abraham "Boomie" Richman, formerly of Benny Goodman's band.
It was not until Holly died that many fans became aware of his marriage.
The ambitious Holly became increasingly interested in the New York music/recording/publishing scene, while his bandmates wanted to go back home to Lubbock. As a result, the group split up in late 1958. The Hollys settled in at Greenwich Village, New York, in the new Brevoort apartment block at 9th Street and Fifth Avenue. It was here that 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.
The Hollys frequented many of New York's music venues, including The Village Gate, Blue Note, Village Vanguard, and Johnny Johnson's. Maria Elena reported that Buddy was keen to learn finger-style flamenco guitar and would often visit her aunt's home to play the piano there. 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 and James Dean had trained.
However, he was still 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 their own disputes with their 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.
Holly was offered a spot in the Winter Dance Party, a three-week tour across the Midwest opening on January 23, 1959, by the GAC agency, with other notable performers such as Dion and the Belmonts, Ritchie Valens, and J. P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson. He assembled a backing band consisting of Tommy Allsup (guitar), Waylon Jennings (bass) and Carl Bunch (drums) and billed as The Crickets.
The tour turned out to be a miserable ordeal for the performers, who were subjected to long overnight travel in a bus plagued with a faulty heating system in −25 °F (−32 °C) temperatures.
The bus also broke down several times between stops. Following a performance at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa, on February 2, 1959, Holly chartered a small airplane to take him to the next stop on the tour. He, Valens, Richardson and the pilot were killed en route to Moorhead, Minnesota, when their plane crashed soon after taking off from nearby Mason City in the early morning hours of February 3. Bandmate Waylon Jennings gave up his seat on the plane, causing Holly to jokingly tell Jennings, "I hope your ol' bus freezes up!" Jennings shot back facetiously, "Well, I hope your ol' plane crashes!" It was a statement that would haunt Jennings for decades.
Don McLean referred to it as "The Day the Music Died" in his song "American Pie".
Holly's funeral was held on February 7, 1959, at the Tabernacle Baptist Church in Lubbock.
The service was officiated by Ben D. Johnson, who had presided at the Hollys' wedding just months earlier. The pallbearers were Jerry Allison, Joe B. Mauldin, Niki Sullivan, Bob Montgomery, Sonny Curtis and Phil Everly. Waylon Jennings was unable to attend due to his commitment to the still touring Winter Dance Party. The body was interred in the City of Lubbock Cemetery in the eastern part of the city. Holly's headstone carries the correct spelling of his surname (Holley) and a carving of his Fender Stratocaster guitar.
Holly's pregnant wife, a widow after barely six months of marriage, miscarried soon after, ending that part of the Holly family tree. María Elena Holly did not attend the funeral and has never visited the grave site. She later told the Avalanche-Journal:
In a way, I blame myself. I was not feeling well when he left. I was two weeks pregnant, and I wanted Buddy to stay with me, but he had scheduled that tour. It was the only time I wasn't with him. And I blame myself because I know that, if only I had gone along, Buddy never would have gotten into that airplane.
Holly's music was sophisticated for its day, including the use of instruments considered novel for rock and roll, such as the celesta (heard on "Everyday"). Holly was an influential lead and rhythm guitarist, notably on songs such as "Peggy Sue" and "Not Fade Away." While Holly could pump out boy-loves-girl songs with the best of his contemporaries, other songs featured more sophisticated lyrics and more complex harmonies and melodies than had previously appeared in the genre.
Many of his songs feature a unique vocal "hiccup" technique, a glottal stop, to emphasize certain words in any given song, especially the rockers. Other singers (such as Elvis and Mekilo Rushlow ) have used a similar technique, though less obviously and consistently. An example of this can be found at the start of the raucous "Rave On!": "uh-Weh-uh-eh-uh-ell, the little things you say and do, make me want to be with you-uh-ou...".
Holly set the template for the standard rock and roll band: two guitars, bass, and drums.
He was also 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. From listening to their recordings, one had difficulty determining if the Crickets were white or black singers. Holly indeed sometimes played with black musicians Little Richard and Chuck Berry. The Crickets were only the second white rock group to tour Great Britain. Holly's essential eyeglasses encouraged other musicians, such as John Lennon, also to wear their glasses during performances.
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; Tony Bramwell, a school friend of McCartney and George Harrison, did. Bramwell met Holly, and freely shared his records with all three. Lennon and McCartney later cited Holly as a primary influence.
(Their band's name, The Beatles, was chosen partly in homage to Holly's Crickets.) 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; the recording was eventually released in the mid-1990's on Anthology 3. 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.
