Buddy Holly

Pencil Portrait by Antonio Bosano.

Buddy Holly Pencil Portrait
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Performing in concert was very profitable and Buddy Holly needed the money it provided. Due to the legal and financial problems engendered by his breakup with producer Norman Petty, he had reluctantly agreed to go back on the road, an ill-advised bus tour of the Midwest in the winter of 1959. “The Winter Dance Party Tour” was planned to cover 24 cities in a short 3 week time frame (January 23 – February 15) and Holly would be the biggest headliner. Waylon Jennings, a friend from Lubbock, Texas and Tommy Allsup would go as backup musicians. Ritchie Valens, probably the hottest of the artists at the time, The Big Bopper, and Dion and the Belmonts would round out the list of performers.

The tour bus developed heating problems. It was so cold onboard that reportedly one of the drummers developed frostbite riding in it. When they arrived at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa, they were cold, tired and disgusted.

Buddy Holly had had enough of the unheated bus and decided to charter a plane for himself and his guys. He didn’t want to be on this tour for life back home with his wife in New York and the lure of large orchestral session dates had hinted at a newfound maturity in both his personal and professional life. Flying on ahead of the touring party would enable him to get some laundry done before the next performance and succumbing to the impetuosity of youth he made his fateful decision. If he had been less established in the business, slightly older and less believing in his invincibility, fate might have taken a different turn.

He had his artistic tantrums but was essentially a decent, level headed young man and a musician who would, unlike many of his contemporaries, have undoubtedly survived the British invasion of the mid sixties; indeed worshipped as he was by both The Beatles and The Stones, it is safe to say that he would have thrived. Presley may have been the King in America but Holly was deified in Britain.

\http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buddy_Holly\

He was one of the early pioneers of multitrack recording and possessed of a songwriting style that went straight to the heart. There was initially an intrinsic simplicity to his recorded work that inspired young men to take up the guitar and his innovative use of the capo opened minds to the tonal qualities of “raised keys” throughout the guitar’s fretboard. Playing the famous solo on “That’ll Be The Day”, he used a capo to play the licks in the key of A.

\http://www.g7th.com/\

Ultimately, his bespectacled ‘boy next door’ persona made fame seemingly within the grasp of millions of teenagers; whilst Presley was the unobtainable Greek God, Buddy was the accessible elder brother we might all wish for.

\http://www.michiganrockandrolllegends.com/dr-js-blog/196-the-boy-who-shot-buddy-holly-in-color\

Buddy Holly played a big part in making the Fender Stratocaster popular as he was one of the first rock ‘n’ rollers to use it on TV. He apparently left his Stratocasters set up the way they came from the factory, and didn’t use the tremolo arm, leaving all five springs on the tremolo plate. Live and on record he used different Fender amps. Pro Amp, Bassmann and was given a Twin by Fender.

When I first started breaking away from the near manic intensity of learning classical guitar I was attracted to Buddy’s work. Alongside Chuck Berry, Buddy basically invented the foundation of rock guitar that all subsequent acts stand on, namely Rock ‘n’ Roll rhythm guitar. He played great lead solos, but often frenetically vamped on rhythm-lead. This created a driving momentum to his music, not heard in rock music before. Sometimes he mixed lead and rhythm elements in a solo such as the immortal guitar work in ‘That’ll Be the Day’. The flip side of that release, ‘I’m Looking for Someone to Love’, includes a song with two solos and some of the best pure rockabilly lead guitar of the 50’s. Buddy lead the way in other guitar respects. He invented the idea of lead guitar throughout an entire song, as can be heard on ‘Words of Love’. Few guitarists of the 50’s were as ‘heavy’ as Buddy, and his modular, driving approach inspired thousands of players to push the boundaries of the solid bodied instrument further.

\http://lubbockonline.com/stories/081508/loc_318846994.shtml\

There’s an assumption that young widows recover quickly whereas their older counterparts have much more to get over. The general presumption is that the younger widow will automatically meet someone else yet Maria had met the man who was right for her and she was pregnant when he died. She also knows in her heart that had she been travelling with him that all talk of a chartered plane would have been instantly dismissed. The usual comraderie on the tour bus was not holding up as well as it might in the face of January’s arctic conditions but Maria’s prresence at his side would have soothed his frustrations. She had after all, from the very beginning, felt a very special bond with this young man.

