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Buddy Holly

By Robert D. Martínez

Buddy Holly was born Charles Hardin Holley on 7 September 1936 in Lubbock, Texas, to Lawrence Odell Holley and Ella Drake.[1] Holly was a pioneer of American Rock and Roll music and influenced a generation of Rock and Pop musicians, including The Beatles and the Rolling Stones. He began his music career in West Texas, playing country and hillbilly music, as well as learning and singing the Gospel songs of his strong Christian upbringing. After some local success, Holly signed with Decca records in 1956, going to Nashville to attempt to launch his music career. Elvis Presley and Bill Haley were already promoting Rock and Roll as a new musical expression, and young Buddy Holly wanted in on the ride. What at first seemed like a one-way ticket to stardom soon became the reality that Buddy was a mere drop in an ocean of young artists Decca signed in attempt to find the next Presley or Haley. Holly’s experience in Nashville turned sour, and Decca eventually released him from his contract, seeing no future in the young Texan. That they thought that way is no surprise. Holly’s image was almost the antithesis of Elvis. Where Elvis had smoldering good looks, Buddy was rather plain, with curly hair and teeth badly in need of dental care. Where Elvis struck an exciting and sensual physical presence, Buddy was tall, awkward, gangly, and he moved in strange gyrations when he played his guitar. If all this was not enough, Holly wore big, thick-rimmed glasses that said anything but “Rock Idol.”

Back in Lubbock, Holly was at a crossroads. He knew about Norman Petty and his recording studio in Clovis, New Mexico. It was the best and most modern studio in the region at that time. Petty had already developed a reputation as an engineer, producer, musician, and businessman. In the spring of 1956, Holly went to see what Clovis and Petty had to offer. Many artists had recorded with Petty and gone on to bigger things, including Rock legend Roy Orbison.

In Clovis Holly recorded his greatest songs, including “That’ll Be The Day,” “Peggy Sue,” “Oh Boy,” “Not Fade Away,” “Words of Love,” “It’s So Easy,” and many more.[2] Holly’s career was cut short on 3 February 1959 outside of Clear Lake, Iowa, when the airplane in which he was traveling crashed, killing him, the pilot, as well as J.P. Richardson, also known as "the Big Bopper," and Ritchie Valens.[3]

[1] Phillip Norman. Rave On: The Biography of Buddy Holly (New York: Fireside, 1996), 32-33.

[2] Norman, 86.

[3] Norman, 268-85.