Had he lived, Buddy Holly would have been 80 years old today.
Charles Hardin Holley was born in Lubbock, TX and, by the time he was in high school, was playing guitar and singing country music. Late at night, though, Buddy would listen to R&B stations and soon his music became a mix of the two genres.
After graduation, Holly took on music full-time, opening for acts like Elvis Presley and Bill Haley & the Comets around the Lubbock area. It was at one of these shows that he was discovered by Nashville talent scout Eddie Crandall. He was able to get Buddy signed to Decca Records and they put him in the studio with Owen Bradley.
Holly was never happy with Bradley who tried to closely control his sound and, in early 1956, he traveled to Clovis, NM to record with Norman Petty. Their first record, That’ll Be the Day was picked up by Brunswick Records, a subsidiary of Decca, and went to number 1 on the Billboard charts in 1957.
Decca made the decision to release records under both Holly’s name, on Coral Records, and as The Crickets on Brunswick, doubling the number of releases possible to radio stations for Holly’s recordings. Over the next two years, Holly would have nine singles hit the charts between the two names.
In early 1959, Holly went on tour with a band consisting of Waylon Jennings, Tommy Allsup, and Carl Bunch. Traveling the frigged upper mid-west, the band has nearly constant problems with breakdowns of their tour bus which put the tour in jeopardy. On February 2, 1959, Holly chartered a small four-seat plane to take them from their show in Clear Lake, IA to Moorhead, MN where they would have time to relax between appearances. Allsup ended up losing his seat via coin toss to Ritchie Valens and Jennings offered his seat to J.P. Richardson, the Big Bopper, both co-headliners on the tour. Shortly after 1 AM on February 3, 1959, the plane crashed shortly after takeoff, killing all on board.
In just 1-1/2 years, Holly had left a legacy that would live on through the years, influencing scores of artists. The Beatles took their name in tribute to Buddy Holly and the Crickets. When it came down to the business of learning how to work with the mechanics of writing songs, Holly’s pure-and-simple three-chord melodies and “words of love” were a major influence and inspiration to John Lennon and Paul McCartney. Notably, five years to the day after Holly was buried, on February 7, 1964, the Beatles landed at JFK Airport in New York City and ushered in the British Invasion that changed popular music forever. Holly’s legacy has been enduring and meteoric ever since.
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