Saturday, January 30, 2016

Revisiting Buddy Holly's Winter Tour from Hell

As happens every year about this time, the fever’s spreading – the Winter Dance Party fever. Immediately on the heels of Monday night’s first-in-the-nation caucuses, Clear Lake will put on its finest as it welcomes people from around the world for a one-of-a-kind celebration of the early days of rock and roll. That includes commemorating the deaths of three blossoming personalities – Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper – whose airplane crashed that fateful night near Clear Lake. Indeed, their memories and music will be a big part of the event that starts next Wednesday at the legendary Surf Ballroom. Source:

The former Mrs. Bowie says that she and David Bowie met through their mutual friend, record executive Dr. Calvin Mark Lee. In an interview with The Mirror, Angela Bowie actually recalls the first time she and Bowie slept together, when she was just a teenager:

"I remember exactly where and when David Bowie and I first slept together. It was in London in the summer of 1968 after an evening at the Speakeasy – the night King Crimson celebrated their new recording contract and Donovan got up and sang Buddy Holly songs with them. David came back to my little room above the Nomad Travel Club in Paddington. He was pretty drunk and we were both pretty exhausted when we fell into my little bed together." Source:


-Carl Bunch (drummer of Buddy Holly's band during the Winter Dance Party Tour in 1959): You can't really understand how bad the circumstances were under which we lived. We had broken down bus, after broken down bus, often without heaters, to be confined in for what seemed like forever between gigs. There were no superhighways back then. It was rare to get to stay in a hotel; at least it felt rare. I spent most of my time with Ritchie Valens. He knew I was more than just a little impressed with him as a performer. Ritchie talked about Donna a lot and got ribbed quite a bit about not going with the groupie girls after the gig. Ritchie, Bopper, and Buddy were all one-woman men. No matter what the temptation, they went to their rooms, when we had one, and not to the parties. We opened the tour at George Devine’s Ballroom in Milwaukee on the 23rd of January. I remember very clearly Buddy asking just as we pulled up, "What time is this eight o'clock gig going to get started?" At George Devine’s Ballroom in Milwaukee we were over an hour late due to problems with the bus and the weather. We had to set up on stage in front of an angry crowd and we ended up starting about two hours after we were supposed to. I was an absolute nervous wreck. Buddy kept talking to me backstage, telling me I'd be just fine. He said, "You're one of the Crickets now." 

Dion came out and did his latest hits, "Teenager In Love," "Runaround Sue," and the rest. The audience loved him. The Big Bopper absolutely sent the crowd into a frenzy with “Chantilly Lace.” Ritchie’s “La Bamba” had just hit number one on the charts and he whipped them into a frenzy on top of a frenzy with his performance. But when Buddy came out, it was almost like God had walked out on the stage. Buddy was a Christian and an honest man.

-Lance Monthly: In one of the Buddy Holly biographies it was theorized that Buddy fathered a child out of wedlock, which has prompted a lot of talk and speculation. Do you have any information?

-Carl Bunch: I've never before heard a single word about it and I don't believe it. It's totally out of character for Buddy to have been sexually involved with anyone but Maria Elena. That's one of the things that stood out so much to me on the tour. Buddy could have had any of hundreds of beautiful girls or women, but chose not to cheat on his wife, period. I can't imagine why anyone would spread such a vicious rumor about such a nice guy. Buddy was a Christian. He did not believe in adultery. Source: and

Friday, January 30, 1959: About thirty miles west of Davenport, the Winter Dance Party bus stopped providing heat altogether. All nine heaters on the converted school bus had frozen. It would take several hours for them to thaw and be cleaned out. As mechanic Martin Young began defrosting the heaters, the singers scattered throughout the eastern Iowa town of about 2,100. Buddy Holly and several others remained in the Gaul Motor Co.'s showroom, many sitting on a bench near some new 1959 Edsels. Holly pulled a bucket-type tractor seat from a display and plopped down on it. “I’m a reindeer salesman,” he quipped to the amusement of his friends.

Ritchie Valens led another group across the alley to the tiny Meet and Eat Cafe, where Esther Wenck and Betty Murray were serving up hamburgers and hot beef sandwiches to a packed lunchtime crowd. Even though the cafe had just a handful of tables and a few seats at the counter, a jukebox was squeezed in against one wall. Valens stood at the jukebox and asked waitress Wenck: “Would you like to hear the song I made famous?” Says Wenck: “I thought he was kidding. I said yes.” Several Tipton residents then were treated to an impromptu performance as Valens sang along to “Donna.” “I still thought he was goofin’,” Wenck notes. “I still didn’t think it was him.”

