Buddy Holly - Songs, Death & Wife

Buddy Holly was a singer and songwriter whose work is revered even now because it captures West Texas’s boundless joy and wide-open landscapes.

Who Was Buddy Holly?

Buddy Holly was an American singer and songwriter credited with creating some of the most recognizable and seminal works in the history of rock music. At 16, he was already an experienced performer well-versed in various musical styles. Holly was on the verge of becoming a major celebrity when, in 1959, at 22, he was killed in a tragic plane crash. Holly’s songs included “Peggy Sue” and “That’ll Be the Day.”

Early Life

Charles Hardin Holley was named Buddy Holly on his birth date, September 7, 1936, in Lubbock, Texas. Holly was the fourth child in his family and the youngest member. Because his mother felt that his given name, Holly, was too big for her little kid, she gave him the nickname “Buddy.” The first recording contract he signed had a mistake that would eventually lead to him being known by the shortened form of his surname, “Holly.”

Holly started playing the piano and the fiddle at a young age, and his older brothers instructed him in the fundamentals of playing the guitar. Even in its prepubescent form, Holly’s singing voice shines through on a home recording she made in 1949 of the song “My Two-Timin’ Woman.” Holly’s mother and her tailor’s father encouraged their son’s blossoming musical talents. Holly’s mother came up with song ideas. Her father even wrote a letter to the newspaper editor in Lubbock’s defense of rock ‘n’ roll-loving teenagers who were criticized in a conservative editorial.

Holly couldn’t have become a founding father of rock ‘n’ roll without participating in some rebellion, even though his parents supported him in his endeavors. Once, a pastor from the nearby Tabernacle Baptist Church posed the following question to him: “If you had ten dollars, what would you do with them?” According to what was overheard, the young rocker mumbled, “If I had $10, I wouldn’t be here.” It was obvious that Holly had other goals in mind for his life than growing up to work with his brothers in their tiling business.

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After graduating high school, Holly put together a band and began performing country and western music on a local radio station in Lubbock. He frequently served as an opening act for more well-known national performers when they came through town on tour. Holly’s performance in 1955 as the opening act for Elvis Presley was seen by his bandmate Sonny Curtis as a pivotal moment in the singer’s career. “When Elvis came along, Buddy fell in love with Elvis, and we started changing,” Curtis recounts. “When Elvis came along, we began to change.” The next day, we all started dressing like Elvis Presley.” Holly’s transition from country music to rock and roll was noted, even though the young man with the bow tie and spectacles did not have the same fiery sex appeal as Elvis. Soon after, a talent scout for a record company saw him performing at a skating rink and offered him a deal to record an album.

At the beginning of 1956, Buddy Holly and his band started recording demos and singles in Nashville under the name Buddy Holly and the Three Tunes. However, the group’s lineup was later changed and became known as The Crickets. In 1957, Holly collaborated with The Crickets to write and record “That’ll Be the Day,” which would become his first major success. Both the title of the song and the refrain refer to a remark by John Wayne in the film The Searchers, which was released in 1956. Holly and the Crickets had seven separate singles that peaked in the Top 40 Billboard chart between August 1957 and August 1958. It’s only a coincidence, but Buddy Holly’s song “That’ll Be the Day” was number one on the chart in the United States exactly 500 days before he passed away prematurely.

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Solo Career and Untimely Death

Holly left The Crickets and relocated to New York City’s Greenwich Village in October 1958, shortly after the band’s breakup. Holly reluctantly agreed to go on tour with The Winter Dance Party in the Midwest in 1959, but she did so because of the legal and financial issues that arose as a result of the split of the band. Holly finally got sick of having to sit through shows in subfreezing temperatures on buses that broke down, so he rented a private plane to take him from a gig in Clear Lake, Iowa, to the next stop on tour in Moorhead, Minnesota. Holly was not the only artist who perished on that trip; other musicians, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper, also perished. The jet went down just a few minutes after taking off, taking the lives of everyone on board. He was only 22 years old when Buddy Holly died. The Tabernacle Baptist Church in Lubbock played host to his burial services after he passed away.

Maria Elena Santiago was a receptionist four years his senior when Holly asked her out on their first date. They were married in 1958, less than two months after their first date. Maria Elena did not go to the burial for Holly because she had also recently experienced a miscarriage. She maintains ownership of all intellectual property rights, including those of Holly’s name, image, trademarks, and other forms of property.

Holly’s passing is commemorated in the classic song “American Pie” by Don McLean, which refers to it as “the day the music died.” Despite Holly’s tragic and untimely demise, her music continued to live on for a long time after she passed away. Throughout the 1960s, a continuous stream of unissued recordings and collections of Holly’s work was made available for purchase. Holly’s hiccup and the horn-rimmed glasses he wore are instantly identifiable to modern audiences as a result of the enduring success of his songs and the numerous film adaptations of his life story.

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Holly’s recorded material influenced artists such as Elvis Costello and Bob Dylan, who witnessed Holly perform on his final tour when he was just 17 years old. Although Holly’s professional career lasted for only two short years, the material has had a significant impact. Holly’s “Not Fade Away” was the song that the Rolling Stones covered in 1964, and it became their first record to reach the top ten. As a form of respect to The Crickets, The Beatles went by the name “The Beatles,” and Paul McCartney subsequently acquired the copyright rights to Buddy Holly’s music.

Even more significant was Holly’s long-term influence on pop music. The Crickets were the first band to play rock music with a lineup that included two guitars, bass, and drums. Additionally, Holly was one of the first performers to utilize studio techniques such as double-tracking on his recordings. Holly was a pioneer in the music industry. Despite the tremendous contributions that Holly has made to rock ‘n’ roll, an interview that he gave in 1957 to a radio jockey from Canada named Red Robinson reveals that the singer had doubts about the genre’s ability to endure. Holly responded when asked whether rock ‘n’ roll music would still be around in six or seven months: “I rather doubt it.”

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