Buddy Holly, rock'n'roll specialist, turns 75
September 7, 2011 10:02 PM   Subscribe

A lady, back in 1957, addressing the camera in an elegant evening gown, fit for some grand society ball, had this message for the oldsters: "Now, whatever you think of rock and roll, I think you have to keep a nice, open mind about what the young people go for." She then proceeded to announce Buddy Holly and the Crickets, who obligingly performed their hit Peggy Sue for the ballroom dancers' pleasure and edification. That same Buddy Holly would've been quite the oldster himself, had he lived to see today, his 75th birthday. So, if you have a little time on your hands today, you might like to learn more about Buddy by viewing The Real Buddy Holly Story 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10. Cause, hey, Buddy was not only one of the most unique and vital voices of the early days of rock'n'roll, but he wore the same glasses that every other hipster in Berlin is wearing right now.
posted by flapjax at midnite (60 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
For a dance party, they aren't doing much dancing.
posted by empath at 10:27 PM on September 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Watching that Peggy Sue video it absolutely blows my mind that they needed to introduce it with essentially a disclaimer. We have made some progress in the last fifty years, I think.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 10:27 PM on September 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Here he is on the phone with Paul Cohen of Decca. Heartbreaking.
posted by dobbs at 10:30 PM on September 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Weird how this has hit a couple of sites I follow today. Bravo to the drummer for learning his paradiddles.
posted by kersplunk at 10:32 PM on September 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


"THREE CHORDS IS ALL YOU NEED" - Buddy Holly
posted by alex_skazat at 10:32 PM on September 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


Replace 'rock and roll' with 'dubstep' and have Ryan Seacrest doing the introduction and it makes sense.
posted by empath at 10:33 PM on September 7, 2011


I'll admit it, when I found out that Peggy Sue got married, I totally cried.

And Buddy is still alive.
posted by alex_skazat at 10:34 PM on September 7, 2011


I dunno, dubstep's kinda fun. A lot more interesting than much of the other stuff they're trying to sell us currently (i.e., Katy Perry).
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 10:47 PM on September 7, 2011


I still love Buddy Holly. The way his voice chokes up, the little hiccup, the glasses (and Weezer remembered him first), the nervous energy.... old style rockabilly still gets me dancing and his love songs still make my heart skip.

Watching that Peggy Sue video it absolutely blows my mind that they needed to introduce it with essentially a disclaimer. We have made some progress in the last fifty years, I think.

There are modern songs better than Peggy Sue? Really?
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 10:59 PM on September 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


There are modern songs better than Peggy Sue? Really?

Oh, sorry, we must have accidentally wandered on to your lawn.
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 11:15 PM on September 7, 2011 [4 favorites]


Buddy Holly aside, and with the virtue of hindsight, and knowing it sounds cold and all, I'm STILL glad The Big Bopper was on that plane instead of Waylon Jennings.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 11:24 PM on September 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


Buddy Holly aside, and with the virtue of hindsight, and knowing it sounds cold and all, I'm STILL glad The Big Bopper was on that plane instead of Waylon Jennings.

The Big Bopper was pretty underrated too. He once DJed for 5 hours straight, and the pure sexual energy in Chantilly Lace was nuts.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 11:25 PM on September 7, 2011


er, 5 days straight.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 11:25 PM on September 7, 2011


Oh, sorry, we must have accidentally wandered on to your lawn.

See that Stratocaster Buddy's playing? If you've ever seen one of those before, then yes, you're on Buddy's lawn. Feel free to stay awhile and party.
posted by The World Famous at 11:30 PM on September 7, 2011 [4 favorites]


Only very tangentially related, but Freddie Mercury is only 10 years younger than Mr. Buddy Holly WTF?!
posted by Meatbomb at 11:34 PM on September 7, 2011 [5 favorites]


Buddy Holly totally deserved to be the king.
posted by sandswipe at 11:51 PM on September 7, 2011


Watching that Peggy Sue video it absolutely blows my mind that they needed to introduce it with essentially a disclaimer.