The bus was late arriving in Fort Dodge. “We were worried,” says Dick Derrig, an assistant manager at the Laramar Ballroom. Eddie Simpson, a fan who attended the Laramar concert: “I can remember when they announced Buddy Holly and he stepped out on the stage. He had been standing back in the backdrop and everybody went nuts when he started singing.” Simpson and two friends stopped to use the basement restroom when they spotted the singers sitting in a booth: “They were stars, but they were as common as could be. They just sat and talked to us.” Holly called his pregnant wife in New York. “Buddy would call from the tour and say how unhappy he was,” Maria Elena later told the Chicago Tribune: “I’d say, ‘Why don’t you come home?’ He’d say, ‘you know me. I have to finish.’ Besides, we needed the money.” Bill McCollough, a local disc jockey at KWMT who was to emcee the Laramar show started a conversation with Holly: “He was complaining about the bus, he was going to catch his death of cold. I had been taking some flying lessons.” “Could you call somebody and get us a plane?” Holly asked. —"The Day the Music Died: The Last Tour of Buddy Holly, the Big Bopper, and Ritchie Valens" (1997) by Larry Lehmer

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Buddy Holly's ex-ante narrative: "The Winter Dance Party Murders"

The 3rd of February will mark the 57th anniversary of “The Day the Music Died”, again mourning the loss of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper, whose Beechcraft Bonanza plane crashed the night of February 3, 1959 in Clear Lake, Iowa. Hardly a consolation is Greek dramatist Menander’s claim: “Whom the gods love dies young.” However, we can commemorate their music and find a kind of solace by revisiting these three beloved characters — and many more from the rock and roll’s old guard — reading The Winter Dance Party Murders, a novel by Greg Herriges. As he is a great admirer of J.D. Salinger, it was a fortuitous meeting with the author of The Catcher in the Rye that inspired Herriges to write professionally.

The anti-hero of The Winter Dance Party Murders is Rudy Keen, an up-and-coming songwriter who bonds with Buddy Holly during the Midwest Dance Festival. Keen ends up becoming a target — alongside other 1950s icons like Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent and Sam Cooke — of a grand-scale conspiracy created by the record company’s honchos. The central plot, though, revolves around the compromises and disappointments faced by Keen’s new friends, the dangers of commercialism discouraging the artist’s individual creativity, and a final reconciliation with Buddy Holly’s tragic demise and his immortal memory.

Herriges adds a zany sense of ‘ex-ante’ narrative mixed with a decidedly outré sense of humor, making up a lot of disconcerting theories and inside jokes throughout his story. For example, in chapter six, “Buddy In The Sky With No Glasses,” Buddy Holly protests he’s geeky looking. Rudy protests he’s geekier than Buddy: “I swallowed hard, tried to look as convincing as I could, and told him he wasn’t geeky.” Buddy: “You call this handsome?” Rudy: “Well—in a way. In a very peculiar way. Almost.” Buddy: “Dion. He’s handsome, the girls love him, his records sell. I’m geeky.” Rudy: “Stop saying that. You’ve got something else going, that’s all.”

There are also acute sentimental moments, as reflects a disillusioned Buddy Holly in the chapter 13 “True Love Ways”, when Rudy’s hero reneges on his commitment to rock ‘n’ roll. Buddy: “That’s just vinyl spinnin’ under a needle.” Rudy: “That’s all any of us ever were. That’s all we still are. We’re the music, Buddy, and the music lasts forever.”

Why is Buddy Holly still so popular five decades after his death? Why has his story perdured? As Joe B. Mauldin, from Holly’s band The Crickets said: “Buddy’s music was always sincere. He always tried to make everybody he saw or met happy.” Jerry Ivan Allison (The Crickets drummer) agrees: “He was more intelligent, talented and ambitious than most people who have picked up a guitar.” As John Gribbin summed it up in his book Not Fade Away: The Life and Music of Buddy Holly, “the simple answer is because he was the best.” Article first published as Book Review: ‘The Winter Dance Party Murders’ by Greg Herriges on Blogcritics.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Rock Around with Buddy Holly: Debut of Buddy Holly's first recording session

Rock Around with Buddy Holly video. Soundtrack: "Oh, boy!", "Rock Around with Ollie Vee", "Ting-A-Ling", and "Crying, Waiting, Hoping" by Buddy Holly.

Buddy Holly’s Recording Debut: Today in 1956, Buddy Holly's first recording session for Decca Records took place in Nashville. After playing gigs the previous year, including one opening for the emerging Elvis Presley in Buddy’s home town of Lubbock, Texas before the bespectacled hopeful had even graduated from high school, Buddy landed a one-year record deal with Decca. Almost simultaneously, he also won a three-year publishing contract with Cedarwood.

So it was that on 26 January, 1956, Buddy and the Two Tones, also featuring Sonny Curtis and Don Guess, went into producer Owen Bradley’s Barn in Nashville to record their first tracks under the new Decca deal. The numbers they cut included 'Midnight Shift' and 'Don't Come Back Knockin'.' When Buddy’s contract arrived, his surname was misspelled without the “e,” but he decided to go with it, and he was Buddy Holly from that day on.

Live shows followed that year, as did two more Decca sessions, in July (where they recorded the first version of ‘That’ll Be The Day,’ among others) and November. But early in 1957 came the bombshell that Decca were not renewing their option, and that Buddy would be dropped at the end of the one-year term. Determined to make a go of his obvious talent, Holly went to record at Norman Petty’s studios in Clovis, New Mexico, where they cut what became the hit version of 'That’ll Be The Day.’ After some legal issues were resolved, and a name change to the Crickets was decided on, Decca subsidiary Coral bought Holly’s new masters, and he was all set to record and release the songs that would place him, and the Crickets, in rock ‘n’ roll legend. Source:

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Buddy Holly ("Maybe Baby"/"Gone") video, 57th anniversary in The Buddy Holly Center

Buddy Holly ("Maybe Baby"/"That's What They Say"/"Gone") video.

