A Rockapaedia Obituary
Buddy Holly died aged twenty-two on 3rd February 1959, when his plane crashed, shortly after take-off, into a cornfield five miles northwest of the Mason City, Iowa, U.S.A. . His body, along with those of other entertainers were all ejected from the plane on impact.
Buddy Holly's funeral was held on 7th February 1959, at the Tabernacle Baptist Church in Lubbock, Texas, U.S.A.. The service was officiated by Ben D. Johnson, who had presided at Buddy Holly's wedding just months earlier. The pallbearers were Jerry Allison, Joe B. Mauldin, Niki Sullivan, Bob Montgomery, Sonny Curtis, and Phil Everly. Buddy Holly's body was interred in the City of Lubbock Cemetery, in the eastern part of the city. His headstone carries the correct spelling of his surname (Holley) and a carving of his Fender Stratocaster guitar.
Buddy's Winter Dance Party tour began in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on 23rd January 1959. The amount of travel involved created logistical problems, as the distance between venues had not been properly considered when scheduling performances. Adding to the problem, the unheated tour buses twice broke down in freezing weather, with dire consequences. Buddy's drummer Carl Bunch was hospitalized for frostbite to his toes, suffered while aboard the bus, so Buddy decided to seek other transportation. Before their appearance in Clear Lake, Iowa, on 2nd February Buddy Holly chartered a four-seat Beechcraft Bonanza airplane from Dwyer Flying Service in Mason City, Iowa, for Jennings, Allsup, and himself. Buddy's idea was to depart following the show at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake and fly to their next venue, in Moorhead, Minnesota, via Fargo, North Dakota, allowing them time to rest and launder their clothes and avoid a rigorous bus journey. Immediately after the Clear Lake show, which ended just before midnight, Allsup lost a coin toss and gave up his seat on the plane to Ritchie Valens, while Waylon Jennings voluntarily gave up his seat to J. P. Richardson (the Big Bopper), who had influenza and complained that the tour bus was too cold and uncomfortable for a man of his size.
In the dressing room after the Clear Lake show, Allsup agreed to flip a coin for the seat with Valens. Allsup took out a brand new half-dollar, and Ritchie called heads. Heads it was. "That's the first time I've ever won anything in my life," Valens reportedly said. Allsup later opened a restaurant in Fort Worth, Texas called Heads Up.
The pilot, Roger Peterson, took off in inclement weather, although he was not certified to fly by instruments only.
Buddy Holly was born Charles Hardin Holley on 7th September 1936, in Lubbock, Texas, U.S.A. He was the fourth child of Lawrence Odell "L.O." Holley and Ella Pauline Drake . His elder siblings were Larry, Travis, and Patricia Lou. Buddy Holly was of mostly English and Welsh descent but also had small amounts of Native American ancestry as well. From early childhood, he was nicknamed "Buddy". During the Great Depression, the Holleys frequently moved residence within Lubbock; L.O. changed jobs several times. Buddy Holly was baptized a Baptist, and the family were members of the Tabernacle Baptist Church.
The Holleys had an interest in music; all the family members except L.O. were able to play an instrument or sing. The elder Holley brothers performed in local talent shows; on one occasion, Buddy joined them on violin. Since he could not play it, his brother Larry greased the strings so it would not make any sound. The brothers won the contest. During World War II, Larry and Travis were called to military service. Upon his return, Larry brought with him a guitar he had bought from a shipmate while serving in the Pacific. At age eleven, Buddy took piano lessons but abandoned them after nine months. He switched to the guitar after he saw a classmate playing and singing on the school bus. Buddy's parents initially bought him a steel guitar, but he insisted that he wanted a guitar like his brother's. His parents bought the guitar from a pawnshop, and Travis taught him to play it.
During his early childhood, Buddy Holley was influenced by the music of Hank Williams, Jimmie Rodgers, Hank Snow, Bob Wills, and the Carter Family. At Roscoe Wilson Elementary, he became friends with Bob Montgomery, and the two played together, practicing with songs by the Louvin Brothers and Johnnie & Jack. They both listened to radio programs such as Grand Ole Opry. At the same time, Buddy Holley played with other musicians he met in high school, including Sonny Curtis and Jerry Allison. In 1952, Buddy Holley and Jack Neal performed as a duo billed as "Buddy and Jack" in a talent contest on a local television show. After Neal left, he was replaced by Montgomery and they were billed as "Buddy and Bob". The two soon started performing on the Sunday Party show on KDAV in 1953 and performed live gigs in Lubbock. At that time, Buddy Holley was influenced by late-night radio stations that played blues and rhythm and blues. Buddy would sit in his car with Curtis and tune to distant radio stations that could only be received at night, when local transmissions ceased. Buddy Holley then modified his music by blending his earlier country and western influence with R & B.