The people in that audience weren't jaded observers of live sex acts on stage. She was a 50-year-old professional entertainer and dance instructor encouraging her viewers, who were waltzing more often than they were fucking, to give this entirely new "rock and roll" thing a fair listen.
posted by pracowity at 12:09 AM on September 8, 2011


It's terrifying, this mortality. My golden age of music, when things were happening that really seemed new and exciting and mine, was late 70s, early 80s. A good time in the UK; reggae and punk and new wave and cheap synthesisers and John Peel. And now that's 30 years old. What was 30 years old back then? Six years before even Buddy Holly? The world of 78RPM. Unthinkably distant in time and culture to the young Devonian then and now... and that's my world, just about, to some of the darn kids I work with today. Yes, them in the Buddy Holly spectacles.

It isn't, of course. I can spin up (hah) Kraftwerk and Human League, Howard Devoto and Swell Maps, and it still speaks their language. But still. Tempus fucking fugit.
posted by Devonian at 12:10 AM on September 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's terrifying, this mortality. My golden age of music, when things were happening that really seemed new and exciting and mine, was late 70s, early 80s. A good time in the UK; reggae and punk and new wave and cheap synthesisers and John Peel. And now that's 30 years old. What was 30 years old back then? Six years before even Buddy Holly? The world of 78RPM. Unthinkably distant in time and culture to the young Devonian then and now... and that's my world, just about, to some of the darn kids I work with today. Yes, them in the Buddy Holly spectacles.

It isn't, of course. I can spin up (hah) Kraftwerk and Human League, Howard Devoto and Swell Maps, and it still speaks their language. But still. Tempus fucking fugit.


I think being into such retro music has messed with my sense of time. Perhaps part of the reason I always feel so damn OLD is because, as a kid, I'd stay up all night listening to Cousin Brucie and doo-wop shows on the oldies station. Kraftwerk still sounds impossibly strange to me, though it should still sound hopelessly dated. The one time I saw a Gary Numen video it freaks me out. But even the modern rockabilly kids are no solace, since they seem more invested in the lifestyle than the music. I can't afford $200 rockabilly jeans and I don't really like Reverend Horton Heat.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 12:18 AM on September 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


For a dance party, they aren't doing much dancing.

The Arthur Murray Dance Party was basically an infomercial for the Arthur Murray Dance Schools. People paid those schools to learn the steps to the waltz or the foxtrot or some other ballroom dance so they could look elegant dancing in formal clothes at a posh soiree. Rock and roll dancing, where the kids wiggle their bodies around without any formal steps, wouldn't have been considered dancing by Arthur and Kathryn Murray - it certainly wasn't teachable - so I'm sure it would have been discouraged during their show.
posted by twoleftfeet at 12:20 AM on September 8, 2011


The Big Bopper was pretty underrated too. He once DJed for 5 hours straight, and the pure sexual energy in Chantilly Lace was nuts.

Oh, man. That combination of car salesman DJ voice + old-fashioned rubber-band bassline + there is no way he is anywhere near the same age as anybody who wears a ponytail = pure sexual energy that I want to get the hell away from me. /churl

I love Buddy Holly. Everything he recorded with an electric guitar is just a tonic. So sad that he didn't get to do all those things he would have done in the '60s. I wish the Beatles had gotten to meet him.
posted by Adventurer at 12:27 AM on September 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


Only very tangentially related, but Freddie Mercury is only 10 years younger than Mr. Buddy Holly WTF?!

Queen Elizabeth is only ten years older than Buddy Holly. (But so were her school chums John Coltrane and Miles Davis.)

The great divide between Holly (b.1936) and Mercury (b.1946) was of course the Beatles (b.1940-1943), who were named the Beatles because Holly's band was the Crickets, and were popular after Holly was dead but when Mercury was a teen.
posted by pracowity at 12:36 AM on September 8, 2011 [4 favorites]


Man I love Buddy Holly so much. I didn't really appreciate him at face value when I was younger - I just equated him with my parents' generation. I too deeply lament the loss of what would certainly have been a fantastic output through the 60s.
posted by jimmythefish at 12:36 AM on September 8, 2011


Queen Elizabeth is only ten years older than Buddy Holly. (But so were her school chums John Coltrane and Miles Davis.)

