Buddy Holly – Rock ‘n’ Roll Trailblazer

The Early Years For Buddy Holly

Buddy Holly is the youngest of four, and hails from Lubbock, Texas where he grew up in a very religious background and the Great Depression. So, gospel, country, and bluegrass music and the radio were pretty much his only musical conduit to the rest of the world at the time. 


But when he turns twelve, he decides that he wants to learn to play guitar. With guidance from his brother, he becomes a natural at playing the guitar. Starting off, his influences are Hank Williams, Jimmie Rodgers, Hank Snow, Bob Wills, and the Carter Family. 


As well as listening to the Grand Ole Opry on the radio at night when you could get the best reception and the best music as well. Locally, he’s starts performing with friends and his siblings while making a name for himself around town. 


But in 1955, after hearing Elvis Presley, he found his path in life and it’s a new genre of music called Rock n’ Roll! Buying a Fender Stratocaster electric guitar, he begins to create his own distinctive style of sound.


By playing with downward strokes hitting 3 strings and then an up stroke to hit the fourth note. While muffling the strings to create his unique sound that’s not usually heard on a guitar. By locking his wrist, he creates a signature driving rhythm. Which becomes his trademark sound.


First Television Appearance & Getting Signed

Holly makes his first local television appearance in 1952, and then the following year he forms the group “Buddy & Bob’ with his friend Bob Montgomery. In 1955, after opening for Elvis Presley, and being the opening act for Presley three time after, he decides to pursue a career in music. Later, he opens for Bill Haley & His Comets. This is where Nashville scout, Eddie Crandall sees his performance and shortly after is signed to Decca Records in 1955. 


The Crickets (1956–1957)

Not happy with Decca Records, Holly goes rogue from the label and ends up in Mexico at the studio of Norman Petty, Clovis Studio’s. He’s impressed with the previous work he did and wants to record a record in his studio. They do a recorded demo of “That’ll Be The Day, a song they had previously recorded in Nashville. Petty becomes his manager shortly after and sends the record to Brunswick Records.


Even though Holly records the song, he still has his record deal with Decca. So needless to say, he couldn’t release it under his own name. But that’s ok, because he uses the name “The Crickets” until all the legal logistics could get worked out. Which this does happen, and he records under his own name Buddy Holly with a subsidiary of Decca called “Coral Records.” And as the Crickets.


During 1957, “That Will Be The Day releases and the band is booked for a tour with appearances in Washington, D.C., Baltimore, and New York City. Where they were booked at the Apollo Theater as an opening band. While at first, the reception from the audience wasn’t that great, later after playing there a few days, they include “Bo Diddley” in their set list and was received in the final days of their run at the Apollo!


That Will Be The Day, along with “Peggy Sue” was racing up the charts! Holly makes his second appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show in January 1958 and soon after tours Australia and then the UK. 


The Winter Dance Party tour 

In January of 1959 Buddy Holly, Dion and the Belmont’s, Ritchie Valens, the Big Bopper and Frankie Sardo set out on a twenty-four-day tour of the mid-western United States. The tour is called “The Winter Dance Party” tour beginning in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on January 23, 1959. There were travel issues and logistical problems right at the start. Even more, the tour busses keep breaking down in the winter with no heat to keep everyone warm. Carl Bunch, Holly’s drummer is hospitalized for frostbite to his toes. Holly looks into seeking some other form of transportation besides riding the bus. 


On February 2, before their appearance in Clear Lake, Iowa, Holly charters a four-seat Beechcraft Bonanza airplane for Jennings, Allsup, and himself, from Dwyer Flying Service in Mason City, Iowa. Holly’s idea is 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. 


After the Clear Lake show, Allsup agrees to flip a coin for the seat with Valens. (Valens wins the coin toss). Waylon Jennings gives up his seat to J. P. Richardson (the Big Bopper), who is sick, and the tour bus is cold and uncomfortable for a guy his size! Shortly after 12:55 am on February 3, 1959, Holly, Valens, Richardson, Peterson, and the pilot are killed instantly when the aircraft crashes into a frozen cornfield five miles northwest of Mason City, Iowa airport shortly after takeoff.  

His Legacy

Buddy Holly left behind dozens of unfinished recordings and solo transcriptions of his new compositions, informal jam sessions with bandmates, or tapes demonstrating songs intended for other artists. The demand for Holly records was so great, and Holly had recorded so prolifically, that his record label is able to release new Holly albums and singles for the next 10 years after his passing.


On January 23, 1986, Buddy Holly is inducted into the first class of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City. This event later becomes known as “The Day the Music Died” after singer-songwriter Don McLean refers to it as such in his 1971 song “American Pie”. 


Currently, For the younger generation, and fans, there is also a Buddy Holly & Roy Orbison Hologram Tour 2022 currently touring: https://concertfix.com/tours/buddy-holly-roy-orbison-hologram-show 

Furthermore, be sure, to check out the other blog posts: https://jbonamassa.com/jb-blog/

Video Credits:

That’ll Be The Day – The Ed Sullivan Show / “Peggy Sue” /ianhuman/ “Down The Line” / Buddy Holly – Topic/Universal Music Group