The Day the Music Died
A Shooting Star in Music History, Buddy Holly Remains an American Icon
by Rosalinda Villegas, age 15
The breakthrough hit, “That’ll Be the Day,” was recorded by the American singer and songwriter who produced some of the most influential work in rock music, Buddy Holly.
When I first listened to Buddy’s song “That’ll Be the Day,” I surprisingly liked it. My favorite part was when the electric guitar came in with its solo in the middle of the song. Listening to that song made me realize why people still love his music.
Charles Hardin Holley was born on September 7, 1936 in Lubbock, Texas. Holley’s brothers taught him the basics of guitar and he taught himself to play the piano and fiddle at an early age. His stage name, Buddy Holly, came from the nickname, Buddy, given to him by his mother, and Holly, which resulted from a misspelling in his recording contract.
After high school, Buddy formed a band and began playing country songs on a local Lubbock radio station. Buddy soon started opening for well-known artists that toured through his town. In 1955, Buddy opened for Elvis Presley, which was a turning point in his career. After opening for Elvis, Buddy began to think of Elvis as his idol. Bandmate Sonny Curtis said, “The next day we became Elvis clones.” Buddy’s love for Elvis shifted his focus from country music to rock-n-roll.
Buddy’s transition to rock-n-roll garnered him a lot of attention. A talent scout saw Buddy perform at a skating rink and signed him to a record contract. In early 1956, Holly and his band started to record their own demos and singles in Nashville under the name Buddy Holly and the Three Tunes. They soon changed the name to The Crickets. The band charted seven top 40 singles in 1957 and 1958.
In October of 1958, Holly split from The Crickets and moved to Greenwich Village in New York City. There, Buddy proposed to Maria Elena Santiago. They married less than two months later. Due to legal and financial problems from the band’s break up, Buddy agreed to tour the Midwest with the Winter Dance Party. Holly was fed up with tour busses constantly breaking down, so he got a private plane to take him to the tour’s next stop in Moorhead, Minnesota.
On that flight were fellow performers Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper. The plane crashed within minutes of leaving the ground, killing everyone on board. Buddy Holly was only 22 years old.
His wife, Maria, suffered a miscarriage when she heard Holly had died. Although she was grieving, she did not go to Buddy’s funeral held at the Tabernacle Baptist Church in Lubbock, Texas. To this day, Maria still owns the rights to Buddy’s name and image.
Buddy Holly influenced both the Rolling Stones and The Beatles. The Rolling Stones had their top ten single in 1964 with a cover of Buddy’s “Not Fade Away.” Buddy’s influence over the Beatles inspired them to give their band a name similar to The Crickets.
Buddy Holly’s music and various film adaptations of his life story are still very popular. Buddy’s hiccup and horn-rimmed glasses are iconic images in pop culture even today. His music stands the test of time.