And thus the new Harry Potter was born...
posted by Devonian at 12:42 AM on September 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


pure sexual energy that I want to get the hell away from me. /churl

Yeah, but for Jayne Mansfield, That Makes It. (That's so kinky!)
posted by twoleftfeet at 12:44 AM on September 8, 2011



Oh, man. That combination of car salesman DJ voice + old-fashioned rubber-band bassline + there is no way he is anywhere near the same age as anybody who wears a ponytail = pure sexual energy that I want to get the hell away from me. /churl


I'm being to see why I have trouble with the ladies...

But seriously I tried out that old fashioned radio voice when auditioning for a slot on community radio. They said I'd be better suited for a producer. Shame... I love the old style.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 12:57 AM on September 8, 2011


I feel a revolution a-comin'.
posted by vac2003 at 1:35 AM on September 8, 2011


Just a quick side note: I really feel like MetaFilter throws the word "hipster" around without truly understanding it. First of all, in actually "hip" places like Berlin, it's already over. Second of all, those are waaaay not hipster glasses, they are sooo early 2000s (okay, so David Cross' don't *really* resemble Buddy Holly's, but for me he is like the ultimate freeze-frame of lame late-90s/early 2000s fashion).
posted by Mooseli at 1:46 AM on September 8, 2011


(But terminology aside, yeah, the man was clearly a visionary! Although clearly not 20/20 - ahaw, ahaw.)
posted by Mooseli at 1:47 AM on September 8, 2011


My mom had the original Buddy Holly record. I played the hell out of that heavy thick slab of plastic when i was kid. I hope that somehow makes up for singing along to Captain and Tennille, Paul Anka and Neil Sedaka.
posted by srboisvert at 1:49 AM on September 8, 2011


The link for number 10
posted by bjgeiger at 3:10 AM on September 8, 2011


Bravo to the drummer for learning his paradiddles

Apparently they were his idea - it was originally going to have a kind of laid-back Hawaian rhythm - so bravo indeed.
posted by Segundus at 3:57 AM on September 8, 2011


Watching that video, all I could think was, "Man that must have been one awkward after party."
posted by PlusDistance at 4:09 AM on September 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


Mooseli writes: I really feel like MetaFilter throws the word "hipster" around without truly understanding it.

Yeah, um, dude, your link for hipster glasses... those look way more like Buddy Holly's than your other link, the one which was supposed to illustrate the idea that the Holly glasses are soooo not hipster glasses. Haha! So, listen, I think you need to do better than that, man, if you really wanna prove that you are the honest-to-god authority in the room on hipsters!

Lovecraft in Brooklyn writes: the glasses (and Weezer remembered him first)

Wrongo! This guy remembered him back when Weezer were just a collective dream in their daddies' eyes.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:31 AM on September 8, 2011


Or actually, that's "gleam", not "dream", isn't it? Live outside of America for 16 years and these things start getting a little foggy...
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:32 AM on September 8, 2011


When a musician like Buddy Holly dies young, you always wonder what would have happened had they lived to be old. Would he have ended up like Bill Haley, or would he still be out there rocking away in his 70s?

I'm betting the latter.
posted by tommasz at 5:16 AM on September 8, 2011


When a musician like Buddy Holly dies young, you always wonder what would have happened had they lived to be old. Would he have ended up like Bill Haley, or would he still be out there rocking away in his 70s?

