Saturday, January 14, 2017

Buddy Holly and Carl Perkins: the Father of Rock and the King of Rockabilly

Coming soon at the Paramount Theatre: •Dance Party: A tribute to Buddy Holly, the Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens featuring Elvis and Marilyn Monroe, with Denny Charnecki and the D.C. Drifters on Jan. 14. The Austin Area Commission for the Arts is proud to present a tribute to the ‘day the music died’ on Saturday, January 14 at the Historic Paramount Theatre.

Denny Charnecki and the D. C. Drifters will present a tribute to the music of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper with special appearances by ‘Elvis’ and ‘Marilyn Monroe.’ Fans of early rockabilly music won’t want to miss it. The high-energy romp led by Denny Charnecki is a great way to introduce kids and grandkids to classic rock of the late 1950s. Tickets are $12 in advance and $15 at the door. Order tickets online at or stop in to the ArtWorks Center at 300 N Main Street to purchase tickets (10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturday. Source:

The story of the “Million Dollar Quartet” — the nickname given to the formidable foursome of Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins — has been told in both book and musical form. Now the tale is coming to TV via CMT and an eight-episode series that traces the rise of the famed label of the title, its genius producer Sam Phillips and the four disparate, but complementary musicians. “Sun Records,” executive produced by Leslie Greif and Gil Grant, is based on the Tony-winning musical “Million Dollar Quartet” and arrives shortly after the 60th anniversary of the legendary one-off recording session featuring the four men. Source:

The million Dollar Quartet  jam session seems to have happened by pure chance. Carl Perkins, who by this time had already met success with "Blue Suede Shoes", had come into the studios that day, accompanied by his brothers Clayton and Jay and by drummer W.S. Holland, their aim being to record some new material, including a revamped version of "Matchbox". Elvis Presley, a former Sun artist now with RCA Victor, arrived to pay a casual visit accompanied by a girlfriend, Marilyn Evans.

As Elvis played and Carl strummed along on guitar, Sam Phillips came out and said he'd like Elvis to hear what Carl had recorded earlier. Elvis listened to "Matchbox" and declared it a "killer" track; the harmony singing on "Your True Love" impressed him. Sam told engineer Jack Clement to start a tape rolling—“We may never have these people together again." The core and the focus remained Presley, Perkins, and Lewis; Johnny Cash had dropped by before Elvis's appearance and stayed long enough to sing with Carl and Elvis on “Blueberry Hill" and “Isle of Golden Dreams" before the recording began. Cash's presence was brief because he had to leave shortly to go pick up his wife Vivian to do some Christmas shopping. Newcomer Jerry Lee Lewis, born of similar roughneck stock as the others, wanted to prove himself to the veterans. Carl Perkins jumped in with a stunning version of Wynn Stewart's country hit "Keeper of the Key," accompanying himself on acoustic guitar, with Elvis and Jerry Lee harmonizing. Jerry Lee finally took over the piano when Carl and Elvis went into the control room, and proceeded to do a three-minutes-plus version of “Crazy Arms,” the longest song of the day. As Jerry Lee hit his final glissando, Elvis prepared to leave. It was nearly eight o' clock, Carl recalls, and Elvis told him that his female companion was hungry.

Elvis referred to Marilyn Evans as his "house guest," as Carl Perkins recalls: "People like Natalie Wood came home with him as house guests." Perkins' policy was to sign autographs only at the show venue; some girls often found their way to his motel room, but he refused to allow them entrance; he signed autographs outside. “I've never had affairs,” asserts Perkins. Unlike Presley, Perkins had a wife and three children waiting for him at home. Perkins' wife Valda had made it clear that if he cheated on her, she wouldn't be there when he came home, nor would she be talked into coming back. Perkins made it a practice to get back to his room quickly after the show and call home. When Carl would hear Valda's voice, and then hear one of his children squeal into the phone, "Hi, Dad-eeee", he knew he wouldn't stray: “I took my marriage vows very seriously. I knew if I wasn't true to them that Valda wouldn't stay with me a second. Presley? He took advantage of quite a few. I think that's pretty well documented. I've seen him with a lot of beautiful girls. He was pretty hot to trot.”

