LINER NOTES On
the surface, there was little about Buddy Holly that see-med to qualify
him for musical stardom. His family lived in Lub-bock, Texas, on the
edge of the de-sert—hundreds of miles from the nearest recording studio.
He had a poor complexion, bad teeth and glasses, and, when he sang, it
was in a curiously high-pitched voice. But Buddy Holly made a virtue out
of being different to the ex-tent that now—when people look back on the
'50s—his one of the na-mes and faces that leaps instantly to mind.
Charles Hardin 'Buddy' Hol-ley (the 'e' was dropped by the time he
signed his first record ap-peared) was born in Lubbock, on September 7,
1936. He grew up li-stening to country music, and pik-king out chords on
a cheap guitar. Thousands of kids across the South and Southwest were
doing the same thing—but Buddy had two attributes most of them lacked
talent and ambition.
He and his friend Bob Montgomery started
performing over KDAV in Lub-bock during the early '50s as `Buddy and
Bob'. Incidentally, Montgomery shared Buddy's am-bition, and stayed in
the music bu-siness. Until recently, he was the head of CBS Records in
Nash-ville. It was Elvis Presley who tur-ned Buddy's head around. Elvis
played Lubbock twice during 1955, and Buddy was in the au-dience. In the
wake of those shows, Buddy started integrating more R&B into his
style, and checking out the black radio sta-tions. By the time he made
his first set of solo demos, he was sin-ging Joe Turner, Bo Diddley and
Little Richard songs, and making some tentative efforts at writing his
own. In late 1955, Buddy impres-sed some country stars who swung through
town on a package show, and was offered a contract by Decca Records in
Nashville early in 1956. Decca, like every other record company, was
scurrying around trying to find their answer to Elvis Presley.
made some fine records for them—inclu-ding the original 'version of
"That'll Be The Day" — but not-hing clicked, and he was dropped at the
expiration of his one-year term. Down, but not out, Buddy and his group
started working at Norman Petty 's studio in Clovis, New Mexico. It was
there, away from Nashville's assembly-line at-mosphere, that Buddy Holly
dis-covered what was special about his music. He used his own band
instead of Nashville sidemen, and Petty encouraged him to exploit the
quirkiness of his natural voice.
When they re-cut "That'll Be
The Day", Buddy Holly announ-ced his arrival as an innovator. Petty
landed a contract for Buddy and the Crickets with Coral Re-cords, and a
parallel deal with Brunswick for Buddy as a solo artist. Ironically,
both companies were New York subsidiaries of Decca, whose Nashville
division had refused to re-new Buddy's contract. The first record
covered by the deal, "That'll Be The Day", was a number one smash. Like
Fats Domino, Elvis Presley and other true origina-tors, Budd) Holly's
records were recognisable from the first few bars. He was wholly in
control of his music. He wrote much of it, played guitar, directed the
group and sang. In Norman Petty he found a producer who was willing to
let him experiment, and one who didn't try to fit him into a
pre-conceived mould. Slightly less than two years separated the night
that Buddy re-cut "That'll Be The Day", and the night he perished in a
frozen Iowa field. He packed a lifetime's accomplishments into those two
years; he toured, played televi-sion dates, went overseas, mar-ried,
and recorded constantly. He brought an almost unparalleled diversity to
his recordings: go-for-broke rockers like "Oh Boy!" and "Rave On",
ballads that broke new ground like "Heartbeat" and "Listen To Me"; and
simply great pop songs like "Maybe Baby" and "Peggy Sue".
his marriage, Buddy split from the Crickets and moved to New York.
Sensing the demise of primitive three-chord rock 'n' roll, he started
exploring new di-rections, such as recording with strings. Perhaps
Buddy's flair for experimentation could have su-stained his career.
Since his ear-liest days in Lubbock, he had al-ways kept his ears open
to diffe-rent styles of music. New York, with the wide range of musics
to be heard everywhere from recor-ding studios to open windows, would
have provided fodder for his fertile imagination. All those questions
remain unanswerable because of the crash of a light private plane
car-rying Buddy, the Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens. At the time, Buddy
hadn't seen a major hit in over a year, and he was playing in supp-ort
of the Big Bopper and Valens, but history takes account of far more than
chart statistics. Buddy Holly wielded an influence far beyond the nine
hits he scored in his lifetime, and the couple he sco-red posthumously.
was one of those archetypes who take every-thing they've heard, and
meld it into something strikingly origi-nal—a distinction that places
him in very select company. COLIN ESCOTT
Article properties: Buddy Holly: My Greatest Songs (CD)
Singer/songwriter/guitarist born Charles Hardin Holley in Lubbock, Texas in 1936. He was one of the most innovative and influential rock'n'roll artists, and the very first professional rocker to play a Fender Stratocaster. Backed by the Crickets – Niki Sullivan (guitar), Joe B. Mauldin (double bass) and Jerry Allison (drums) – he recorded his first hit, 'That'll Be The Day', at the Norman Petty Studio in Clovis, New Mexico in 1957, following on with 'Peggy Sue', 'Oh Boy!' and others.
He had a promising career ahead of him when he was tragically killed in a plane crash on 2 February 1959 together with Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame in 1986 in the first cohort.