The Buddy Center Presents 'The Day the Music Died' on February 3: Wednesday, Feb. 3 will mark the 57th anniversary of the Feb. 3, 1959, death of legendary Lubbock-born recording artist Charles Hardin “Buddy” Holly in the crash of a private plane near Clear Lake, Iowa.

Also perishing that night: fellow pop stars J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson and Ritchie Valens, and pilot Roger Peterson. The Buddy Holly Center, 1801 Crickets Ave., offers free admission on Feb. 3 to the Buddy Holly Gallery from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and to the adjacent original home owned by the family of Crickets drummer J.I. Allison house from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Jacqueline A. Bober, Buddy Holly Center assistant manager and curator, will provide a guided tour, using a Citybus trolley, to “four significant Holly sites in Lubbock” at 11 a.m., 1:30 p.m. and 3 p.m. on Feb. 3. Sites being visited include: Lubbock High School, Fair Park Coliseum at the Panhandle-South Plains Fairgrounds, the KRFE (formerly KDAV) radio station and City of Lubbock Cemetery. Source:

The story of American popular music in the 1950s has about it the feel of absurdist fiction. Even the bare outline is strange to recount: how the nation drifted away from its love affair with the grand tradition of big band swing music and into a period of musical nihilism; how entrepreneurs with little experience of the music business and just as little capital competed effectively with large and powerful corporations. Before rock and roll was an idiom, it was a process of absorption, revision, and fusion of disparate influences. The new sounds pointed in no particular direction, yet, paradoxically, it was the era’s unfocused meandering that fueled its revolutionary thrust. Adding to the confusion, Billboard identified as “country artists” in the 1957's R&B charts: Elvis Presley (“Jailhouse Rock”), Buddy Holly (“Oh Boy”), Jerry Lee Lewis (“Great Balls of Fire”), Jimmie Rodgers (“Kisses Sweeter Than Wine”), Bill Justis (“Raunchy”), and Bobby Helms (“My Special Angel”). —Source: "I Don’t Sound Like Nobody: Remaking Music in 1950s America" (2012) by Albin J. Zak 

Americans tend to think of the 1950s as an idyllic time when the babies were booming, the jobs were plentiful, and the country was flourishing. The average yearly income rose from $3,210 in 1950 to $5,010 in 1959, and post-war Americans were enjoying access to products and services that were scarce during World War II. Finding good uses for disposable income in the 1950s began the American love affair with consumerism. The median home price in the United States in 1950 was $7,354 (which is equivalent to $71,360 in today's dollars), rising to a median of $11,900 in 1960 ($93,830 in today's dollars), and housing represented about 22% of a 1950s household budget. For comparison, the median home price in October 2015 was $281,500, and the modern household spends about 43% of its budget on housing. While the specifics of what Americans bought in the 1950s might look different from modern purchases, the habits themselves were remarkably similar. That's because the spending habits we consider normal were born in the post-war 1950s. Source:

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Hank Williams, Bob Dylan and Buddy Holly: Rock and Roll Mavens

Though he may have tragically passed away at the age of 29, legendary country singer Hank Williams left a defining mark on the music industry that few have replicated. It’s fair to say that Williams burned the candle at both ends, succumbing to drug addiction and alcoholism that ultimately triggered his untimely passing, and that’s a fall from grace played brilliantly by Tom Hiddleston in the new international trailer for I Saw The Light.

Hank Williams wrote and recorded some of country music’s most enduring songs, fuelled by a blend of turmoil and heartbreak — not surprising considering the Alabama-born balladeer’s private life, which director Marc Abraham brings to the screen with a clear-eyed appreciation of the man’s complexity. When Hank marries Audrey Mae Sheppard (Elizabeth Olsen) at a gas station in 1944, success is only a few years away, but Audrey proves a challenge as she replaces Hank’s mother as the prime influence in his career. Though ambitious, Audrey is a woman of limited talent, and Williams is caught between listening to friends who tell him to remove her from his act and a wife who will listen to no one. Source:

"The songs of Woody Guthrie ruled my universe, but before that, Hank Williams had been my favorite songwriter." Bob Dylan, Chronicles, Volume One“I’ll never forget the image of seeing Buddy Holly up on the bandstand,” Bob Dylan, who’d caught Buddy in Duluth on January 31, 1959, told Rolling Stone’s Kurt Loder. “It was unbelievable.” "Bob Dylan absorbed the divergent styles of Hank Williams, Johnnie Ray, and his heroes Woody Guthrie and Buddy Holly." -"Rock N Roll Gold Rush" (2003) by Maury Dean

I couldn’t understand how Jerry thought he had the right to take over The Crickets’ name. Buddy and Norman Petty were just about halfway to the door where the reception room is, and Maria said, ‘Buddy, he [Norman] looked up my skirt!’ We absolutely froze. All the blood just drained from Buddy’s face. Whenever someone even mentioned Maria, Jerry would simply state, “That’s Buddy’s wife,” and put an end to the conversation. “Buddy, you’re crazy,” I said sharply. “I know,” he said, with his eyes sparkling and a boyish grin on his face. Buddy had filed to get the song credits straightened out and his name on “Peggy Sue.” Buddy was an artist, not a businessman, and he didn’t understand the detailed intricacies of the deals he was making. Jerry was upset because he was still holding a grudge over what he perceived to be Norman’s callous attitude toward Buddy’s death. -Peggy Sue Gerron

