Relevance of Holly’s music seen in its embrace by future generations
Forty-five years ago, British duo Peter & Gordon (Peter Asher and Gordon Waller) enjoyed Top 40 status with a version of Buddy Holly’s “True Love Ways.”
Now Asher tells the press, “I think people will be listening to Buddy Holly 50 years from now.”
Which may say all we need to know about Holly’s relevance.
This Lubbock, Texas-born musician, who, at 22, died so tragically and violently in the crash of a small, private airplane, might be celebrating his 75th birthday Wednesday had he avoided that flight.
Regardless, Buddy’s ongoing relevance walks hand in hand with his music — that is, with the music he and his friends, the Crickets, created, and also with the techniques he created to enhance the music.
Buddy’s music carries increased weight, in part, because he was an individual in Lubbock, drawn to good music and ignoring the bigotry of the day and the area.
Some even thought Holly and the Crickets’ “sounded black,” paving the way for them to become the only white band to play the Apollo Theater in New York City.
That was August 1957.
His music carries the weight of relevance, because one after another, new generations embraced his songs, his history, his legacy.
Who would have thought that this thin youngster from the then small West Texas town of Lubbock would influence so many, so far away?
He was the sort of Texan who, wearing a T-shirt and jeans, would go to a cowboy movie at the State Theater on Texas Avenue with his buddies on a Saturday afternoon — and yet leave inspired to write a hit song.
Remember that the next time you watch “The Searchers,” and hear John Wayne repeatedly say, “That’ll Be the Day.”
Then recall how radio disc jockeys in New York City flipped over “That’ll Be the Day,” wanting to broadcast it over and over, jettisoning it off to become a million-seller. Welcome to the music industry, Buddy.
Buddy and the Crickets took part in numerous traveling dance parties, where a dozen or more acts would play in one town, and then climb onto a bus so they could take their music on down the road.
Yet Holly also headlined his own American invasion, taking his music to Canada, Australia and, of course, up and down England for a full month.
It was during that month he and the Crickets inspired British youth and paved the way for a British invasion to arrive in the United States in 1964, five years to the day after Holly was laid to rest at City of Lubbock Cemetery.
The Beatles took their name from Holly and the Crickets and, even when the Beatles were known as the Quarrymen, their first studio recording was Holly’s “That’ll Be the Day.” When the Rolling Stones arrived from across the pond, their first hit was Holly’s “Not Fade Away.”
Both bands cited Holly as inspiration.
British band The Hollies, with Graham Nash as one of its core members, took the name as a salute to Buddy Holly.
And what caused all of this adoration?
Consider that Holly was the first rock star to downplay good looks — he wore his glasses — in favor of playing up the Fender Stratocaster guitar.
Most important of all, Buddy Holly and the Crickets was the first self-contained band to become stars.
They set the style for years to come as a four-piece group — two guitars, bass and drums — that wrote and arranged their own material, recorded the songs as a unit in the studio, recreating the same sound when they played live.
They used every avenue to spread the news, whether on “American Bandstand” and “The Ed Sullivan Show” twice (December 1957 and January 1958) in America or “Sunday Night at the Palladium” in London.”
With success came power, to an extent.
Holly was allowed to produce and wanted to experiment with layering the notes from his guitar, overdubbing and using full and partial orchestral backdrops.
Consider, too, what never came to pass, as some feel Lubbock would have grown after Holly returned.
His older brother, Larry Holley, said Buddy planned to return to Lubbock and build a recording studio.
Holly wanted to record rhythm ’n’ blues and gospel artists, not just pop or rock, and more than one has wondered aloud if Lubbock might have become a Nashville of the Midwest.
Realistically, Holly fan and historian Kevin Magowan noted that Holly put three cities — Lubbock, Texas; Clovis, N.M.; and Clear Lake, Iowa — on the map, and all three continue to celebrate his life and music.
Not one, but two Buddy Holly tribute albums are being released this year, each featuring a former Beatle and almost a dozen other recording artists reinterpreting Holly’s music.
“Rave On: Buddy Holly,” which includes a wild “It’s So Easy” by Paul McCartney, was released in June. “Listen to Me: Buddy Holly,” which finds Ringo Starr singing “Think It Over,” arrives Tuesday, the day before Holly’s 75th birthday.
Together, they shine another bright spotlight on Holly’s relevance, loudly singing that his legacy will not fade away.
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Lubbock’s most famous native son would have turned 75 Wednesday. To honor Buddy Holly and his legacy, The A-J will be running the following stories:
■ Saturday: “Down the Line” — A look at James and Patty Simpson’s cornfield maze in Buddy’s likeness.
■ Monday: “Rave On” — How his birthday will be celebrated in Hollywood.
■ Tuesday: “Words of Love” — How Lubbock plans to fete its favorite native son.
■ Wednesday: “Crying, Waiting, Hoping” — The man responsible for Buddy’s Hollywood Star tells how a dream became reality.
■ Thursday: “Oh Boy!” — Coverage of Buddy’s star on the Walk of Fame; Lubbock’s soiree.
■ Friday: “Well … All Right” — Coverage of an all-star concert supporting a second tribute album released this year.
If you miss a day, all these stories and more will be in our Buddy Holly Archives at http://www.buddyhollyarchives.com/