BUDDY HOLLY - The Day the Music Died. The line from Don McLean's hit, American Pie, reflects the emotions of music-lovers all over the world when news of the death of Buddy Holly was announced on 3 February 1959. The fatal crash also cost the lives of Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper. The music world had lost 3 of its most talented members in one blow.
Despite the fact that he was already a legend, it was only after his death that the myth surrounding him began to grow. Even to this day, you can still find people on the Internet who claim that Buddy Holly is not dead and endeavour to prove this with the help of fake photographs. Nevertheless, when he died, Buddy had enjoyed only a short career. Three years of recording and performing had been enough to earn him a place alongside the immortals of show business.
Buddy was born in Lubbock, Texas, on 7 September 1936, as Charles Hardin Holley. His parents and elder brothers played a lot of music and at the tender age of five, Buddy entered a music competition with his two brothers. Buddy played the violin and, despite, or perhaps thanks to, the fact that his brothers had rubbed his bow with soap, so that he played but made no sound, they won first prize. 5 dollars was what young Buddy earned from this performance.
Later, Buddy taught himself to play guitar and it was in 1949, when he was still at school, that he met Bob Montgomery. Bob also played guitar and it wasn't long before they were performing as Buddy and Bob. As soon as they had the money and opportunity, they went into the studio to record a short demo tape, which they sent to various record companies. Like so many talented youngsters, this was to no avail. Even so, they performed regularly, often as the support act for such well-known artists as Elvis Presley and Bill Haley.
It was the manager, Eddie Crandall, who finally discovered this young talent. He introduced the duo to Decca Records, who then offered Buddy a recording contract as a solo artist. Buddy was not prepared to sign without his partner, Bob, but Bob persuaded him that he should not miss out on such an opportunity, so he finally conceded. It was a typing error on the part of Decca's secretary that was responsible for Holly being spelt without the 'e'. Buddy was only too glad that he had a contract, so he let it go. From then on, he was therefore known a Buddy Holly. Decca wanted to promote Buddy as the new Elvis, but the first record they released, That Will be the Day, was a big flop. Decca immediately terminated the contract.
Buddy decided to team up with another band. The outfit that he formed, together with Niki Sullivan, Jerry Allison and Joe Mauldin had to have an insect name, they decided. The members chose The Beetles, but Buddy didn't see the Beetles as a good name for a band and felt that the name should have more of a musical connotation. The cricket was the creature after which the band was finally named. They approached Norman Petty, a pianist who had already had a number of big hits as a producer, and asked him to become their manager. Petty recognised the talent and managed to negotiate two contracts. One for The Crickets with Buddy Holly as singer and guitarist and one for Buddy as a solo singer. In the Clovis Studios, in New Mexico, they recorded several numbers, with backing vocals provided by the Picks, an existing trio consisting of John and Bill Pickering and Bob Lapham. The first single, a new version of That'll be the Day, shot straight to the top of the American charts. That was to be the beginning of an impressive career.
In 1957, The Crickets toured America with the Everly Brothers and Fats Domino. The Everlys persuaded The Crickets to get rid of their country image of white T-shirts and jeans and adopt a more modern look. From then on, they were never to be seen without jackets and ties. Buddy's glasses stayed, as without them he was practically blind. The charts were overwhelmed by hits like Peggy Sue, Oh Boy, and Heartbeat and the group is was at the zenith of its success.
In 1958, Nicki Sullivan left the band, to be replaced by Tommy Allsup. That same year, the band members were paying a visit to their recording company when Buddy fell in love at first sight with secretary, Maria Elena Santiago. Two weeks later, on 15 August 1958, they married.
Despite all the success, tension began to grow within the group, finally leading to The Crickets going their own way and Buddy concentrating on a solo career. The winter tour of 58/59 saw Buddy playing with Tommy Allsup on guitar, Carl Bunch on drums and the later legendary country musician, Waylon Jennings, on bass. A tour that ended tragically on 3 February 1959, with the crash of the Beechcraft, registration number N329N.