Buddy thought those high, squeaky voices of Alvin & the Chipmunks really were the coolest thing. The Winter Dance Party was about to head out of town: Opening night was at George Devine’s Ballroom in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and the tour would run for twenty-five straight shows to wind up in Springfield, Illinois. There wasn’t a night off to be had, crisscrossing the upper midwest in a bus in the middle of winter. I know Buddy wouldn’t have taken that tour if Norman hadn’t tied up his money, and besides, “It Doesn’t Matter Anymore” had stalled in the charts. The tour was starting to get to Buddy. He was having trouble with Norman. That’s the one time I saw him really mad. I think he was missing Maria. He was really dedicated to her. Maria Elena was a sweet girl, and you could see that Buddy was very much in love with her. [But] she was a terrible cook. She couldn’t boil water. One time she was listening to one of my tapes that was in the apartment, and she said, “Waylons” —She didn’t speak very good English— “Every time I listen to you sing, it gives me goose bumples.” Buddy would crack up laughing when he heard that. -Waylon Jennings

I wanted to be a rocker, just like Buddy Holly. Buddy was cool, a rock-and-roll maven. I liked a lot of other performers, the Everlys, Chuck Berry, but Buddy was the top of the heap. Buddy had heart, and his songs were the best in the business. Buddy asked me if Brenda had been special to me, he asked if it was true love. He talked like the words in his songs. I ran on into the night into the storm, until I was all alone on a dark street, snow up to my knees, my fingers frozen and numb. I stopped and looked up at the swirling whiteness. I closed my eyes: “Please, God. Let me find those strings. Do it for Buddy.” “Lonesome Hank’s Music Emporium,” the stenciled sign read. I rubbed my eyes again because I thought I was hallucinating. I heard Lonesome Hank yell, “Say hi to Buddy for me.” -"The Winter Dance Party Murders" (2015) by Greg Herriges

Monday, January 11, 2016

R.I.P. David Bowie

David Bowie's final record was a carefully-orchestrated farewell to his fans, his producer has confirmed. Lazarus, released on the Bowie's 69th birthday just two days before his death, opens with the lyrics: "Look up here, I'm in Heaven!" Its video, which will be viewed in a very different light by millions of fans today, features the musician in a hospital bed, and finishes with him retreating in to a dark closet. Source:

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Buddy Holly "Gone" video

A video featuring pictures of Buddy Holly with his band The Crickets, his wife Maria Elena, and friends. Soundtrack: "Oh Boy!", "Baby, won't you come out tonight?" and "Gone" by Buddy Holly ("Collected" CDs).

Like Paris, which nurtured the creative renaissance of the 1920s, New York in the fifties spawned half a dozen artistic movements, from abstract expressionism to the New York School of Poets and avant-garde breakthroughs like The Connection at Julian Beck’s Living Theater. New York was the cradle of formidable achievements ranging from fifties Broadway musicals (Guys and Dolls, My Fair Lady, West Side Story), to the folk movement, to Buddy Holly’s apartment tapes, to Brill Building rock ’n’ roll (Carole King, Leiber &Stoller). It was one of the city’s most romantic and glamorous eras, unforgettably evoked by Truman Capote in Breakfast at Tiffany’s

The Greenwich Village alleys and byways that Buddy and Maria Elena haunted that winter are very different from the rest of Manhattan’s ledger-book grid. Positioned often diagonally to the rest of the city, Village streets are like a maze; they contain numerous surprises, such as the completely illogical intersection of West Tenth and West Fourth streets near Sheridan Square. “Buddy loved the jazz places,” Maria Elena says, mentioning the Five Spot, the Half Note, and the Village Vanguard. At Max Gordon’s Vanguard, a narrow cellar on Seventh Avenue, they could hear Thelonius Monk, John Coltrane, Gerry Mulligan, and Cannonball Adderley.

“We were always around the Village Gate,” Maria Elena remembers with fondness. In 1958 the Gate resounded with the sounds of R&B. Buddy, Eddie Cochran, Jimmy Bowen, Don and Phil Everly, Gene Vincent, and Buddy Knox had long been regulars there. Maria Elena was unable to pursue her own ambitions to be a dancer-actress. “After we got married, he said, `No, no. You don’t need to do that.` He wanted me to be around.” One day Buddy told her, “I want to do a classical score.” She marveled at the many-faceted nature of his genius. On her birthday in December 1958, Maria Elena persuaded Buddy to drink “a couple of glasses of champagne,” she later stated in Goldrosen and Beecher’s Remembering Buddy. He became seriously ill. As an ulcer sufferer (possibly, in part, from the stress of his career) he was playing with fire. As the New York winter set in, Buddy kept writing songs, the new tunes spewing out like an eternal fountain.