I'm going to reprint here what a friend of mine (he's a musician based in Nashville) posted to FB a few hours ago. I think it's probably pretty damn spot on:

"If Buddy Holly had lived, he would have become a major force in Country Music by the mid-60's, still charted hits into the 70's, become a marginalized nostalgia act in the 80's and finally, make a big comeback in the 90's with a record produced by T Bone Burnett or Rick Rubin. If he was alive today? He would be beloved by indie rock hipsters, tour with Jack White, but still wouldn't get any respect on music row or a get good table at Sunset Grille."
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:37 AM on September 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


Less than a decade after Buddy Holly died, Link Wray (one of his contemporaries) recorded Climbing A High Wall, a pretty crazed, fuzzy psych number that sounds like nothing so much as Jimi Hendrix. Heck, listen to what Chubby Checker got up to around the same time...

With that in mind, I'd like to think Buddy wouldn't have lamed out with a country route but would have smoked pot, taken LSD, and made some incredible proto-metal* for the ages.

*which Peggy Sue kinda sorta is, already.
posted by stinkycheese at 6:02 AM on September 8, 2011


...lamed out with a country route...

Boy? Didjoo say "lamed out"?

[eyes narrow]

Boy? Lemme git this straight, cuz maybe I ain't hearin' you right... you sayin' country music is "lame"?

[spits toothpick out, cracks knuckles]

Boy... it's been real nice talkin' to you, but I do believe you'll wanna be gittin' on your way, now. You take care-a yerself, y'hear?
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:17 AM on September 8, 2011


Would you really like to see an elderly Buddy Holly posing for pictures at awards shows with the likes of Billy Ray Cyrus?
posted by stinkycheese at 6:20 AM on September 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Haley wasn't much of a songwriter. He was brash frontman, a cowboy yodeler who had success with a cover of an R&B song and pretty much coasted on that formula until the momentum ran out. He pretty much sounded the same from that 1951 cover on.

Holly was a songwriter who probably had the brains and versatility to keep going through changing times. It's weird to picture Buddy Holly dropping acid and visiting Indian gurus, but why not? Didn't young James Page start out playing skiffle (and planning on doing some biological research)?
posted by pracowity at 6:26 AM on September 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Would you really like to see an elderly Buddy Holly posing for pictures at awards shows with the likes of Billy Ray Cyrus?

Of course not, but that was all covered in the quote I pasted above. Didn'tcha read the whole thing? :)

See, Buddy's career trajectory through country music would not have ultimately landed him in the embrace of modern day country stars. He'd have wound up, in his old age, being uberhip, like, say, country legend Johnny Cash, whose last albums were produced by Rick Rubin. Buddy would've found no cozy acceptance among the modern Nashville CountryPop elite, in much the same way that, say, Merle Haggard is today shunned and ignored by them.

Oh, and to address one other aspect of your earlier comment:

...but would have smoked pot, taken LSD, and made some incredible proto-metal* for the ages.

Smoking pot and taking drugs is by no means limited to rock musicians. The ranks of country musicians are historically full to bursting with druggies!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:38 AM on September 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


flapjax is absolutely right as always about the drinking and toking among country folk.
Why do you drink?
And why do you roll smoke?

posted by Xoder at 6:59 AM on September 8, 2011


FWIW I am very much aware country musicians get wasted with the best of them.

Look, I think we're all on the same side here. I like Wanda Jackson also, etc. I'm just saying that, in my alternate future where Buddy Holly doesn't die, he pursues the loud (possibly even distorted) guitar path and not the clean slide guitar path. Both paths were still open to him in 1958, but I'd like to imagine he went the rock'n'roll route and developed that chug-a-lug he's doing on Peggy Sue. He can still do a country record every once in awhile, like Neil Young.
posted by stinkycheese at 7:18 AM on September 8, 2011


Hey, stinkycheese, I hear you man, and it's all in good fun, really! Obviously it's all pure speculation, and I'm just having fun with said speculation! And yeah, we are definitely all on the same side in this discussion of hypothetical possibilities.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:39 AM on September 8, 2011


The real Buddy Holly story was explained more concisely and accurately in an excellent late '80s historical documentary series, Quantum Leap.
posted by Wolfdog at 8:07 AM on September 8, 2011 [4 favorites]


Ah, Buddy Holly. We learned how to sing a few of his songs, namely Peggy Sue and Everyday, in my 4th grade music class, once upon a time. I think we might have even learned to play them on a recorder. At the time, we were young enough to think it was all cool, so I can't help but remember him with great fondness.

