Tollets, TV coverage increase local fun on Buddy Holly’s 75th birthday
By William Kerns | A-J ENTERTAINMENT EDITOR
A broadcast through the Internet and an appearance by the Tolletts represent some of the all-day fun at the Buddy Holly Center, 1801 Crickets Ave., on Wednesday, Buddy Holly’s 75th birthday.
The Center won’t charge admission to view the 90 or so rock ‘n’ roll photographs curated by musician Graham Nash, presently on exhibit.
The exhibit will leave Lubbock Sunday.
Free events at the Center on Wednesday include:
■ 11 a.m., screening of “The Real Buddy Holly Story.”
■ 1:30 p.m., streaming Internet coverage of the late Buddy Holly’s star ceremony on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
■ 3 p.m., one-hour tour of the Buddy Holly Gallery provided by BHC curator Jacqueline Bober with Gary and Ramona Tollett, who knew Buddy well and sang backup on “That’ll Be the Day.”
■ 4:30 p.m., Buddy’s birthday cake and punch will be served. No charge. The Tolletts will lead a rendition of “Happy Birthday.”
■ 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., The Prophets of Rockabilly.
■ 7:30 p.m. to 8 p.m., Jack Neal, who performed with Holly as a teenager, and his friends will pay tribute to the late rock ‘n’ roll historian Bill Griggs.
■ 8 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., Mike Pritchard and Mark Wallney will end the day by paying tribute to Buddy, rock ’n’ roll and Griggs.
Scheduled to begin at 11 a.m., “The Real Buddy Holly Story,” is a documentary financed by former Beatle Paul McCartney as his personal reaction to the inaccuracies in the 1978 movie “The Buddy Holly Story,” starring Gary Busey.
At 1:30 p.m. Lubbock time, coverage of the star ceremony in Hollywood, Calif., will begin, streamed live over the Internet to the Center.
The ceremony will include an introduction of Buddy Holly’s widow, Maria Elena Holly.
The president of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce will announce Buddy Holly and Louis Prima each receiving a 300-pound star set into a concrete block on Hollywood Boulevard.
Then, three supporters will honor Holly with brief speeches. Those three include: Phil Everly, of the Everly Brothers and one of Buddy Holly’s close friends; Peter Asher, formerly of Peter & Gordon and an internationally respected music producer of the new “Listen to Me” Holly tribute CD; and Busey, Oscar-nominated actor for his starring role in “The Buddy Holly Story.”
Expect Holly supporters to swarm to the Center, reportedly the only place for live coverage of the event.
Well-known Holly historian Griggs succumbed to cancer March 29. Holly supporters depended on Griggs’ personal asides while offering each year’s tour. This year, curator Bober must fill his shoes.
She is confident.
“I will try to do Bill justice,” she began. “But we are honored to have Gary and Ramona Tollett with us, too.”
Visitors to the Center want to see Holly’s glasses and his Fender Stratocaster, Bober said.
She will point out some childhood drawings of the late singer, Bober said.
When she reaches the point where Holly hit it big with “That’ll Be the Day,” Gary and Ramona Tollett can help.
This Lubbock couple met Buddy at the Arnett-Benson Drug Store and became fast friends.
The Tolletts sang beautifully, and Holly asked them to drive with him to the Norman Petty Studio in Clovis, N.M., and sing backup on a demonstration record.
They made a bargain, agreeing to take part if Holly would promise to play guitar later when Gary Tollett recorded his own demos. No one would be paid.
Holly said yes and kept his promise.
The Tolletts and Holly waited until 9 p.m. to record in Clovis because of outdoor street noise.
They devoted three hours to making an acceptable recording of the flip side song, “Looking for Someone to Love.”
But the Tolletts said that everyone performed “That’ll Be the Day” so well, after the third run-through, producer Petty was satisfied.
Nearly everyone in the room thought they had recorded a demo.
They were fooled.
Petty turned the recording into a master, and the song shot up the music charts in no time.
Everyone here and abroad assumed drummer Jerry Allison, guitarist Niki Sullivan and Joe B. Mauldin on standing bass, known as the Crickets, had overdubbed those background vocals.
Petty asked Gary Tollett, Ramona Tollett and Cricket Niki Sullivan to sing background vocals simultaneously into one microphone while Holly played guitar and sang lead for “That’ll Be the Day.”
The song became famous in 1957 and 1958.
“Nobody at all knew who we were until we met with Bill Griggs for the first time in Lubbock in the 1990s,” Gary Tollett said. “Our part of ‘That’ll Be the Day’ came out in conversation, and Bill reported it. Then (author) John Goldrosen mentioned us in his biography of Holly.”
In 1999, British author John Beecher obtained masters recorded by Gary Tollett with Holly playing guitar, and they were released for the first time in England on Beecher’s Rollercoaster Records.
The Tolletts likely will share their story during Wednesday’s tour.
Ramona Tollett says she is most proud of being the only female to ever record with Buddy at the same time on one track.
Local musician Mike Pritchard considers it an honor to close Wednesday’s birthday celebration.
“Having literally grown up here, and being lifelong friends with the Holley family, it has even more meaning. My father, John Pritchard, was good friends with Larry and Travis Holley. And Buddy’s nephew, Eddy Weir, and I have known each other since we both attended J.T. Hutchinson Jr. High and are good friends today.”
Pritchard said he and Mark Wallney might perform a song or two from Holly’s songbook. It depends on what others have sung already.
“Thirty minutes is a short time. … It’s going to be fun any way you shake it,” Pritchard said.
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Lubbock’s most famous native son would turn 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.
■ Sunday: “Not Fade Away” — Phil Everly, Graham Nash and a host of others tell A-J entertainment editor Bill Kerns why Buddy’s music remains relevant today.
■ Monday: “Rave On” — How his birthday will be celebrated in Hollywood.
■ 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 are on our Buddy Holly Archives at http://www.buddyhollyarchives.com/.