On December 8, 1958, he recorded “That Makes It Tough,” a blues number that dissects a broken heart with unflinching honesty. On 5 January, Coral released ‘It Doesn’t Matter Anymore’ and ‘Raining In My Heart’. That same week, Buddy received some New Year tidings which all but wiped his anxiety over his new single from his mind: Maria Elena told him she was pregnant. ‘He said, “When I get back, we’ll go to Lubbock together and tell Mother,” Maria Elena remembers. ‘Buddy told me “It’ll be just as nice if it’s a girl.”’ They agreed to delay breaking the news to their respective families until Buddy’s return from the ‘Winter Dance Party’ tour. "Buddy Holly: A Biography" (2014) by Ellis Amburn

"Buddy's success gave us all hope. His experiences in Nashville, where they tried to change his unique style, had helped to mature him, make him more sure of what he was doing as an artist; we'd usually stop at the Night Owl, a drive-in hamburger joint on Broadway, looking for girls, cruising around town aimlessly. Actually, we didn't know what we were looking for, and I don't guess we found it. I've often wondered if Buddy wasn't flying that plane. He wasn't afraid. Everybody wanted to talk about the crash and why I gave my seat to the Big Bopper. Buddy was the first person to believe in me. All I could think about was what good soul he was, what a happy man. He was in love with his wife and his music. To this day it doesn't seem fair. I didn't want to sing. I didn't want to play guitar. I was empty, drained of hope."  Waylon Jennings

Monday, January 04, 2016

Sam Phillips and Buddy Holly: The Men who invented Rock 'n' Roll


Dubbing one individual “the man who invented rock ’n’ roll” may stir debate, yet there’s no doubt that Sam Phillips, founder of the iconic Memphis-based Sun Records, was the music’s pre-eminent catalyst. His 1950s talent roster: Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Howlin’ Wolf, Carl Perkins, Ike Turner, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison and Charlie Rich. All were musical outliers when he found them and created much of their most enduring material in Sun’s tiny primitive studio. Phillips, an outlier himself, gave them creative freedom, shaping and focusing, yet never diluting, their raw talents.

In July 1954, he was producing Presley’s first groundbreaking single. By late 1955, his growing national visibility led RCA Victor to buy Presley’s Sun contract. Cash, Perkins, Lewis and others filled the void. A loose, impromptu jam at a 1956 Perkins session involving Presley, Perkins, Cash and Lewis became the famous Million Dollar Quartet. The others also joined major labels, yet most retained both admiration and affection for Mr. Phillips.

In unraveling Mr. Phillips’ complex life, Mr. Guralnick often finds more complexities. His family situation was complicated as he balanced relationships with wife Becky, sons Knox and Jerry, and his longtime companion Sally Wilbourn. There were darker sides as well. He suffered two mental breakdowns in the 1940s and ’50s, treated with electroshock therapy that left his intellect unimpaired. After his 1986 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction, his bizarre sober behavior during a guest appearance on David Letterman’s NBC show left many shaking their heads. Source:

Sam Phillips had business to take care of, and Jerry Lee Lewis was opening at the Paramount Theater on Broadway on Christmas Day, 1957, with only Fats Domino above him and Buddy Holly and the Everly Brothers just down on the star-studded bill. Roland Janes rejoined Jerry for the new Alan Freed package show he was headlining that featured sixteen acts, including Chuck Berry and Buddy Holly. The tour opened with a two-day engagement at the Brooklyn Paramount Theater.  "Sam Phillips: The Man who invented Rock 'N' Roll" (2015) by Peter Guralnick.

Buddy Holly adopted this new songwriting mode to produce the most stylistically varied body of original recordings of any late fifties writer/performer, with up-tempo rockers such as “That’ll Be the Day” and “Not Fade Away” contrasting with such sweet pop numbers as “Everyday” and “Words of Love.” Some were sonically brash, others subdued. Some featured energetic performances, others were gentle, caressing. Some were paradigm examples of rock and roll instrumentation, others used such unlikely rock and roll sounds as celesta and harp. Holly made most of his records at Norman Petty’s studio in Clovis, New Mexico, over an eighteen-month span beginning in February 1957, which suited his inclination toward intuitive experimentation.

Added reverb provided an imaginary “setting” for recorded music. It drew listeners into the imaginary realm of the Cadillacs’ wistful “Gloria” and it made Duane Eddy’s guitar appear to call forth the sound of vastness. A good example is Buddy Holly’s “Peggy Sue,” which alternated dry and ambient drum sounds in a way that made no acoustic sense. It is impossible to imagine what would make reverb in the natural world behave in this way. The ambient shifts are simply the result of creative whim applied to a denatured acoustic phenomenon.

Buddy Holly was an innovator. He was the first rock musician to use the recording technique (invented by guitarist Les Paul), known as “overdubbing.” Elvis may have been “the King”, but it was Buddy Holly who drew up the blueprints to build the palace of rock ’n’ roll. Holly’s creative arrangements sometimes combined rock ’n’ roll instruments -electric guitar, bass, and drums- with jazz sax or instruments one might expect to find in a symphony orchestra. Buddy’s brother Larry said that the first song he ever heard Buddy teaching himself on the guitar was Hank Williams’ “Lovesick Blues.” The strings in “True Love Ways” answered Holly’s phrases in a tender commentary, which turned faintly exotic at the song’s chromatic bridge, a Scheherazade moment in rockabilly history. In the song’s second A-section, the strings fell to a hushed tremolo as the saxophone took up the responses in gentle, dreamy jazz phrases perfectly suited to the rockaballad aesthetic but stylistically distant from rock and roll saxology.