Also, as an aside, is it just me, or does the woman over his left shoulder (our right) look like she's wearing a sports bra and skirt? I know the dress just has a bodice that became a similar shade of grey to her skin because of the monochrome film, but I had to really stare at it for a few lines before I decided that that was what happened. Very surreal, given that everyone else is so very proper~
posted by ashirys at 10:14 AM on September 8, 2011


Would you really like to see an elderly Buddy Holly posing for pictures at awards shows with the likes of Billy Ray Cyrus?

Well, yeah. He'd be alive. I'd like to see an elderly Buddy Holly raising cats in the attic of his family home in Lubbock, Texas, and taking breaks by running around in a cape and pretending to be Batman. He'd be alive. Was that a real question?
posted by tapesonthefloor at 10:39 AM on September 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


I never really saw the appeal of Buddy Holly. His stuff sounded thin and sanitised when I was young, and it still does. The likes of Gene Vincent were the real deal, for me. They had some genuine edge. Holly was a bit of a softie.
posted by Decani at 10:40 AM on September 8, 2011


Thanks for this, F@M.

Some little known, but well-documented notes on the the Winter Dance Party tour:

This was a low-budget affair. They toured by bus -- one bus with inadequate heat. It got to be -35F and Holly's drummer, Carl Bunch, got severely frostbitten feet and was hospitalized mid-tour.

Holly's band (Bunch, bassist Waylon Jennings, and guitarist Tommy Allsup) were backing all the acts (singers Holly, Dion and The Belmonts, Ritchie Valens, The Big Bopper, and Frankie Sardo). So Bunch was really the only full-time drummer on the tour. But it turns out that Carlo Mastrangelo, one of the Belmonts had experience as a drummer as well as a harmony vocalist, so he played drums for most of the other acts.

At Green Bay, Ritchie Valens played drums for Dion & The Belmonts.

At Clear Lake -- Holly's last show -- Ritchie Valens played drums for Buddy Holly and Buddy Holly played drums for Ritchie Valens and for Dion and The Belmonts.

The tour continued, Carl Bunch re-joined two days after Clear Lake, and the Crickets played on with Ronnie Smith (of Ronnie Smith and The Poor Boys, Bunch's previous band) filling in for Buddy Holly Jimmy Clanton and Fabian added to the bill.

Who the heck is Frankie Sardo?
 
posted by Herodios at 10:50 AM on September 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


I never really saw the appeal of Buddy Holly. His stuff sounded thin and sanitised when I was young, and it still does.

Yeah, if you're looking for the most raw, heavy rock music from the '50s, Buddy Holly isn't it by a long shot. Gene Vincent, Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley, Link Wray and many others have him beat if that's the standard. If you're looking for the most raw, heavy rock music in general, nothing from the '50s will fit the bill.

But there was something primal, exciting, and moving about Buddy Holly's music, and he influenced a lot of people. I don't know anyone else in '50s rock who had a greater expressive range than Buddy Holly (from "Rave On" and "Oh Boy" to "Everyday" and "True Love Ways"). I could list the people I think he influenced, but that could only lead to other debates about whether that music is any good. Of course, you're free to have different musical taste. There's a lot of music that's meaningful to a lot of people that I personally don't enjoy, but that doesn't take away from what it means to other people. I don't know why in every thread about any musical artist, we need to have comment after comment about, "But I like this other person better!" Yes, no one musical artist or band is ever going to be everyone's liking!
posted by John Cohen at 10:52 AM on September 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


tapesonthefloor: By that reasoning, you might like to see Buddy Holly paralyzed from the waist down or starving in a POW camp overseas. Come on now.
posted by stinkycheese at 10:56 AM on September 8, 2011


flapjax at midnite: "If Buddy Holly had lived, he would have become a major force in Country Music by the mid-60's, still charted hits into the 70's, become a marginalized nostalgia act in the 80's and finally, make a big comeback in the 90's with a record produced by T Bone Burnett or Rick Rubin .... "

If Holly had lived, he would have still died young, like Bobby Darin or Sam Cooke, or he would have continued to follow his own idiosyncratic niche muse into his 70s like Scott Walker.