If such a thing as love at first sight really does exist, then Maria Elena Holly, Buddy’s widow, says the two experienced that very thing the first time they met, one June morning in 1958. Puerto Rican-born Maria Elena Santiago was working at the New York offices of Peer-Southern Music, where her aunt Provi was head of Latin music. Recalling her first encounter with the man she would marry just weeks later and sharing memories of life with Buddy the man, his music, and the legend, Maria has gone on record to say:

“I replaced the receptionist that quit, I’d been there about five days when Buddy came in through those doors,” she says. “It was like a magical moment for both of us. We fell in love immediately… it was love at first sight. I had no experience of it but it does happen. I didn’t even know who he was, I’d never seen a picture of him. The thing I remember is the name – ‘I’m Buddy Holly, I have an appointment with Mr. Deutch.’ People in the office said this was the young man whose 45 (“That’ll Be The Day”) I’d been mailing to the disc jockeys. He was on his way to meet Murray Deutch and I said ‘sit down, I’ll let him know you’re here’. He said ‘oh sure, I’ll sit down’. The other two Crickets were there but he was the one who started a conversation with me. He said ‘you have an accent – where are you from?’ I said ‘well, I’m Spanish, I’m from Puerto Rico but I live in New York’. He said ‘cool, you have an accent’ and I turn around and say ‘you do too’ – it was a Texas twang. Then he asked me to go out to dinner or lunch. I said ‘I’m sorry, I cannot do that. The policy of the company is that we don’t go out with people that come into the office.’ I had never gone out with anybody before. But I liked the guy immediately, it was an immediate connection.”

During his short lifetime, Holly rebelled against the apartheid that had divided white rock artists from blacks. He recorded one track “Early in the Morning” with a full gospel choir and another “Reminiscing” with the blues saxophonist King Curtis. Shortly before his death, he was planning to produce other artists such as Ritchie Valens, Paul Anka and the newcomer, Waylon Jennings and to open a recording studio in London.

Maria Elena Holly eventually remarried and had three children although sadly the union did not last. As her attention became increasingly focused on her first love so her business acumen grew in direct proportion. Under state law, Maria was able to retain all rights to her late husband’s name, image and likeness for 50 years after his death. After that, it was anticipated that the name and likeness would enter into the public domain. However, whilst rock crushes scissors so federal law surpasses state legislature and Maria’s legal team moved quickly to perpetuate her controlling rights by obtaining a Federal trademark on Buddy’s name, likeness and image.

A conflict exists if a party cannot comply with both state law and federal law (for example, if state law forbids something that federal law requires). The US Constitution includes what is called the “Supremacy Clause,” which says that the US Constitution, federal laws and US treaties negotiated with our countries are superior to state laws. Therefore, when a state and federal law explicitly conflict, the state law cannot be enforced. This happens when a state law expressly permits an action that the federal law expressly forbids. However, the opposite is not true. States have a right to impose more responsibility on their residents, and a state law can prohibit marijuana even if federal law permits it.

City of Lubbock officials have held a licensing contract with Maria since the Buddy Holly Center opened in 1999. The city had her permission to use Holly’s name on this building, and Maria asked for only 15 percent of all memorabilia sales inside the Buddy Holly Center. The city’s agreement pays Maria $20,000 over 20 years which works out at an agreeable $85 per month; agreeable that is until one realises that this contract refers to nothing more than rights to use the late musician’s name at the Buddy Holly Center and adjacent park.If the City of Lubbock wants to stage, or sponsor, any sort of Buddy Holly Music Festival again, well, that’s a completely different legal ball of wax.

Negotiations for that event have gone up and down like a see-saw over past decades. Lawyers love to test the waters and push the envelope.

Today Maria still holds all the cards. Local and national concert producers who assume that they will be able to stage a Buddy Holly Music Festival now realize that, whether they are working with the City of Lubbock or not, they won’t produce anything until they have spoken with Maria.