Peter Guralnick called it “the treacle period of the late fifties and early sixties,” invoked in 1971 in his book "Feel Like Going Home"—“Rock ’n’ roll died. It was over,” he wrote.  Guralnick was talking not about commercial success but spirit. The first rock critics and historians were devoted to a particular construct of rock and roll authenticity, by which measure they concluded that rock and roll’s essence had in fact died by 1960. “The burst of creation that exploded in the fifties was drying up,” Greil Marcus lamented in a 1969 essay. Langdon Winner complained that “all of the elements in the life-support system of rock and roll withered and disappeared.”

In March of 1958, Buddy Holly and the Crickets became the first American rock ’n’ roll band to tour England. Buddy’s popularity among British teens is amazing when you consider the fact that, at the time, rock ‘n’ roll was banned from radio throughout England. Some call “Peggy Sue” the first international rock anthem, because it had such a great influence. The song was unusual for the echo effect on Jerry’s snare drum (using an elaborate set-up at the studio to create an echo chamber), and the forceful, insistent rhythm of Buddy’s distinctive, downstroke-only style of playing lead guitar with his pick. Jerry Allison later said, “I’ve never seen anyone since who plays it that way.”

According to Niki Sullivan, Buddy “was never hustling girls after the shows.” One musician who knew Buddy, Ted Scott, said, “I can’t even remember him using a cuss word, let alone taking drugs.” Bob Thiele, one of the New York executives at Brunswick records described Buddy Holly as  “a nice kid, an extremely sensitive individual. And somehow I found myself being aware of his sensitivity and trying to be careful of how I said things to him. Even with his country talk, he sounded like a gentleman. And he was a gentleman.”—Sources: "Oh Boy! The Life and Music of Rock ’n’ Roll Pioneer Buddy Holly" (2009) by Staton Rabin and "I Don’t Sound Like Nobody: Remaking Music in 1950s America" (2012) by Albin J. Zak 

Sunday, December 27, 2015

The Buddy Holly Story jukebox musical

Tickets are on sale now for Buddy - The Buddy Holly Story - when it comes to E.J. Thomas Hall, January 12-13, as part of the 2015-2016 Broadway in Akron series. The show that inspired a generation of multi-million selling juke-box musicals starts a 9 week tour of the USA on Monday, January 4th, 2016. Loved by critics and audiences alike, Buddy tells the enduring tale of the musical icon's meteoric rise to fame and his final legendary performance at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa, before his tragic and untimely death at the age of 22.

Buddy's widow, Maria Elena Holly, says of the show: "When we opened the show we never imagined Buddy's music and story would still be rocking stages and entertaining audiences around the world week-in week-out over 25 years later. I believe this is testament to a great show - the first of its kind - and to the enduring appeal of Buddy Holly and what he represents; a youthful energy, huge talent and creativity, combined with a determination to make a lasting impression in this world." Source:

Buddy Holly learned to play the piano and violin as a youngster. He went barefoot in the summer, rabbit hunting in the fall, and liked to read comic books, adventure stories, or science fiction. Holly was elected king of the sixth grade at Roosevelt School. 

One of the most commonly asked questions of the 1950s was “What will you do when rock ‘n’ roll dies?” Colonel Parker brought Elvis incredible fame and wealth, while Buddy’s manager held him back and stole a fortune from him. While 1956 would turn out to be a spectacular breakout year for Elvis, for Buddy it was a year of failure and exploitation that would test his resolve to make it as a professional entertainer.

In RCA’s Nashville studio on January 10, Elvis recorded “Heartbreak Hotel,” which would reach the top of Billboard’s pop chart in May, launching Presley’s fabulous run through the end of the decade. Meanwhile, Buddy’s Nashville Decca session on January 26 was a disaster. “It’s a wonder the world ever again heard of Buddy Holly,” Amburn noted. Buddy’s second release for Decca also failed miserably, and at year’s end the label declined to renew his contract. As 1957 dawned, Buddy was penniless, his career no further along than it had been 12 months before.

By the time “That’ll Be the Day” became Buddy’s first hit record, Elvis already had five #1 singles and eight gold records. In January 1957, without a manager, a band, or a recording contract, Buddy returned to Lubbock and considered quitting the music business. Deciding to give it one more try, he formed another band and drove ninety miles northwest of Lubbock to record at Norman Petty’s recording studio in Clovis, New Mexico. There, on February 24, 1957, Holly’s life changed when he recorded a rocking version of “That’ll Be the Day.” Source:

Just before Christmas 1958, Buddy had hoped to resume his relationship with Echo McGuire, who would be home for the holidays during her school break. But McGuire had a new boyfriend. “I told Buddy what I had decided,” Echo says. “From that point on, I put him aside.” While waiting for the release of “That’ll Be the Day,” Holly helped lay tile with his brothers. Holly also helped Norman Petty build an echo chamber for his studio, in the attic above Petty’s father’s service station. On the deepest level of his life Buddy was troubled and unfulfilled. Like many in his circle, he was headed for misfortune. For Buddy, life on the road offered no opportunity for meeting the kind of girl he wanted to marry. Buddy, the young man who genuinely loved “good girls,” found such girls even tougher to meet as a famous rocker.

