Buddy Holly Biography
Charles Hardin Holley (September 7, 1936 – February 3, 1959), better known as Buddy Holly, was an American singer, songwriter, and a pioneer of Rock and Roll. The change of spelling of Holley to Holly came about because of an error in a contract he was asked to sign, listing him as Buddy Holly. That spelling was then adopted for his professional career. The original spelling of "Holley" was engraved on his headstone (see photo).
Buddy Holly is considered one of the founding fathers of rock 'n roll and one of its most influential. Although his career was cut short, his body of work is considered among the best in rock music history and his music would influence not only many of his recording contemporaries, but also the future direction music would take.
Buddy Holly was born Charles Hardin Holley in Lubbock, Texas to Lawrence Odell Holley and Ella Pauline Drake. The Holleys were a musical family and as a young boy, Holley learned to play the violin (his brothers oiled the strings so much that no one could hear him play), piano and guitar. In the fall of 1949, he met Bob Montgomery at Hutchinson Jr. High School. They shared a common interest in music and soon teamed up as the duo "Buddy and Bob". Initially influenced by bluegrass music, they sang harmony duets at local clubs and high school talent shows.
Holly turned to rock music after seeing Elvis Presley sing live in Lubbock in early 1955. A few months later, he appeared on the same bill with Presley, also in Lubbock. Holly's transition to rock was finalized when he opened for Bill Haley & His Comets at a local rock show organized by Eddie Crandall, who was also the manager for Marty Robbins. As a result of this performance, Holly was offered a contract with Decca Records to work alone, which he accepted. According to the Amburn book (p.45), his public name changed from "Holley" to "Holly" on February 8, 1956, when he signed the Decca contract. Among the 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.
Back in Lubbock, Holly formed his own band, The Crickets, and began making records at Norman Petty's studios in Clovis, New Mexico. Among the songs they recorded was what became the hit version of "That'll Be the Day". Norman had music industry contacts, and believing that "That'll Be the Day" would be a hit single, he contacted publishers and labels. Coral Records, a subsidiary of Decca, signed Buddy Holly and The Crickets. This put Buddy in the unusual position of having two record contracts at the same time. Before "That'll Be The Day" had its nationwide release and became a smash hit, Holly played lead guitar on the hit-single "Starlight", recorded in April 1957, featuring Jack Huddle. The initial, unsuccessful version of "That'll Be The Day" played more slowly and about half an octave higher than the hit version.
Following the February 2, 1959 performance at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa, Buddy Holly chartered a Beechcraft Bonanza to take him and his new Crickets band (Tommy Allsup and Waylon Jennings) to Fargo, North Dakota. J.P. Richardson, "The Big Bopper" came down with the flu and didn't feel comfortable on the bus, so Jennings gave his plane seat to him. Ritchie Valens had never flown on a small plane and requested Allsup's seat. They flipped a coin, Valens called heads and won the toss. The four-passenger Beechcraft Bonanza took off into a blinding snow storm and crashed into Albert Juhl's corn field several miles after takeoff at 1:05 A.M. The crash killed Holly, Valens, Richardson, and the 21-year-old pilot, Roger Peterson, leaving Holly's pregnant bride, Maria Elena Holly, a widow (she miscarried soon after).
Although the crash received a good deal of local coverage, it was displaced in the national news by an accident that occurred the same day in New York City, when American Airlines Flight 320 crashed during an instrument landing approach at LaGuardia Airport. In that crash, 65 died and 8 survived.
Since his death many bands and artists have covered Buddy Holly material such as The Beatles, Billy Fury, Cliff Richard, The Rolling Stones, John Lennon, Linda Ronstadt, Humble Pie, Peter & Gordon, Rush, Grateful Dead, Bruce Springsteen, James Taylor, Blind Faith, Don McLean, John Mellencamp, Foghat, Pearl Jam and many others.