One of the great pleasures of any music really but especially American music because of its vast influences and so many different styles regionally and ethnically, is finding older musicians who maybe you didn’t know as well.
For many, Buddy Holly was a contemporary but for most people today, he is a distant figure.
Born in 1937 in Lubbock, Texas, Holly grew up as radio and automobiles began to truly spread. He was also close enough to Mexico to listen to some of the early stations that moved there to avoid the US regulations on power, among other things, and blasted their programming across much of the Lower 48.
So he was probably exposed to a vast variety of influences as he grew up. He made his first TV appearance in 1952 at the age of 15 and a few years later was opening for a rising star named Elvis Presley.
Holly moved from country to rock n roll and was one of the musicians who helped it take off among white teenagers in the mid to late 50s.
Tragically, he died in a plane crash in 1959, memorialized in Don McLean’s song The Day The Music Died. He was only 22, just three years younger than Willie Nelson.
Clearly he had a rich musical imagination and was beginning to tinker with very different styles by the time of his death.
His most famous song, Peggy Sue, was released in 1957 but when you listen to the follow up, Peggy Sue got married, or perhaps his best song, the brooding Well...Alright, you start to wonder where he might have gone by 1969, when he would have been 32, by 1979, when he would have been 42 and by 1989 when he would have been 52. His best songs suggest a soulfulness that he didn’t have the chance to explore.
But Peggy Sue is pretty great too, so here’s Buddy Holly and the Crickets singing it on the Ed Sullivan show.