Buddy Holly’s “Peggy Sue” hit the one-million mark in sales the same day Alan Freed’s Christmas show debuted at the Paramount Theater near Times Square on December 27. While in New York, Holly and the Crickets made their first television appearance on the Arthur Murray Show on December 28, performing “Peggy Sue.” When the band arrived backstage before the show, Holly & The Crickets mingled with the starstudded cast, which included Tallulah Bankhead, June Havoc, Gloria DeHaven, jazz singer Sarah Vaughan, and screen-siren Hedy Lamarr. Rock ’n’ roll was civilization’s wake-up call, and its pioneers, like James Joyce’s Stephen Dedalus, were forging in the smithy of their souls “the uncreated conscience” of their race. But its immediate future in 1958 was rife with so much hatred and hostility from society that it’s remarkable that rock ’n’ roll managed to survive at all.

‘Raining In My Heart’, ‘Moondreams’ and ‘True Love Ways’ were slow, reflective ballads, without a hint of beat, and Buddy sang them completely ‘straight’, banishing all clicks and hiccups from his voice, drawing only on its warmth, its conviction, its gentleness, its ability to address the listener personally. Buddy's mother, Ella, picked ‘True Love Ways’ as the stand-out track, though even she did not dream what an imperishable standard it would become. Written ostensibly for and about Maria Elena, its stupendous charm lies in its mixture of intimacy and universality. While speaking directly and uniquely to Maria Elena, it is also a message to ‘all those who really care’, as ever counselling patience, hope and trust in the benignity of Fate. Maria Elena tried to cook for the musicians: “She about killed us cooking,” Waylon Jennings says. “She tried to cook beans and burned them. Can you imagine burning beans? Buddy said, ‘Don’t say anything. Just eat them.’”

Buddy and Maria Elena found an apartment in New York in Greenwich Village, on Fifth Avenue. Buddy designed cabinets for the kitchen as well as a bar that opened out onto the terrace. If he couldn’t make it as a singer, he told his wife, he could always earn a living as a draftsman or engineer. Ella had always been proud of how skilled and resourceful Buddy was, how he could fix anything that went wrong around the house. "Buddy Holly: A Biography" (2014) by Ellis Amburn.

Sharon Sheeley (Eddie Cochran's fiancé) wrote in her memories: "Buddy Holly was terribly shy; he tended to complicate his alienation because of his extreme shyness, his self-consciousness about his 'homely' looks.  Buddy not only knew rock 'n' roll would last, he also understood it had to evolve over time. Buddy was our superior from a musical theory aspect. "Summertime Blues: A True Rock 'n' Roll Adventure with Eddie Cochran" (2010) by Sharon Sheeley

On Friday, 30 January, the ‘Winter Dance Party’ chasséed down the frozen highway to play the Laramar Ballroom in Fort Dodge, Iowa. Rock stars of today would not put up with such conditions for five minutes. But rock stars of 1959 were an infinitely hardier, more philosophical breed. Maria Elena had to break it to Buddy that, after almost four weeks, there still was no sign of ‘It Doesn’t Matter Anymore’ in Billboard’s Hot 100. Buddy made a brave show of not being worried, telling her it would probably turn out to be another ‘sleeper’ like ‘That’ll Be The Day’. But inwardly he resigned himself to having missed yet again. That night, close to despair, he called his friend Eddie Cochran, who was recording in the enviable warmth of California. ‘Eddie came back from the phone really concerned,’ Cochran’s girlfriend, Sharon Sheeley, remembers. ‘He said “Buddy’s so down, he thinks it’s all over in the charts for him. I told him, don’t be a fool. You’re the best there is. You’ll be back up there again soon.” ’ 

Even with Buddy dead, however, Norman Petty continued to find reasons not to pay. Maria Elena was obliged to leave the gentlemanly Orenstein and seek more aggressive legal representation, whereupon Petty finally disgorged what his books said he owed Buddy and what Maria Elena now describes as ‘a paltry sum’, just over $35,000. Paltry or not, it would have made the difference between struggling through the Midwest on a second-rate tour or staying safe and warm in the Brevoort building, among the hippies and coffee-houses. It was enough, in every sense, to have kept Buddy alive. —"Rave On: The Biography of Buddy Holly" (2014) by Philip Norman

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Merry Christmas from Weirdland!

"It's A Wonderful Life", Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, my friends!

Monday, December 21, 2015

"Young Man with a Horn" (Noir City Film Festival), Buddy Holly: Christmas Rockabilly

The Noir City Film Festival returns to San Francisco's majestic Castro Theatre for its 14th edition, January 22-31, 2016. Its timely theme, given the threat traditional arts face from the technology revolution and its skyrocketing living costs, is “The Art of Darkness”—a collection of 25 noir-stained films exploring the pressures, pitfalls, paranoia and pain of being an artist in an indifferent and often cruel world. This time the tortured protagonists aren't felons or fall guys, they're writers, painters, dancers, photographers, and musicians. Some of the best art-flavored classic noirs will screen, including Nicholas Ray's In a Lonely Place and Fritz Lang's Scarlet Street.