One of the acts Carl Perkins enjoyed playing was an obscure Buddy Holly song, "I'm Gonna Set My Foot Down" (cut during Holly's ill-fated Owen Bradley sessions in 1956), and he scorched it with a tough sounding arrangement and rowdy vocals. What had been a renegade subculture in the 1950s was moving into the mainstream of American life as its commercial potential became apparent. Magazines were launched featuring rock 'n' roll stars on their covers and featured stories about the artists on the inside. Elvis’s face and name showed up on everything from clothing and perfume to lunchboxes and trading cards, and as a film actor he was proving to be a box office smash.

Only Carl Perkins was absent from the new pantheon. On the road he was continuing to draw sizable, enthusiastic audiences, making his dismal showing on the charts all the more puzzling. A case can be made for the music changing and Carl not accommodating the marketplace, after having purveyed the purest form of rockabilly, having defined its style, he hadn’t thought to evolve it, as Buddy Holly had revolutionized the genre. Dick Clark once said, "Elvis was the King of Rock 'n' Roll, but Buddy Holly was the undisputed father of rock music." And Dick Clark is right. While chart failings dismayed Perkins, his sense of himself as a still-vital artist remained unwavering—"Dixie Fried" and "Matchbox" were as great as rockabilly or rock 'n' roll could get. Perkins believed that sitting on Sam Phillips's shelf in the Sun studio were some tracks, still unheard, hot enough to melt the disc jockeys' needles.

Of the early rock 'n' roll songwriters, Carl Perkins’ songs were the most subjective in narrative line. He was an artist who drew his best material from his own life in the cotton fields, in the tonks, and from having inhabited the lowest strata of the American working class. His memories were of a time and a place quickly receding into history.—"Go, Cat, Go!: The Life and Times of Carl Perkins, the King of Rockabilly" (1996) by Carl Perkins & David McGee

Thursday, January 12, 2017

R.I.P. Tommy Allsup, Buddy Holly's final tour survivor

Guitarist Tommy Allsup lost a coin toss to teenage star Ritchie Valens, who died with Holly in the subsequent air crash. Allsup, who went on to become a successful producer, died yesterday, aged 85. Holly initially offered members of his touring band, including Allsup, a spot on the four-seater aircraft he chartered after a Winter Dance Party tour across the Midwest, according to A-J Media archives. At one in the morning on February 3, 1959, Buddy Holly and his tour band stood around a small plane at Clear Lake, Iowa, trying to decide who would fly to the next venue and who would have to take the rattly, cold bus. Bob Hale, a disc jockey at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, told reporters he flipped the coin that decided whether Allsup or Valens would have the last seat. He lost the coin flip and was asked decades later by music historian Bill Griggs what happened to the coin. Allsup said that he kept it. “It saved my life,” Allsup told Griggs. Source:

Buddy Holly drove to Odessa where he recruited old friend Tommy Allsup to play guitar and drummer Carl Bunch for his touring band. Through his association with session guitarist Tommy Allsup, Buddy Holly was becoming interested in jazz. Larry Holley drove his brother and Maria Elena to the Lubbock airport where they caught a flight home to New York City. A bitter winter wind swept across northwest Texas as Carl Bunch’s mother drove her son and Tommy Allsup from Odessa to Lubbock, where they picked up Jennings on the way to the airport at Amarillo to catch a flight to New York City. The band spent several days practicing before leaving for the start of the tour in Chicago.  At the same time, Allsup was teaching Jennings how to play the bass, which he had never played before. “I very quickly memorized everything Buddy did,” Jennings says. “I didn’t learn to play the bass, I memorized the notes.” Holly pushed hard to make the new group sound like the old Crickets. “Buddy and Maria were having some difficulties,” Bunch indicates that Maria Holly precipitated most of the disputes by telling Holly how to handle his life and career. Allsup didn’t feel the same tension sensed by Bunch. “Buddy and Maria seemed to get along pretty good. She was pretty hot-tempered. I didn’t see anything out of the ordinary.” As the musicians ate breakfast in Holly’s apartment the morning they were to leave for Chicago, Holly and his wife each told of dreams of airplanes they had the night before. “Buddy said something about a plane crashing,” Allsup says. “I didn’t even think about it for years. I don’t know if it was a premonition or if he had a dream.” Bunch is more certain. “Buddy had a premonition about his death.” —"The Day the Music Died: The Last Tour of Buddy Holly, the Big Bopper, and Ritchie Valens" (1997) by Larry Lehmer

