The Story: Buddy Holly

buddy holly color

Every day, it’s a-gettin’ closer

Goin’ faster than a roller coaster…

Here’s the amazing thing about Buddy Holly — he only rocked this world for about two years, bursting onto the national scene out of Texas with “That’ll Be The Day” in the spring of 1957 and off the stage by the spring of 1959.

And yet he’s one of the most influential of the early rock ‘n’ rollers, penning (at least) a dozen classics, since covered by almost everybody, in every genre from punk to country.

Gary Busey found himself nominated for an Oscar in The Buddy Holly Story back in the days when the phrase “Oscar-nominated actor Gary Busey” didn’t sound like an oxymoron. Paul McCartney bought up Holly’s song publishing and holds an annual celebration festival. The band Weezer wrote a song about looking like Buddy, thereby bringing him to the attention of a whole new generation.

Aside from his music, Holly’s importance to future musicians stems from (at least) three other things:

  1. Buddy Holly sweaterHe was the first to start a rock band. It wasn’t Someone & The Someones, where the rhythm section served as an afterthought to the star. They were The Crickets. Period. And virtually every band in the 60s emulated that.
  2. He pioneered the use of the Fender Stratocaster (for you rookies, that’s an electric guitar) and was rarely seen without one. Compared to other rockers using amplified acoustics or hollow-body models, it looked sleek and modern.
  3. Speaking of image…those glasses. Holly’s prominent black frames became his most identifiable feature, giving him a slightly geeky, guy next door kind of look, and his relatively simple sounding songs made it seem like anyone could do it. Elvis seemed more like a god bestriding the earth with that voice and those hips; Little Richard was simply otherworldly; and Jerry Lee Lewis was simply out of control. Buddy Holly rocked like your super cool, older cousin. And if he could do it, maybe you could, too.

His death, of course, made him legendary in the rock ‘n’ roll story. But we’ll address that another time. It’s all too sad, but the tale must be told. Just not right now.

So rave on! It’s a crazy feeling. Here’s the least you need to know:

buddy holly chirpingThe Definitive Collection There are 3 million Buddy Holly compilations. Your best bet is to grab one like the collection suggested, with around 20 tracks, on a major label (his catalog is licensed by Geffen at the moment) and that will get you all the highlights. He only released two albums during his lifetime, one as The Crickets (pictured left) and one solo, but he recorded heavily during his pre-fame years, as well as in the months leading up to his death. So you can also seek out his entire musical output, some 200 tracks of demos, alternate takes, radio appearances, studio takes, and more, on the 6-disc box set, Not Fade Away.

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