Buddy Holly

Buddy Holly

Synopsis of Pop Music

“Rave on, it’s a crazy feeling,
And I know it’s got me reeling,
When I say ‘I love you, rave on…”

Few rock and roll performers achieved as much in as short a time as Buddy Holly. This gifted and influential performer scored several hits, pioneered new recording techniques for rock and roll music, and penned a series of songs that are still performed to this day. With his unique bespectacled look, Holly also helped change the perceptions of what a rock musician could look like. The most impressive thing about these many achievements is that Buddy Holly did all of this by the age of 22. Though he died too young, there is no doubt that Buddy Holly left a crucial and indelible mark on the world of rock and roll.

Buddy Holly was born in Lubbock, Texas. He pursued music from his earliest childhood years, learning the piano and the violin before moving on to the guitar. By age 13, he was playing a down-home style of music he called ‘country bop’ in a duo with his friend Bob Montgomery. Holly later added r&b numbers into the group’s sound after seeing Elvis Presley perform. He soon expanded the group’s size and began recording his own country-style tunes. His real breakthrough arrived when he formed a rock and roll combo called the Crickets and began pursuing a straight rock and roll sound. This unit began developing a tight, syncopated style that would define the early rock-band sound.

In 1957, Buddy Holly and the Crickets recorded a rock version of Holly’s “That’ll Be The Day.” This playful romantic boast provided an excellent showcase for Holly’s nimble guitar style and his distinctive ‘hiccuping’ vocal style. It also benefited from a clean, crisp recording by producer Norman Petty that was achieved by putting the microphones as close to the instruments as possible. This ‘close-mic’ recording technique would soon become standard practice in rock and roll recording. The combination of musical style and sonic innovation helped “That’ll Be The Day” sail to #1 on the pop charts.

The Crickets began heavy touring to promote their hit. One of the tour highlights was a performance at Harlem’s Apollo Theater, where Holly and the Crickets won over a predominantly African-American audience. They continued to play r&b venues and thus became one of the first rock bands to break down racial barriers in the U.S. In the studio, Buddy Holly continued to record rock and pop songs in his distinctive style. The next hit was “Peggy Sue,” a simple love song that became a rock classic thanks to the dramatic drumming of Jerry Allison and Holly’s impressive vocal, which kept the song’s minimal lyrics fresh by altering his phrasing and emphasis with each repetition. The end result was a Top-10 hit.

Holly also wanted to experiment with what the studio could add to the group’s sound, and he found a resourceful ally in producer Norman Petty. Together, the two began developing sonic innovations that would quickly be picked up by other rock and roll artists. Some of the techniques they pioneered included double-tracking vocals and instruments for a thicker sound (“Words Of Love”) and multiple uses of echo to add depth to the sound (“Peggy Sue”). Holly and Petty would also add non-rock-band instruments to a song to give it a unique flavor: A good example is the use of a celeste to add a dreamy sound to the gentle, ballad-styled “Everyday.”

By the end of 1957, Buddy Holly and the Crickets had scored another hit with “Oh Boy.” This uptempo love song was a great showcase for Holly’s ‘excited’ vocal style. The group also made an appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show around that time. In 1958, Buddy Holly split up with the Crickets to pursue work as a solo act. He also scored hits that year with “Maybe Baby,” a love lament done in a doo-wop style, and “Rave On,” a frantic rocker that lived up to its title. At the end of the year, Holly put to wax what would be his last recordings. “It Doesn’t Matter Anymore” and “Raining In My Heart” were both ballads that featured a string section and explored a more mature and subdued vocal style for Holly.

In 1959, Buddy Holly went on tour with the Big Bopper and Richie Valens. After having trouble with their tour bus, Holly chartered a small plane for the group. Rock fans around the world mourned when the plane crashed during a snowy night flight, killing Holly, the Bopper, Valens and pilot Roger Peterson. After Holly’s death, his music continued to live on: “It Doesn’t Matter Anymore” became a posthumous hit and so did The Buddy Holly Story, a collection of his hits. His music also continued to be popular abroad, especially in England. Buddy Holly’s music was revived again in 1978 when The Buddy Holly Story, starring Gary Busey as the legendary rocker, brought his story and sound to life for a new generation of rock fans.

Today, Buddy Holly continues to make his presence felt. His story has become a vital part of rock and roll culture. The accident that took Holly’s life was memorialized as “the day the music died” in Don McLean’s classic hit “American Pie.” His original recordings are frequently reissued and have become important staples for any good oldies station. His songs are frequently covered by musician of all types and have provided hits for artists as diverse as Linda Ronstadt, the Beach Boys and Tanya Tucker. Holly look has also lived on through bespectacled rock musicians like Elvis Costello and Marshall Crenshaw. Though his moment in the spotlight was brief, the deathless popularity of his legacy ensures that Buddy Holly’s fame will live on forever.

Artist Release History

1957 - The Chirping Crickets
1958 - Buddy Holly
1958 - Listen To Me
1958 - Sound Of The Crickets
1958 - Rave On
1958 - That’ll Be The Day
1959 - It’s So Easy
1959 - Heartbeat
1959 - It Doesn’t Matter Anymore
1959 - The Buddy Holly Story
1959 - The Buddy Holly Story 2
1963 - Reminiscing
1964 - Showcase
1965 - Holly In The Hills
1966 - The Best Of Buddy Holly
1967 - Greatest Hits
1968 - Brown-Eyed Handsome Man
1968 - He’s The One
1968 - Wishing
1969 - Giant
1970 - Greatest Hits 2
1971 - Remember
1971 - Good Rockin’
1972 - Rock ‘N’ Roll Collection
1974 - Legend
1975 - Nashville Sessions
1975 - Portrait In Music
1977 - Buddy Holly Recorded Live, Vol. 1
1977 - Buddy Holly In Person, Vol. 2
1978 - 20 Golden Greats
1978 - Western & Pop
1979 - The Complete Buddy Holly
1981 - Love Songs
1982 - The Great Buddy Holly
1983 - For The First Time Anywhere
1983 - Holly, Buddy
1985 - From The Original Master Tapes
1985 - Words Of Love
1986 - The Stereo Album
1993 - The Buddy Holly Collection
1996 - Greatest Hits
1998 - Best Of Buddy Holly: 20th Century Masters

Pop Sub Categories


Essential Music Albums

Greatest Hits (MCA)

Band Members

Buddy Holly lead vocals, guitar
Sonny Curtis guitar
Joe B. Mauldin bass
Jerry Allison drums
Niki Sullivan (1957) guitar
Gary and Ramona Tollet (1957) backing vocals

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