Buddy Holly Buddy Holly was born on Sept. 7, 1936, in Lubbock, Texas, and christened Charles Hardin Holley. Lubbock's geo-graphical position meant that Holly would have heard hillbilly, Mexican and black music on the radio during his formative years, this cosmopolitan musical background was to prove vital to the versatility he latei displayed in his own work. As a youngster he took up the violin, but soon changed to guitar. He showed an early interest in C&W, and while still at school had his own show on KDAV, the local radio sta-tion. He was partnered by Bob Montgomery, and in 1954 they made some hillbilly demo records which were posthu-mously issued as Holly in the Hills. Together with bass-player Larry Welborn, Buddy and Bob would sometimes fill the 'local talent' spot when travelling package shows visited the area. As a result of this exposure, and with help from KDAV disc-jockey Dave Stone, Nashville agent Eddie Cran-dall and publisher Jim Denny, Buddy Holly was signed to Decca in 1956 to cut some singles in Nashville. Two were released without success, and before his contract with Decca was up Holly was beginning to look elsewhere, guessing that the option would not be renewed.
Although Decca handled Holly rather insensitively (i.e. no more nor less off-handedly than any other bright young hopeful) these early sessions did produce at least two Holly classics, 'Midnight Shift' and 'Rock Around With 011ie Vee', and Holly worked with musicians like Sonny Curtis and Jerry Allison who were later to be involved in the Crickets. The tapes were eventually issued as That'll Be The Day. Allison and Holly had been schoolfriends, and had often played together as a drum /guitar duo. The limitations of this line-up helped forge their style, the smooth switch from rhythm to lead in Buddy's guitar-playing, the versa-tility of Jerry's drumming. In 1955, when the two started playing together professionally, it was still unusual to find drums in a country line-up. Soon after his last Decca session, Holly started working at Norman Petty's studio in Clovis, New Mexico.
Petty, who was also a middle-of-the-road band leader, was a pioneer of the small, independent recording studio, he was also unusual in that he charged per song rather than per hour, which put less pressure on musicians. Holly, Allison and Welborn, to-gether with a vocal quartet which included Cricket-to-be Niki Sullivan, recorded 'That'll Be The Day' and 'I'm Look-ing For Someone To Love' in February, 1957. Petty first submitted the songs to Roulette in New York, since they had already had hits originating from his studio with Buddy Knox and Jimmy Bowen. They weren't interested, but Holly and the Crickets were soon signed by Coral. The record made No. 3 in America and No. 1 in Britain, and was fol-lowed with almost equal success by 'Oh Boy' / 'Not Fade Away'. By this time, Joe Mauldin had become the Crickets' bass-player, with Niki Sullivan on rhythm guitar. Before long Petty, who had quickly assumed a managerial position, began to record Holly solo as well as with the Crickets, though the musicians were often the same. Holly's first hit under his own name was 'Peggy Sue', late in 1957, followed in Britain by 'Listen To Me' and in both countries by 'Rave On' and the Bobby Darin number 'Early In The Morning' (by which time, mid-1958, Holly had begun to record in New York without the Crickets as well as in Clovis). After a British tour with the Crickets in that year, Holly married Maria Elena Santiago and moved to New York. The rest of the Crickets didn't want to make the move and so split from Holly. This was probably inevitable. Petty was trying to broaden Holly's career and one of the first results was to record him with the Dick Jacobs Orchestra (notably `It Doesn't Matter Anymore').
Holly's backing group on live . dates at this time included Tommy Allsup, whom he had brought into the Crickets earlier to play lead guitar (it is a mistake to assume that Holly fulfilled this role on all his records). Other notable musicians with whom Holly worked at this time were saxophonist King Curtis, and the young Waylon Jennings, whose first solo record, 'Joie Blon', was produced by Buddy Holly. Early in 1959, Holly's career was at a crossroads. In spite of the significant early impact both with the Crickets and as a solo performer, in spite of his own single-minded attitude towards success and the attempts he was making to create the basis for a long career, there was little in strict commercial terms to suggest (except with hindsight) that he was any different from many other rock performers of the time. It is, of course, inconceivable that, had he lived, he would not have risen further from the pack and still be accorded the respect that his prolific few years have so justly earned for him. He died on February 3, 1959, together with Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper soon after taking off from Mason City airport in Iowa, en route between package-tour concerts in Clear Lake and Fargo. His current record, 'Heartbeat', was barely making an impact on the Hot Hundred. The first posthumous release, 'It Doesn't Matter Any-more' PRaining In My Heart', was a huge hit in both Ameri-ca and Britain.
And in Britain a series of processed tapes put out by Norman Petty kept him in the charts until the mid-Sixties, while an album of his best-known tracks was still in the Top Ten of the budget-price charts ten years earlier. Buddy Holly said 'We owe it all to Elvis'. Countless stars of the Sixties owe a similar debt to. Holly. He was one of the two great singer / songwriter /musicians of the pop Fifties (the other being Chuck Berry). He was a pioneer of the subse-quently-standard two guitars/ bass / drums line-up, and of double-tracking. Almost anything that a pop song can say was said by the twenty-two-year-old Buddy Holly nearly two decades ago.