Fans at grave site keep Buddy Holly’s legacy alive
It was cold and windy Tuesday morning near the entrance to the Lubbock Cemetery, not entirely unlike one would imagine the field in Clear Lake, Iowa, where Buddy Holly died 50 years earlier.
Guitar picks, pennies and a few decorations are scattered around the rock legend’s headstone, so unassuming it could easily be missed if it weren’t for the large sign pointing to its location.
The grave of Lubbock’s famous son would serve as a point of pilgrimage for faithful fans in honor of the 50th anniversary of the day music, along with Holly, died.
The music experts
Jared Duncan and Julie Heller pulled up to Holly’s grave just a little after 8:30 a.m.
Duncan, a recent graduate of Texas Tech searching for a job in the music industry, said the appeal of Holly’s songs first touched his life when he was young and his parents would play the old tunes for him.
“His music is just captivating,” he said. “I mean 50 years later it’s still a big part of the music world.”
For Heller, a Tech music education graduate student, it was a trip overseas that would show her the importance of Holly’s music around the world.
While touring London when she was 16, Heller said a large neon sign shaped like a silhouette of Holly’s head advertising the musical “Buddy” both surprised her and filled her with curiosity.
“It’s just the significance of that impact, and how different it would have been if he stayed alive,” she said of her intrigue with Holly.
Fans will travel
It was a trip years in the making.
Coming from Gloucester, England, Phillip and Caroline Jenkins decided on Lubbock instead of Clear Lake as their Holly destination for one reason: because he’s here.
Caroline, dressed in a shirt adorned with the name Peggy Sue, said she was first inspired by Holly’s music when she was young.
“It’s just good music,” she said. “Just everything.”
Like many across the pond, where Holly has garnered a large following, Phil said he also found himself drawn to the rocker’s tunes, so much so he was willing to bring his wife to Lubbock for her 40th birthday.
After spending a few days in the Hub City, Phil said he wasn’t too impressed with the city’s efforts to honor its most recognizable native.
“(I’m a) bit disappointed on a whole,” he said. “Apart from the official monuments and stuff, there’s not really much here. In England, everyone knows Buddy.”
And if it were England, his grave would have been covered in flowers, the couple agreed.
Lots of ‘Peggy Sue’
John Ellis remembers a special moment he had while staying at his grandparents’ Houston home when he was young.
“When I was 8 years old in Houston, 1958, I had this little old radio and I would listen to ‘Peggy Sue’ over and over,” Ellis said. “I really liked his music.”
After moving to Lubbock, Ellis said, his trips to Holly’s grave site started in 1971, and became a peaceful time of reflection when he was a young man.
I was surprised to see it was just a simple headstone,” he said. “When I first came out I thought it would be a big monument.”
Ellis, an employee at Southwest Airlines, said he almost had his own Peggy Sue moment as he watched the song’s namesake, Peggy Sue Gerron, board a plane for Iowa earlier in the week. Ever the shy one, he just turned away.
“I really should have said hello when I had the chance,” he said.
Glenda Ward was just 3 when she saw Holly and the Crickets play a set on top of the now demolished Hi-D-Ho burger joint. It was a moment that would leave a lasting impression.
Now a home health care worker in Slaton, Ward spends her spare time playing bass guitar in a band with Holly’s old friends.
She leaves a wreath at his grave each year, but Ward said it’s the least she can do for a man and artist who did so much to influence the world.
“John Q Public probably doesn’t notice that, but others do,” she said of Holly’s musical legacy.
Ward, whose favorite Holly songs include “That’ll Be the Day” and “Heart Beat,” was more than happy to talk to other visitors at the cemetery about lesser known haunts of the Crickets in their early days.
“It’s really a more sad day,” she said of the anniversary of the singer’s death. “You just can’t help but feel the pain again of what happened 50 years ago.”
The sun set early at Holly’s grave, just as it did on his life. But for those who remember, those who faithfully take time to honor the singer in their own way, his spirit, legacy and music can truly live on forever.