YOUNG MAN WITH A HORN - 1950. Rick Martin (Kirk Douglas) finds a sense of belonging in only one thing—the trumpet he bonded with as a young orphan. In his rise to artistic success, Martin struggles to maintain relationships as strong as the music he creates, and eventually he risks losing everything in a steady swirl of arrogance and alcohol. Doris Day plays the singer/savior Martin tosses aside in favor of sultry Amy North (Lauren Bacall), an ennui-ridden socialite whose bisexuality stealthily slipped past the Hollywood censors. Source:

Young Man with a Horn is a 1950 musical drama film based on a novel of the same name by Dorothy Baker inspired by the life of Bix Beiderbecke, the jazz cornetist. His death, in turn, gave rise to one of the original legends of jazz. In magazine articles, musicians' memoirs, novels, and Hollywood films, Beiderbecke has been reincarnated as a Romantic hero, the "Young Man with a Horn". His life has been portrayed as a battle against such common obstacles to art as family and commerce, while his death has been seen as a martyrdom for the sake of art. The musician-critic Benny Green called Beiderbecke "jazz's Number One Saint," while Ralph Berton compared him to Jesus. The romantic notion of the short-lived, doomed jazz genius can be traced back at least as far as Beiderbecke, and lived on in Glenn Miller, Charlie Parker, Billie Holliday, Jaco Pastorius and many more.

In the film, Rick becomes an alcoholic who neglects his music and even destroys his horn. He disappears, until one day Smoke finds him in a drunk tank. Jo is contacted and rushes to Rick's side, helping him to recover his love of music and of her—a happy ending found neither in the novel nor in the life of Bix Beiderbecke.

Kirk Douglas as Rick Martin and Lauren Bacall as Amy North, publicity still of Young Man with a Horn (1950)

Doris Day as Jo Jordan in Young Man with a Horn (1950).

Yelping, growling, delighting in his voice as an instrument of seemingly infinite inflection and suppleness, Buddy Holly proved that he could hold his own with the wildest men in rock. Catching New York’s Christmas 1957 spirit, Buddy bought himself the present of his dreams, going into Manny’s and selecting a Guild F-50 Navarre acoustic guitarIt can be heard on “Well All Right.”

‘I’m Gonna Love You Too’ was a frisky rockabilly throwback on which the Crickets found themselves augumented from an unexpectedly appropriate quarter. As the last notes of the playback died away, a real cricket, which had somehow found its way into the echo-chamber, gave a reverberant double chirrup. Since the noise happened to be exactly in beat, they decided to leave it on the record. 

Some of his guitars were only briefly in his possession. Buddy enjoyed giving them away to young rockers who couldn’t afford them. Joe B Mauldin says that Buddy was the most generous person he’d ever encountered. One day at the Paramount a youth approached Buddy and said he really admired Buddy’s guitar. “Here, man, you keep it,” Buddy said. As Christmas 1958 approached, on December 14, he recorded the eloquent “Crying, Waiting, Hoping.” Buddy’s voice gently probes the poignancy of every line, uncovering nuances of truth and emotion that lift the song to universal significance.

“Learning the Game,” relentlessly tragic in its view of romance, was the last of the apartment tapes, recorded on December 17. Buddy had borrowed enough money to shower his family with expensive presents, which the financially strapped Holleys appreciated. Larry Holley would look back on the 1958 holiday season as a glorious Christmas. The Avalanche-Journal carried a picture of carolers on the front page with the headline "Christmas Arrives Quietly Over Area". Though Buddy Holly’s visit was by far the most newsworthy event to occur in Lubbock that Christmas, the paper made no mention of him. Throughout his career, his hometown paper, either through reportorial oversight or in deference to its Bible Belt readership, ignored him, despite hit records and a triumphant world tour.

The recordbuying public also ignored the stunning oddity of “Mailman, Bring Me No More Blues.” Holly desperately needed some good news, but Decca kept him completely in the dark about the sales of “That’ll Be the Day.” 

Back in Lubbock, Buddy called on old friends, sang his latest songs for them, and encouraged any beginners who sought him out.  “Raining in My Heart” was one of Buddy's personal favorites. Larry agreed it was the best thing Buddy had ever done. Buddy’s voice had never been more tender or appealing than in this ballad, which tells of a lover’s brave, vain efforts to hide his broken heart. Above all, the recording evokes the sweetness of the singer: Buddy Holly’s power to evoke our love is uncanny. 

Hollywood has yet to produce an authentic portrait of the rock ’n’ roll experience, though it is one of the most emblematic of the twentieth century. The moviemakers’ flirtation with Buddy Holly’s life is a classic example of distortion and exploitation, smoothing out the hard, jagged edges that make a life in rock ’n’ roll so engaging, perilous, tragic, and archetypically modern—torn between a yearning for acceptance and a compulsion to destroy all that is false and hypocritical in society. The real Buddy Holly is to be found nowhere in the various efforts to represent him on film. —"Buddy Holly: A Biography" (2014) by Ellis Amburn.