07 September 2010

This Date In Rock History: 7 September

On this date in 1936, Charles Hardin Holley was born in Lubbock, Texas to Lawrence and Ella Holley. He would have been 74 years old today, had he not gone a-way.

Known always as "Buddy" to his parents and two older brothers, he learned to play various string instruments at an early age from them and starting singing with a junior high school friend at clubs and talent shows.

By the time Buddy was 19, he opened for Elvis Presley and Bill Haley & His Comets when the two stopped in Lubbock for concert appearances. Merging rockabilly with Chet Atkins style guitar, Buddy's unique "hiccup" vocals earned him a trip to Nashville. There he recorded some sides with his band The Crickets (Jerry Allison - drums; Joe B. Maudlin - bass; Niki Sullivan - guitar) for legendary producer Owen Bradley. A couple of those sessions resulted in a few sides released on Decca, and went nowhere. Decca didn't pick up a option to keep him on the label.

But agent and producer Norman Petty saw the potential in Holly and his mates. They recorded material in a more up-beat fashion in Clovis, New Mexico. Out of those sessions came the smash "That'll Be The Day" and "Peggy Sue," both of which were performed by Buddy Holly & The Crickets on The Ed Sullivan Show on 1 December 1957.

Most of you know the rest of the story, including the tragic plane crash that took the 22-year old Holly's life in 1959. But it is always worth mentioning the massive influence he has had on rock and roll history.

  • It wasn't just Elvis that helped bridge the divide between black rhythm and blues and white based country and swing. Buddy Holly & The Crickets eventually won over the tough audiences at Harlem's Apollo Theater, the only white group playing with pioneers Chuck Berry and Little Richard.

  • Forty years after Holly's death, Bob Dylan reminisced at the 1998 Grammy Awards in an acceptance speech about seeing The Crickets as a youth: "And I just want to say that when I was sixteen or seventeen years old, I went to see Buddy Holly play at Duluth National Guard Armory and I was three feet away from him...and he looked at me. And I just have some sort of feeling that he was — I don't know how or why — but I know he was with us all the time we were making this record in some kind of way."

  • The Beatles didn't just name their group as a nod of respect to The Crickets. The Fab Four regularly covered Holly in their days apprenticing in England and Germany. They also recorded "Words of Love" and "Mailman, Bring Me No More Blues." Paul McCartney holds the rights to the Buddy Holly song catalogue. George Harrison saw Holly as a youth and patterned his rockabilly style guitar licks after many of his recordings. John Lennon recorded "Peggy Sue" on his Rock 'n Roll covers album.

  • Keith Richards openly has discussed his admiration for Buddy Holly. He has been quoted as saying he too attended a Holly performance in London, where he heard "Not Fade Away" for the first time. The Rolling Stones' bone-shaking version of that song - itself a deep bow by Holly to Bo Diddley - is the classic version in the Holly covers canon.

  • Bruce Springsteen told Dave Marsh in 1978 that "I play Buddy Holly every night before I go on; that keeps me honest." The Boss has covered Holly on stage numerous times, including takes on "Not Fade Away" and "Rave On."

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