Friday, February 2, 2018

Buddy Holly and the Crickets (1936 - 1959)

Charles Hardin Holley was born in 1936 in Lubbock, Texas. The youngest of four children he grew up in a modest home. The Holleys were a musical family and Buddy started the piano when he was 11 years of age. After nine months of lessons he went onto the guitar and violin. At High school he teamed up with Bob Montgomery and the thirteen year olds formed a duo, "Buddy and Bob". They sang harmony duets at local clubs and high school talent shows. Buddy also sang in the Lubbock High School Choir but when he saw Elvis Presley play in Lubbock (1955), it made him more determined to become a pop star. By the time Presley returned to Lubbock for a second performance, Buddy was on the bill as a support act and not long after later Buddy’s group opened for Bill Haley & His Comets at a local rock show. When Decca Records signed him up they made a mistake in the contract and called him Buddy Holly. Too modest to ask them to change he became Buddy Holly. Among the first tracks recorded for Decca was an early version of "That'll Be the Day", which took its title from a phrase that John Wayne's character said repeatedly in the 1956 film, The Searchers. The original recording was a demo and was recorded in three takes. The complete recording session cost $15 (US).

Buddy soon formed his own band, The Crickets, which featured his school chum Jerry Allison (drums), Joe Mauldin (bass), and Niki Sullivan (guitar), and they began making records at Norman Petty's studios in Clovis, New Mexico. Petty was a piano player with an acute sense of hearing (acoustics), he had a trio and started a makeshift recording studio in his front room. He was also a shrewd businessman and insisted he shared the writing credits whether he contributed much to the song or not. This assured him greater share of the royalties and ironically made him one of the greatest rock’n’roll song writers of all time thanks to Buddy Holly. Coral Records was a subsidiary of Decca Records and signed Buddy Holly and The Crickets which meant Buddy was in an unusual position holding two record contracts at the same time. “That’ll be the day” (1957) hit the top of the charts.

Buddy’s songs had more sophisticated lyrics and complex harmonies than other song around at the time. Many of his early works featured a unique vocal "hiccup" technique. The clipped "uh" sound was used to emphasize certain words in his up tempo songs. "Rave On" and "Not fade away", are two good examples.

Part of his appeal was Buddy and the Crickets were younger than most of the country and western stars of the day, and the group were not constrained to one type of music. Their mass appeal crossed race with a combination of intelligent lyrics, innovative rock’n’ roll style which later included sophisticated orchestration. Buddy Holly and the Crickets were soon popular in Australia and the UK and toured. If Cliff Richard was the UK, Elvis Presley then Adam Faith was the Anglo, Buddy Holly. Buddy enjoyed his trips to Australia and made lasting (if sadly short) friendships with Johnny O’Keeffe. The band was taken with JO’K’s Wild One and recorded their own inspired version called Real Wild Child.

In 1958, the group toured the United Kingdom and later the same year he married Maria Elena Santiago. Their pop success continued with “Oh Boy” and “Peggy Sue,” but Buddy was growing restless.

A long running dispute concerning unpaid royalties caused much acrimony between members of the band. Buddy split from the Crickets (and Norman Petty), then moved to New York where he began a solo tour with other notable performers. On the 2nd of February 1959 Buddy was on a tour of the Mid West with Ritchie Valens and "The Big Bopper." (J.P. Richardson). Tired of travelling on tour bus, Buddy chartered a Beechcraft Bonanza aircraft to take him and his new Crickets band (Tommy Allsup, Carl Bunch and Waylon Jennings) to Fargo, North Dakota. Carl Bunch had suffered frostbite and was admitted to hospital on the fateful night. J.P. Richardson, "The Big Bopper" had a bad flu and Waylon Jennings gave him his plane seat; and as Ritchie Valens had never flown before on a small plane, he and Tommy Allsup flipped a coin and Ritchie won. The four-passenger Beechcraft Bonanza took off into a blinding snow storm and crashed soon after into a corn field. The crash killed Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, J.P. Richardson, and the 21-year-old pilot, Roger Peterson. Universally the event is known as “the day the music died,” and Buddy Holly was only 21. Maria Elena Holly, miscarried soon after. Universally the event was called “the day the music died.”

The gifted songster had only been recording for two years, yet in that short career he wrote and performed the most progressive music of his time which laid the musical foundation for groups like the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and countless other musicians to come.

Worth a listen:
Buddy Holly and the Crickets
That’ll be the day (1957)
Peggy Sue (1957)
Listen to me (1958)
Rave on (1958)
Well all right (1958)
Heartbeat (1958)
Oh Boy (1958)
Fools Paradise (1958)

Elvis Presley
Blue Moon of Kentucky (1954)

Bill Haley and the Comets
See you later Alligator (1956)

Ritchie Valens
La Bamba (1958)

The Big Bopper
Chantilly Lace (1958)

Don McLean
American Pie (1972)

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