"The Day the Music Died"
Buddy Holly Center
Traces "Rock 'n Roll" Legend's Life & Music
by: Bobby McDonald
One of Lubbock, Texas' favorite sons, was Rock 'n Roll Legend, Buddy Holly, who is remembered at the Buddy Holly Center, in Lubbock's Cultural District. Born on September 7, 1936, in Lubbock, as Charles Hardin Holley, the son of Lawrence Odell and Ella Pauline Drake Holley, he picked-up the moniker "Buddy" at a very young age, from his family, as he was the youngest of three sons. His brothers, Larry and Travis taught him to play a variety of musical instruments, including the guitar, banjo, and steel guitar. By the age of five, his young voice lent him to winning local talent contents. By junior high, he met Bob Montgomery and they became fast friends and teamed up as "Buddy and Bob," singing bluegrass music at local clubs and talent shows. They began a radio program on local station KDAV, that made a weekly, Sunday appearance, during their high school days.
But, it was in 1955, that Holly saw Elvis Presley, in Lubbock, and began to incorporate the "rockabilly" style into his music. Holly, Montgomery, and Larry Welborn opened the show for Presley in Lubbock and "caught the eye" of a Nashville talent scout. And, Holly, whose last name got misspelled, continued to incorporate the rock 'n roll sound into his music, when he and "The Crickets" opened for a local concert of Bill Haley & His Comets.
Decca Records awarded Holly a contract in 1956 and formed the The Crickets, with him as lead guitar and singer, Niki Sullivan on guitar, Joe B. Mauldin on bass, and Jerry Allison on drums. Buddy Holly and The Crickets went to Nashville and recorded "That'll Be The Day," a title he adapted from a John Wayne Movie, entitled The Searchers, "Blue Days, Black Nights," and "Modern Don Juan."
Decca Records released Holly and he then hired Norman Petty as his manager, and the band began recording in Petty's studio, in nearby Clovis, New Mexico. Through contact made by Petty, a deal was signed with Brunswick Records, a subsidiary of Decca, in March of 1957. The song "That'll Be The Day" was re-released with more of a rock 'n roll sound and it topped the Billboard chart and The Crickets performed the song, along with "Peggy Sue" on the Ed Sullivan Show, in December of 1957. The songs propelled Buddy Holly and The Crickets to national acclaim, and began an international fame with an Australian tour in January of 1958.
Holly married Maria Elena Santiago, in Lubbock, in August 1958, whom he met in New York, and wrote "True Love Ways" about their relationship, and recorded it in October of 1958. Following their marriage, the Hollys lived in an apartment in New York's Greenwich Village, and here Holly wrote and recorded a series of acoustic songs, including, "Crying, Waiting, Hoping" and "What to Do."
Holly went on the road with his music, and it was his attendance at the Winter Dance Party, a three-week tour across the Midwest, that opened on January 23, 1959, that he was headlining with Dion and the Belmonts, Ritchie Valens, and J.P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson. He had assembled a back-up band that consisted of Tommy Allsup on guitar, Carl Bunch on drums, and a fellow that he'd met back home in Lubbock, Texas, Littlefield native, Waylon Jennings, on the bass.
On the tour, following a performance at the Surf Ballroom, in Clear Lake, Iowa, on February 2, 1959, Holly chartered a small aircraft to take him to the net stop on the tour. Accounts have it that Holly, Valens and Jennings, were to ride on the plane, that night, to Moorhead, Minnesota, for their next appearance. However, at the last minute, Jennings gave up his seat to "The Big Bopper" who was sick. The plane never made it to Minnesota, crashing in winter, Iowa cornfield, in the early morning hours of February 3, 1959. The three performers and the pilot were all killed.
It's been recorded that the last joking conversation between friends Holly and Jennings, included Holly telling Jennings, when he chose not to ride with them and take the bus, "I hope your bus freezes up!" And, Jennings jokingly quipping back, "I hope your plane crashes!"
Of course, Jennings had no idea that his immortal words would come true, and he'd lose his hometown friend, Buddy Holly, that fateful night!
Holly's funeral was held on February 7, 1959, in the Tabernacle Baptist Church, in Lubbock. He was buried in the City of Lubbock Cemetery, in his native West Texas soil. Holly's wife, Maria Elena Holly, was two weeks pregnant, with their first child, but miscarried following the trauma of his death.
Look for the Part II story, about Waylon Jennings, a native of Littlefield entitled "The Day the Music Almost Died," and his association with Buddy Holly and West Texas Music.
Admission to the Buddy Holly Center is $5.00 for adults,
$3.00 for senior citizens, and $2.00 for children and students with I.D.
The center is open at 1801 Crickets Ave., the corner of Crickets Ave. & 19th Street,
Tuesday - Saturday 10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Sundays 1:00 - 5:00 p.m.
Closed on Mondays and Holidays.