By 1955, after graduating from high school, Buddy Holley decided to pursue a full-time career in music. He was further encouraged after seeing Elvis Presley performing live in Lubbock. In February, Buddy opened for Presley at the Fair Park Coliseum, in April at the Cotton Club, and again in June at the Coliseum. By that time, he had incorporated into his band Larry Welborn on the stand-up bass and Allison on drums, as his style shifted from C&W to rock and roll due to seeing Elvis Presley's performances and hearing his music. In October, Stone booked Bill Haley & His Comets and placed Buddy Holley as the opening act to be seen by Nashville talent scout Eddie Crandall. Impressed, Crandall persuaded Grand Ole Opry manager Jim Denny to seek a recording contract for Buddy Holley. Stone sent a demo tape, which Denny forwarded to Paul Cohen, who signed the band to Decca Records in 1956. In the contract, Decca misspelled Buddy Holley's last name as "Holly"; and from then on, he was known as Buddy Holly.
On January 1956, Buddy Holly attended his first formal recording session, which was produced by Owen Bradley. He attended two more sessions in Nashville, but with the producer selecting the session musicians and arrangements, Buddy became increasingly frustrated by his lack of creative control. In April 1956, Decca released "Blue Days, Black Nights" as a single, with "Love Me" on the B-side. Denny included Buddy Holly on a tour as the opening act for Faron Young. During the tour, they were promoted as "Buddy Holly and the Two Tones", while later Decca called them "Buddy Holly and the Three Tunes". The label later released Buddy Holly's second single "Modern Don Juan", backed with "You Are My One Desire". Neither single made an impression. In January 1957, Decca informed Buddy Holly his contract would not be renewed, and insisted he could not record the same songs for anyone else for five years.
Buddy Holly was unhappy with the results of his stint with Decca; he was inspired by the success of Buddy Knox's "Party Doll" and Jimmy Bowen's "I'm Stickin' with You", and visited Norman Petty, who had produced and promoted both records. Together with Allison, bassist Joe B. Mauldin, and rhythm guitarist Niki Sullivan, he went to Petty's studio in Clovis, New Mexico. The group recorded a demo of "That'll Be the Day", a song they had previously recorded in Nashville. Now playing lead guitar, Buddy Holly achieved the sound he desired. Petty became his manager and sent the record to Brunswick Records in New York City. Buddy Holly, still under contract with Decca, could not release the record under his name, so a band name was used; Allison proposed the name "Crickets". Brunswick gave Buddy Holly a basic agreement to release "That'll Be the Day", leaving him with both artistic control and financial responsibility for future recordings. Impressed with the demo, the label's executives released it without recording a new version. "I'm Looking for Someone to Love" was the B-side; the single was credited to the Crickets. Petty and Holly later learned that Brunswick was a subsidiary of Decca, which legally cleared future recordings under the name Buddy Holly. Recordings credited to the Crickets would be released on Brunswick, while the recordings under Buddy Holly's name were released on another subsidiary label, Coral Records. Buddy concurrently held a recording contract with both labels.
"That'll Be the Day" was released on 27th May 1957. Petty booked Buddy Holly and the Crickets for a tour with Irvin Feld, who had noticed the band after "That'll Be the Day" appeared on the Rythm&Blues chart. He booked them for appearances in Washington, D.C., Baltimore, and New York City. The band was booked to play at New York's Apollo Theater on August 16–22. During the opening performances, the group did not impress the audience, but they were accepted after they included "Bo Diddley" in their shows. By the end of their run at the Apollo, "That'll Be the Day" was climbing the charts. Encouraged by the single's success, Petty started to prepare two album releases; a solo album for Buddy Holly and another for the Crickets. Buddy appeared on American Bandstand, hosted by Dick Clark on ABC, on 26th August. Before leaving New York, the band befriended the Everly Brothers.
"That'll Be the Day" topped the US "Best Sellers in Stores" chart that September and was number one on the UK Singles Chart for three weeks during November. In September Coral released "Peggy Sue", backed with "Everyday", with Buddy Holly credited as the performer. By October, "Peggy Sue" had reached number three on Billboard's pop chart and number two on the Rythm&Blues chart; it peaked at number six on the UK Singles chart. As the success of the song grew, it brought more attention to Buddy Holly, with the band at the time being billed as "Buddy Holly and the Crickets".
In the last week of September, the band members flew to Lubbock to visit their families. Buddy Holly's high school girlfriend, Echo McGuire, had left him for a fellow student. Aside from McGuire, Buddy Holly had a relationship with Lubbock fan June Clark. Meanwhile, for their return to recording, Petty arranged a session in Oklahoma City, where he was performing with his own band. While the band drove to the location, the producer set up a makeshift studio. The rest of the songs needed for an album and singles were recorded; Petty later dubbed the material in Clovis. The resulting album, The "Chirping" Crickets, was released on November 27th 1957. It reached number five on the UK Albums Chart. In October, Brunswick released the second single by the Crickets, "Oh, Boy!", with "Not Fade Away" on the B-side. The single reached number ten on the pop chart and thirteen on the Rythm&Blues chart. Buddy Holly and the Crickets performed "That'll Be the Day" and "Peggy Sue" on The Ed Sullivan Show on December 1st 1957. Following the appearance, Niki Sullivan left the group because of the intensive touring. In December Buddy Holly and the Crickets performed "Peggy Sue" on The Arthur Murray Party.