Holly was only 22 when he died. Holy fucking rave on, that's young.

Decani: I never really saw the appeal of Buddy Holly. His stuff sounded thin and sanitised when I was young, and it still does. The likes of Gene Vincent were the real deal, for me. They had some genuine edge. Holly was a bit of a softie.

Buddy Holly looked like a nerd, performed onstage like a nerd, and people who'd seen Gene Vincent or Elvis Presley probably thought he was a whole lotta nothing. But I don't hear thin and sanitized when I hear him at all. I hear earnest and heartfelt and maybe a little hokey in places. But I can't hear a song like "It Doesn't Matter Anymore" and hear thinness or sanitization.

John Cohen: If you're looking for the most raw, heavy rock music in general, nothing from the '50s will fit the bill.

Are you kidding?
posted by blucevalo at 11:53 AM on September 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Would you really like to see an elderly Buddy Holly posing for pictures at awards shows with the likes of Billy Ray Cyrus?

I wouldn't really give a shit as long as I'd get to see Buddy Holly.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 4:37 PM on September 8, 2011



I never really saw the appeal of Buddy Holly. His stuff sounded thin and sanitised when I was young, and it still does. The likes of Gene Vincent were the real deal, for me. They had some genuine edge. Holly was a bit of a softie.


That is the appeal. Rock and roll has two streams, kinda. There's the 'I can get sex whenever I want. Here's music for getting and having that sex' and there's 'I can't get laid, but I'm heartbroken and fall in love easily'. Elvis/Jerry Lee vs Buddy Holly. Elvis vs Beatles. Punk vs emo. Indie rock vs twee pop.

I'm oversimplifying, but you can easily trace Buddy Holly to Elvis C and Weezer, and he spoke to us kids with a hiccup in our voice.

I guess
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 4:39 PM on September 8, 2011


tapesonthefloor: By that reasoning, you might like to see Buddy Holly paralyzed from the waist down or starving in a POW camp overseas. Come on now.

Um.
posted by tapesonthefloor at 5:12 PM on September 8, 2011


And for the nonbelievers: listen to this with headphones on, and listen carefully for the changes in timbre in his voice from one verse to the other, as well as to the double-tracked MMM-MMM-MMMMs. Elvis may have made the front-row girls scream with his hips, but Buddy Holly was sex at 45 RPM. Or something.
posted by tapesonthefloor at 5:18 PM on September 8, 2011


Would you really like to see an elderly Buddy Holly posing for pictures at awards shows with the likes of Billy Ray Cyrus?

Yes, I would like that very much.

As to Holly sounding "thin", if you wrote your own material and ran your own recording sessions in the 1950's, while also booking yourself and your band mates on multi-date tours, while also relocating to New York City at the same time you were fighting for back royalties owed to you from your previous manager and record company (listen to the Paul Cohen conversations mentioned above), you might sound a little "thin" yourself. That Holly accomplished as much as he did in the relatively short time he was actively recording (less than 3 years, I believe) is nothing short of a miracle.
posted by motown missile at 10:13 PM on September 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yes, I too would be willing to put up with Buddy Holly (who is very dear to me and one of my favourite singers) posing for a photograph with Billy Ray Cyrus if it meant he were still alive and well and hadn't died in that plane crash all those years ago.

Way to not get the point, everybody.
posted by stinkycheese at 6:08 AM on September 9, 2011


Vouching for stinkycheese here: his point was about not wanting to see the hypothetically-still-alive Buddy having gone a country music route. He really didn't mean that he'd rather Buddy were dead than pose with Billy Ray Cyrus.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:52 AM on September 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


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