The woman definitely had her reading glasses on. She missed nothing. She might know that it is senseless for Lubbock not to show its feelings for Buddy and when negotiations work out, a more supportive woman could not be found. She is extremely willing to make public appearances for only an appearance fee. In fact, she will do pretty much whatever the city asks her to do and can be guaranteed to help promote any event that she’s given her blessing to. However, as Yoko Ono has found in the years since lennon’s death, it’s still easy enough to tread on toes and offend sensibilities. Some, for example, will undoubtedly feel that she has pushed too far when asking that the area which will eventually be home to the relocated Buddy Holly statue and West Texas Walk of Fame be re-named after Buddy and her. For family members, fans and civic dignatories, the notion of a Buddy and Maria Elena Holly Park or a Buddy and Maria Elena Holly Plaza causes some discomfort. Whatever misgivings however, all parties concerned had better get used to the name.

Buddy was one of four young men to lose their lives in the plane crash that occured shortly after take-off from Clear Lake, Iowa at 0100 local time. The Big Bopper was 28, Ritchie Valens, 17, and the pilot Roger Arthur Peters was 21 years old. There remain to this day, question marks over his ability to fly by pure instrumentation only, despite having accumulated over 700 flying hours since October 1954. As with Buddy, he was newly married.

The Civil aeronautics Board report can be located at \http://www.fiftiesweb.com/cab.htm\

Readers should note that this link also contains the coroner’s report on Buddy which makes for very sad reading.

Recommended listening

Buddy Holly :Not Fade Away: The Complete Studio Recordings And More [Box set]

Positively the last word in collecting Holly’s studio recordings all in one place; over two hundred tracks on six discs with an eighty page book containing session by session recording information that makes this about essential a collection as it gets. Listening again to that large body of work issued in Holly’s three-year recording career, one is reminded all over again why he inspires the kind of devotion that makes this spotty, sprawling set commercially viable: the rip-roaring ‘Rave On’, the swaggering ‘That’ll Be the Day’, the guileless ‘Everyday’, the brawny ‘Not Fade Away’, the thrumming ‘Peggy Sue’, the swelling, sweeping ‘True Love Ways’ – these and numerous other classics (the vast majority self-composed) pour out of the speakers with a freshness and vitality that utterly belie their half-century vintage. For the Holly audiophiles, we have tapes going as far back as Holly’s 14th year, rehearsals, demos, alternate takes and unvarnished versions of material previously only issued with unauthorised overdubs. In some cases, this material is newly unearthed.

Buddy was one of the first artists to posthumously suffer from “audio sweetening” but as presented here, the chronology of his recording sessions helps the purchaser sift through the complexities of his musical vault. Now we can compare the raw originals with the overdubbed makeovers within one set thus reaffirming the errors (however well-intentioned or not) of trying to polish Holly’s diamonds. Poignantly, the set contains the very last recordings he made before his death, in his New York apartment. Armed with just a tape recorder and a couple of guitars, Buddy runs down Little Richard’s “Slipin’ & Slidin’” to a bluesy crawl, resurrects Tin Pan Alley’s “Wait Til The Suns Shines, Nellie” and sketches out his final masterpieces “Peggy Sue Got Married” and “That Makes It Tough”. The fidelity is as crisp as any devotee could wish for whilst the box set is a treasure trove to behold. The details, from the nicely reproduced graphics to the quality of the binding right down to the reproduction of the original Coral and Decca labels on the CDs, are evidence that this is a labor of love from people who cared enough to do justice to their subject.