Friday, January 06, 2017

Buddy Holly's mystery, The Permissive Society

It was Buddy Holly who made the Fender Stratocaster, previously favoured by country musicians, the instrument of choice for rock guitarists. If his career is measured in terms of the number of records sold, Buddy Holly would rank high, although the sales didn’t take off until after his untimely death. But if it is measured in terms of influence on other rock musicians, he ranks higher. Indeed, some critics would say he ranks highest of all. Holly took up the guitar at the age of 12, playing country and western music, absorbing influences from bluegrass (acoustic stringed instruments), close-harmony singers, and rhythm ’n’ blues. His guitar style – in which he was able to produce a lead and rhythm sound at the same time – was much admired and envied. Holly's British tour in 1958 was “the most significant and influential tour in the entire history of popular music”.

Whereas "Hound Dog" aims for a monolithic effect (and falls short), "That'll Be the Day" is fully realized, with Holly acting out his role as if he's talking to the mirror, savoring the memory. Holly could be utterly sure of his self-doubt, whereas Elvis couldn't be as sure of his arrogance. Buddy Holly's performance is tougher, his frightening sincerity cut with playfulness, a sense of fun and an embrace of adolescent innocence. Although Holly presented himself as safe as a vanilla shake, he could be stubborn as hell. Buddy Holly’s fans make their annual pilgrimage to Clear Lake, Iowa, drawn by the Surf Ballroom’s magical vibrations. The Holly enthusiasts you can find at the Holiday Motor Lodge are clever, not at all like Elvis fans in their beehive hairdos and polyester pants suits. 

"An obvious no-hoper," rock journalist Nik Cohn wrote of Buddy Holly in his study "The Golden Age of Rock" (2001): "Longtime rock fans have always been bitterly divided about him and his eccentricity. He wasn't a hardcore rocker, being too gentle and melodic." Holly shied away from the violence implicit in the rock scene, and from the hellfire emotionalism of the music. Holly was a rockabilly original, but unlike Gene Vincent or Carl Perkins (or Sun records wildmen Jerry Lee Lewis, Billy Lee Riley and Sonny Burgess), Holly looked for space in the noise, building his music around silences, a catch in the throat, a wink. Buddy Holly's songwriting in the years to come would have deepened, his range increased, his music would have taken shapes no one, not Holly, nor his fans and critics, could have predicted. Buddy Holly's story can be told again and again without it ever being settled.

For centuries, guitars were strung with 4 wound strings (a wire with thinner wire wound around it) and 2 plain (one wire) strings, the plain strings being the highest treble strings, E and B. Normally, the 3rd string, the G, is wound, making it a tough string to bend. An unwound G instantly makes a guitar easier to play and more expressive. And, the G string is more often than not, the string that is voicing the ‘flavor’ note in any given chord, and is also often the root string when soloing. Buddy Holly’s G string was unwound and his guitar style was one of the most profoundly pivotal moments in the history of the guitar. Like Buddy Holly, the only true guitar/writer/singer/producer giant of the time, Eddie Cochran also was writing using the immemorial 1-4-5 chord sequence in ways that did not use the the standard 1-4-1-5-4-1 blues sequence (even if you know nothing about music, you can hear what I’m referring to just by humming a blues to yourself). Virtually every one of Cochran’s masterpieces utilizes those same three chords. 

Why didn't early rock and roll sustain? Not easy to answer. Partly it was because the vintage rockers were so ill-fated. Partly because most of them were not flexible. New figures came up to replace the gone heroes, but they weren't in the same class and were generally forgettable. “Rock ’n’ roll is being integrated into popular music,” warned DJ Bill Randle of Cleveland’s WERE station. “Rock ’n’ roll was an earthy, virile influence, but the authentic artists were destroyed by the gimmick imitators. There’s a point to which you can’t cater to the mediocre any longer.” Newspapers that scoffed at rock and roll in 1959 thought the big-beat music had just suffered a hiccup, and other new stars would fill the breach. Those new stars are gone now. Buddy Holly lives, every time we play rock and roll. And the music survives.