In January 1958, Buddy Holly and the Crickets joined America's Greatest Teenage Recording Stars tour and recorded "Rave On"; the next day, he made his second appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, singing "Oh, Boy!" He departed to perform in Honolulu, Hawaii, on January 27th and then started a week-long tour of Australia. In March, the band toured the United Kingdom, playing fifty shows in twenty-five days. The same month, his debut solo album, Buddy Holly, was released. Upon their return to the United States, Buddy Holly and the Crickets joined Alan Freed's Big Beat Show tour for 41 dates.
A new recording session in Clovis was arranged in May; Buddy Holly hired Tommy Allsup to play lead guitar. The session produced the recordings of "It's So Easy" and "Heartbeat". Buddy Holly was impressed by Allsup and invited him to join the Crickets. In June, Buddy Holly travelled alone to New York for a solo recording session. Without the Crickets, he chose to be backed by a jazz and Rythm&Blues band, recording "Now We're One" and Bobby Darin's "Early in the Morning".
During a visit to the offices of Peer-South, Holly met María Elena Santiago. He asked her out on their first meeting and proposed marriage to her on their first date. The wedding took place that August . Petty disapproved of the marriage and advised Buddy Holly to keep it secret to avoid upsetting female fans. Petty's reaction created friction with Buddy, who had also started to question Petty's bookkeeping. The Crickets, frustrated because he controlled all of the proceeds from the band, were also in conflict with Petty.
Buddy Holly and Santiago frequented many of New York's music venues, including the Village Gate, Blue Note, Village Vanguard, and Johnny Johnson's. Maria later said that Buddy Holly was keen to learn fingerstyle flamenco guitar and that he would often visit her aunt's home to play the piano there. Buddy Holly planned collaborations between soul singers and rock and roll. He wanted to make an album with Ray Charles and Mahalia Jackson. He also had ambitions to work in film and registered for acting classes with Lee Strasberg's Actors Studio.
Maria Santiago accompanied Buddy on tours. To hide her marriage to Buddy, she was presented as the Crickets' secretary. She took care of the laundry and equipment set-up and collected the concert revenues. Buddy kept the money for the band instead of their habitual transfer to Petty in New Mexico. She and her aunt Provi Garcia, executive of the Latin American music department at Peer-Southern, convinced Buddy Holly that Petty was paying the band's royalties from Coral-Brunswick into his own company's account. Buddy Holly planned to retrieve his royalties from Petty and to later fire him as manager and producer. At the recommendation of the Everly Brothers, Buddy Holly hired lawyer Harold Orenstein to negotiate his royalties. The problems with Petty were triggered after he was unable to pay Buddy. At the time, New York promoter Manny Greenfield reclaimed a large part of Buddy Holly's earnings; Greenfield had booked Buddyfor shows during previous tours. The two had a verbal agreement; Greenfield would obtain 5% of the booking earnings. Greenfield later felt he was also acting as Buddy Holly's manager and deserved a higher payment, which Buddy refused. Greenfield then sued Buddy. Under New York law, because Buddy Holly's royalties originated in New York and were directed out of the state, the payments were frozen until the dispute was settled. Petty then could not complete the transfers to Buddy, who considered him responsible for the missing profit.
Buddy Holly returned to Clovis for a new recording session, which yielded "Reminiscing" and "Come Back Baby". During the session, he ventured into producing by recording Lubbock DJ, Waylon Jennings. Buddy Holly produced the single "Jole Blon" and "When Sin Stops (Love Begins)" for Jennings. Buddy Holly became increasingly interested in the New York music, recording, and publishing scene. Maria and he settled in Apartment 4H of the Brevoort Apartments, at 11 Fifth Avenue in Greenwich Village, where he recorded a series of acoustic songs, including "Crying, Waiting, Hoping" and "What to Do". In October, Buddy Holly recorded tracks for Coral; these were backed by saxophonist Boomie Richman and an 18-piece orchestra composed of former members of the NBC Symphony Orchestra. The three-and-a-half-hour session produced "It Doesn't Matter Anymore", "Raining in My Heart", "Moondreams" (written by Petty). Buddy Holly ended his association with Petty in December 1958. His band members kept Petty as their manager then Buddy Holly also split from the Crickets. Petty was still holding the money from the royalties, forcing Buddy Holly to form a new band and return to touring.
Buddy Holly vacationed with his wife in Lubbock and visited Jennings's radio station in December 1958. For the start of the fateful Winter Dance Party tour, he assembled a band consisting of Waylon Jennings (electric bass), Tommy Allsup (guitar), and Carl Bunch (drums).
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