A 17-year-old Bob Dylan attended the January 31, 1959, show, two nights 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:
"And I just want to say that when I was sixteen or seventeen years old, I went to see Buddy Holly play at Duluth National Guard Armory and I was three feet away from him...and he looked at me. And I just have some sort of feeling that 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 attended one of Holly's performances, where he heard "Not Fade Away" for the first time. The Rolling Stones had an early hit covering the song.
Holly influenced many other singers during and after a career that lasted barely two years. Keith Richards once said that Holly had "an influence on everybody."
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."
The Grateful Dead performed "Not Fade Away" 530 times over the course of their career, making it their seventh most-performed song. The song also appears on eight of their official live recording releases.
Various rock and roll histories have asserted that the singing group The Hollies were named in homage to Buddy Holly. 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.
Don McLean's popular 1971 ballad "American Pie" is inspired by Holly and the day of the plane crash. The American Pie album is dedicated to Holly.
Buddy Holly released only three albums in his lifetime. Nonetheless, he recorded so prolifically that Coral Records was able to release brand-new albums and singles for 10 years after his death, although the technical quality was very mixed, some being studio quality and others home recordings. Holly's simple demonstration recordings were overdubbed by studio musicians to bring them up to then-commercial standards. The best of these overdubbed records is often considered to be the first posthumous single, the 1959 coupling of "Peggy Sue Got Married" and "Crying, Waiting, Hoping", produced by Jack Hansen, with added backing vocals by the Ray Charles Singers in simulation of an authentic Crickets record.
"Crying, Waiting, Hoping" was actually supposed to be the "A" side of the 45, with the backup group effectively echoing Buddy's call-and-response vocal. The Hansen session, in which Holly's last six original compositions were overdubbed, was issued on the 1960 Coral LP The Buddy Holly Story, Vol. 2. But the best "posthumous" records were the studio recordings, which included "Wishing" and "Reminiscing".
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 Jack Hansen overdubs, the 1960s Norman Petty overdubs, various alternate takes, and Holly's undubbed originals, collectors can often choose from multiple versions of the same song.
In February 1984, MCA mastering engineer Steve Hoffman sent what are known as safety copies of several Buddy Holly master recordings to John Pickering of The Picks who took them to Sound Masters studios in Houston, Texas. There, the reunited group overdubbed their new vocal parts onto at least 60 recordings, and sent them back to Hoffman at MCA. The general consensus seems to be that, under Hoffman's influence, MCA would have issued these "new" recordings as an album, perhaps to commemorate the 25th year since Holly's death. This however, was not to be.
Not long afterwards, Hoffman was fired by MCA, for, among other things, stealing master tapes of Holly material and attempting to sell them to parties such as the Norman Petty estate. A short time later, a raid produced the stolen tapes, which were returned to MCA. With these plans having fallen through, Pickering decided to take matters into his own hands and release them himself.
These recordings slowly made their way to the public on privately pressed albums like The Original Chirping Sound and Buddy Holly Not Fade Away. In 1992, Pickering approached Viceroy Records to arrange a deal for major nationwide distribution of these overdubbed recordings, who hit a brick wall when MCA made it clear that Pickering did not have proper legal clearance to release such recordings.
Andy McKaie, an MCA executive, has stated that Pickering has never bothered to ask for licensing on the songs. To this day, budget labels release these recordings.
Holly's life story inspired a Hollywood biographical film, The Buddy Holly Story. Star Gary Busey received a nomination for 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. This led Paul McCartney to produce and host his own tribute to 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.
Holly did not gain widespread acceptance in Lubbock until after his death. The historian Richard Driver of Texas Tech University notes that he did not enjoy his success or national popularity in Lubbock, despite being rooted in Lubbock as his career took off between 1956-1958. Holly moved to New York City after marrying Maria Elena Santiago in August 1958 and ending his career with the Crickets that fall. In Lubbock, recognition of musicians or their popularity was rare, even as numerous musicians and performers emerged from the city and surrounding region at the same time as Holly and in successive years. Nevertheless, Driver argues that Holly's connection with Lubbock garnered the city international recognition as his hometown, especially with the musicians of the British Invasion. Later acts such as The Clash also sought to visit his hometown just to view where he went to high school.
Downtown Lubbock has a "walk of fame" with plaques to various area artists such as Glenna Goodacre, Mac Davis, Maines Brothers Band, and Waylon Jennings, with a larger than life-size statue of Buddy Holly by sculptor Grant Speed (1980) playing his Fender guitar as its centerpiece. As of September 2010 the statue has been taken down for cleaning. The statue, along with the West Texas Walk of Fame, will be relocated to the Buddy & Maria Elena Holly Park directly west of the Buddy Holly Center at a later date. Downtown Lubbock also features Buddy Holly Avenue and the Buddy Holly Center, which is a museum dedicated to Texas art and music.
[8936 Reich / 8936 Holly / 8936 Billy Roberts]