Buddy Holly looked more like an insurance agent, maybe a future computer whiz, than a rock and roll idol, said his astounded fans. Holly’s Cricket bandmate Sonny Curtis offered us this epic echo: “the levee ain’t dry, and the music didn’t die/‘Cause Buddy Holly lives every time they play rock and roll.” Bob Dylan credited Buddy Holly as his main melodic inspiration. Holly wasn’t political. All Buddy was saying: give rock a chance. Keith Richards initiated his riff repertoire playing Not Fade Away at Mapesbury Road. Rock and Roll is rarely a place to find role models for your kid. With Buddy Holly, we have an exception. He’s an example of the flipped adage of “nice guys finish first,” even when their trip comes to a sudden stop. As the Cold War heated into a bubbling volcano of nuclear warheads pointed at American and Russian cities, Buddy Holly taught a snarling world to sing and smile. Buddy gave all of us the notion, the will, and the gutsy optimism to rock. You couldn’t find a better rockin’ role model if you tried. 

Many families first lived in prefab bungalows that were developed after the WWII ended. They lasted until the 1960s when a range of sprawling suburban homes replaced them. It was William Jaird “Bill” Levitt of Levitt & Sons, who brought standardization and mass production techniques to house building. He turned farmlands into uniform housing projects, so-called Levittowns, which spread in record rates all over the United States. More than ever America became a society of people, as William H. Whyte assessed in 1956, working within an entrepreneurial capitalism safeguarded by the government, and the adjustment to the group became the core of a new social ethic. The economic developments favored an ongoing suburbanization on a large scale that had begun in the late 1940s and which bloomed in the early 1950s. Domesticity, religiosity, respectability, security through compliance with the system, that was the essence of the fifties. 

At the end of the 1940s, there existed six such musical streams: (white) pop or Tin Pan Alley music; country and western music, mainly hillbilly and western swing (C&W); rhythm and blues (R&B), jazz, gospel, and folk music. The formation of this six-stream musical landscape in the 1940s and 1950s provided the set of opportunities and constraints for the rise of rock and roll. Singers, musicians, and composers who made rock 'n' roll music, took the ingredients of rhythm and blues, country and western, and Tin Pan Alley music as their basic musical resources. A notable example is Patti Page’s big success “Tennessee Waltz” (1950) in which elements of C&W and pop are combined. The monopoly of the nationwide broadcasting networks was broken up which favored the growth of smaller local radio stations; as a result “the small, independent station became the postwar meteoric star of the broadcasting industry.” In 1950 there were already about 2000 AM radio stations, a number rising to about 3400 in 1960.

Jukeboxes were produced in great quantities between 1935 and 1950. In the early 1950s, the jukebox exploiters bought between a quarter and a third of all records and paid a fee for every time a record was played in their machines. This further strengthened the already strong position of the record companies. Nick Tosches sets the rock and roll's birth date as early as 1942 while others put it as late as 1953 or 1954. There really is much to say for Tosches’ view, because when listening to pre-1950s records one would categorize quite a few of them as rock and roll. Buddy Holly ranks #3 and Doc Pomus ranks#4 in the 100 Best 1950s Songwriters List from The New Book of Rock Lists (1994), after #1 Chuck Berry and  #2 Leiber & Stoller.