Recommended viewing

The real Buddy Holly story (MPL 1985)

Broadcast on BBC Tv in September 1985 as part of the “Arena” series this programme was a labor of love by former Beatle Paul McCartney who, after seeing the biopic “The Buddy Holly Story” with Gary Busey, determined to find out about the real Buddy Holly. Paul took his film crew and sought out the people Holly knew and the places he frequented, including the venues around Lubbock, TX where Buddy made his first musical excursions, continuing on to Clovis, NM where most of Buddy’s records were made at Petty Studios, and the New York and Los Angeles sites where the rest of his records were cut. Along the way, Buddy’s friends and family give their candid comments about his life and times. Interviewees include Buddy’s brothers, Mrs. Norman Petty, widow of his first manager, Buddy’s band the Crickets, record executives, and several rock stars like Keith Richards and Don and Phil Everly. The highlight of the documentary is colour home movie footage of Buddy’s only UK tour in 1958 which was emceed dy Des O’Connor, a stalwart light entertainment figure in Britain for more than fifty years. To this day McCartney, who owns the publishing rights to Holly’s back catalogue, stills tries to tempt o’Connor to part with some of his treasured memorabilia from that tour.

Holly appeared on the famous “Sunday Night at the London Palladium” television show during this visit but sadly the footage no longer exists, a similar fate befalling McCartney as The Beatles two appearances at this famed London venue in October ’63 and January ’64 are also lost. Extant audio only recordings of these shows have surfaced but Holly’s live appearance exists only in the memories of those lucky enough to have tuned in that evening to catch the bespectacled genius and his futuristic looking Fender stratocaster on the old monochrome 425 lines.

The Buddy Holly story (Warner Bros 1978)

Aficionados were offended by some of the factual inaccuracies and the harder edged portrayal of Holly’s personality, but this Warner’s production remains a great movie thanks in no small part to Gary Busey’s Oscar nominated performance as Buddy, which was so alive and natural. Indeed, Busey and his “Cricket” actors play all the music in the film; his performance of “True Love Ways” so uncannily accurate that Holly’s real-life widow Maria reportedly left the room in tears when she first watched the scene. Busey was primarily cast as “heavies” in his subsequent career and this dearth of sympathetic characterisations would saddle him with a one dimensional screen persona – a great shame.

Recommended reading

Buddy: The Definitive Biography of Buddy Holly (Philip Norman)

Norman’s attempt at setting the Holly story straight is a well-researched volume in which Lubbock’s most famous son comes across as a talented, fun-loving guy who carried the torch for a high-school sweetheart with strong religious convictions; who blindly signed over much of his future income to Norman Perry, his smarmy producer and manager; and who endured grueling concert tours of the U.S. and Britain. Perhaps Buddy was too wholesome a character, with too attenuated a life, to keep the text consistently absorbing but that depends on one’s attitude to life and intrinsic values. In the final analysis he was a pioneer and a revolutionary. His was a multidimensional talent which seemed to arrive fully formed in a medium still largely populated by fumbling amateurs. The songs he co-wrote and performed with his backing band the Crickets remain as fresh and potent today as when recorded on primitive equipment in New Mexico more than half a century ago.

Labelling someone who died at 22 “the father of rock” is not as fanciful as it seems. As a songwriter, performer and musician, Holly was the progenitor of virtually every world-class talent to emerge in the Sixties and Seventies. The Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, the Byrds, Eric Clapton, Pete Townshend and Bruce Springsteen all freely admit they began to play only after Buddy taught them how. Though normal-sighted as a teenager, Elton John donned spectacles in imitation of the famous Holly horn-rims and ruined his eyesight as a result.

Holly’s voice is the most imitated, and inimitable, in rock. Hundreds of singers have borrowed its eccentric pronunciation and phrasing. None (except perhaps John Lennon) has exactly caught the curious lustre of its tone, its erratic swings from dark to light, from exuberant snarl to tender sigh, nor brought off the “Holly hiccough” which could fracture even the word “well” into eight syllables.

Philip Norman is both much respected and vilified as a rock biographer. He incurred the wrath of Paul McCartney with his 1981 best selling Beatles biography “Shout!”, which prompted the musician to rename him Norma Phillips but in reality, despite the occasional unsubstantiated revelation, he shoots from the literary hip with a stark frankness that unsettles our preconceived teenage notions of superstardom.

Surfing

Buddy Holly Archives

http://www.buddyhollyarchives.com/\

Don McLean Online

http://www.don-mclean.com/buddyholly.asp\

The Buddy Holly connection