Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Buddy Holly; The Day Music Was Reborn

February 3 1959 is also infamously known as the day that music died. That fatal day Buddy Holly flew to his death while on tour with the Winter Dance Party, a package that included Dion and the Bellmonts as well. It was the first time Buddy Holly had flown. With Holly, R&R also lost famous DJ the Big Bopper and Richie Valens in a bizar twist of events. Eventually it were Tommy Allsup and Waylon Jennings who were going to board that plane. Jennings gave up his spot to the Big Bopper when he came down with the flu, in exchange for a sleeping bag. Allsup accepted a bet from Richie Valens and lost his seat in a coin toss. Valens even joked how it was the first time he had ever won anything. Years down the line Don McLean would give that date the name it had since when he looked back in the lyrics of his 1971 monster hit, singing "I can't remembered if I cried, when I read about his widowed bride. But something touched me deep inside, the day that music died.

Don's lyric doesn't do a whole lot of credit to Buddy's legacy and the enduring appeal of R&R. True, with Elvis in the army, Jerry Lee and Chuck Berry entwined in sex scandals and Little Richard finding the Lord, R&R seemed to be hanging by a thread in 1959, but things were already bubbling. Holly had toured the UK during March 1958 and as legend goes had stirred the hearts and hips of a more than a few future key players. Future members of the Beatles and the Stones had seen Buddy Holly in concert, Eric Clapton would later acknowledge it was Holly, amongst others, who was the reason he took up the guitar. Robert Zimmerman, who had seen Holly at the January 31st 1959 show, would change his name in Bob Dylan soon after. Like most legends go, Buddy's rise to fame was almost the result of a few happy accidents. Presenting a demo of That'll Be the Day to manager Norman Petty, the Clovis born took it upon himself to sell the recording to Coral records as the finest deal. A star was born by taking a few lines from the Searchers, a John Wayne movie, and turning it into song. While Holly wasn't nearly as dangerous as Elvis, an argument can be made that it was him and his Crickets who became the blue print for future R&R bands. His Fender-Stratocaster sound was sharp and vicious (especially for those days), Holly wrote and sang his own songs and had a self contained band. Buddy's unique lo-fi sound made R&R accessible for a whole generation of teenagers aching to bust out their guitars themselves. I suspect that Buddy Holly caused more than a few teenage boys to lock themselves up in their garages, preparing R&R's second coming. February 3rd 1959 may have been the day that Buddy Holly died, but he had already helped to give birth to a new generation. As they say, R&R is dead, long live R&R! And God bless Buddy Holly.

Not Fade Away, Buddy Holly

Available on Buddy Holly Gold

I did two earlier posts for Boss Tracks on Buddy, Rave On and Oh Boy! I've restored the audio for both. Enjoy!


T=Bomb said...

Bruce said in Rolling Stone magazine in a 1978 interview "I play Buddy Holly every night before I go on; that keeps me honest."

Pete said...

Great post on one of my all-time favorites. Great to see you back in action, Alex!