Personalities | Buddy Holly | Strumming Saviour | Guitar Heroes

Buddy Holly helped define and popularize rock’n’roll in its earliest days, when its future was in doubt and its existence was under attack. Strumming a Fender Stratocaster, he brought an extra dose of country to a sound that was still closely related to pure blues and rhythm and blues.

He blazed a trail for white artists who, unlike Elvis, could write their own songs. His death at the age of 22 made him an American cultural icon in the order of James Dean and Marilyn Monroe.

Charles Hardin Holley was born in Lubbock, Texas in 1936. The Holleys were a musical family, and as a young boy, Holley learned to play several instruments. He sang in a bluegrass duo and in the Lubbock High School choir. Holly turned to rock music after seeing Elvis Presley sing live in Lubbock in early 1955. A few months later, he appeared on the same bill with Presley, and later opened for Bill Haley & His Comets. Offered a deal with Decca Records, he changed his name from Holley to Holly because of a typo on the contract.

He cut an early version of ‘That’ll Be The Day’, which secured his deal with the Decca subsidiary Coral. Along with that classic, he had a string of hit singles with ‘Everyday’, ‘Peggy Sue’, ‘Maybe Baby’ and ‘Rave On’. With his new band The Crickets he won over the crowd at Harlem’s Apollo Theater and toured the UK in 1958.

The Crickets left Holly as he became a national figure, and he toured with a new backing band. On a tour with Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper, Holly chartered a plane to fly him from a performance in Clear Lake, Iowa, to Fargo, North Dakota, in February 1959. The plane crashed, killing the three young stars. The prolific Holly had recorded so many songs that ‘new’ records were released for the next ten years.

Holly’s influence has been felt throughout rock’s history, from the ubiquitous Stratocaster (a carving of which adorns his headstone) to his songs, which influenced a generation of songwriters and inspired legions to take up the guitar.

Essential Recordings

The Crickets: That’ll Be The Day

Solo: Peggy Sue

The Crickets: Oh Boy!

Solo: Rave On!

Personalities | John Lee Hooker | The Boogie Man | Guitar Heroes


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