The combined efforts of Elvis Presley and Sam Phillips made the resources of the three main streams in popular music available to a host of new-coming rock and roll singers and musicians. Putting these elements together in the pressure cooker of extended sessions in the small Sun studio in Memphis led to a new rock and roll style known as rockabilly in which gospel, rhythm and blues, and country and western, particularly hillbilly music, were merged into a new kind of songs. The “Presley-Phillips” cooperation led to classic rock and roll records like “That’s All Right Mama” (1954) – Presley’s first record, “Good Rockin’ Tonight” (1954), “You’re A Heartbreaker” (1955), “Baby Let’s Play House” (1955), and the last record Presley made for Sun “Mystery Train” (1955). Phillips brought artists and performers like Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison, Johnny Cash, and Jerry Lee Lewis, to the front lines of the new musical stream. Alongside Sun and Specialty, four other independent record companies – Atlantic, King, Chess, and Imperial – were influential in shaping the new music. Atlantic was probably the best known independent company of the post-war era.

Another influential independent producer was Norman Petty who supervised the careers of Buddy Holly and the Crickets. From 1954 onward, rock and roll advanced very quickly and soon about 40% of the hit songs belonged to the emerging rock and roll stream. Entering the field in 1954, Decca was the first major record company that became active on the market of rock and roll music, giving Bill Haley the opportunity to make his records, and later contracted Buddy Holly & The Crickets. Other majors like Mercury Records (Patti Page, Vic Damone) followed Decca’s lead and contracted authentic rock and roll artists like The Big Bopper. The Big Bopper's “Chantilly Lace” broke onto the charts the same day as Buddy Holly’s “Early in the Morning,” on August 11, 1958. Buddy Holly was completely in tune with a generation that was tiring of Perry Como, Eddie Fisher, Patti Page, and demanding music that was as raw and wild as their own feelings.

Paul Anka’s “I Am Just A Lonely Boy” (1959) is a good example of the 'neat boy' that the major record companies had in mind. As the first in a whole series of teen idols, Anka acted as a prototype. His first hit “Diana” (1957) – 9 million records sold – became an anthem by which the feeling of self-pity was introduced as a lasting feature of teen music next to the attitude of self-assertion that was propagated by the earlier rock and rollers. Paul Anka made some other famous songs: “You Are My Destiny” (1958) and “Put Your Head On My Shoulder” (1959). Rock historians Dave Marsh and James Bernard denounced the major record labels as “gutless and greedy, disdainful of artistry in the face of the bottom line”  in The New Book of Rock Lists (1994).

Buddy Holly asked me if I wanted to go up on the roof of the building to get some air. It was about one in the morning and it was chilly. The Manhattan wind was like a whip. Buddy had a gray overcoat on, the collar pulled up around his neck. He looked out toward the skyline and then turned to me: “What did you think of the songs?” “I liked them,” I said, “especially ‘True Love Ways.’ That’s going to be a romantic classic.”  “What about the other one—’It Doesn’t Matter Anymore’?”  “Well—I just don’t see why you need Anka when you can write circles around him.” Buddy hugged his chest to keep warm. “If that’s true, if I can write circles around Paul Anka, then how come my records aren’t selling?” Buddy reached into his pocket and took out some chewing gum. He offered me a piece, but I didn’t want any.  “You know, Rudy, sometimes I feel like it’s a plot. My sales, man... When all the business guys got involved, all of a sudden the numbers went down. I lost control of my own career. It’s like they can make you or break you. Right now it seems like they’re all out to break me for good, but I don’t know why. It feels like sabotage.” I can see those big black glasses in front of me even now. He looked me in the eye, and held that pose for a minute. Bobby Darin told me that Buddy had lost confidence when his sales hit bottom. He moved to New York to work on promotion and to get better studio production quality.  He hid out for a few months and came up with some songs that he hoped would help him make the biggest comeback ever. “You’ve never heard anything like it before.” So then we both knew Buddy’s secret. —"The Winter Dance Party Murders" (2015) by Greg Herriges

"Rock music causes a breakdown in the synchronization of the two sides of the brain." — No other form of culture, and its artists, met with such extensive hostility as Rock 'n' Roll. In an even deeper sense, rock ’n’ roll went against white America’s ingrained fear of sex, a joyless legacy of the country’s puritan origins. “Rave On” was singled out by NBC Spot Sales as an example of the kind of music the network did not want its stations to play. The wave of protest continued when Contacts, the Catholic Youth Organization’s periodical, censored the music played at hops and warned to “smash the records… which present a pagan culture.” Perhaps skeptical about his future as a rock performer, Buddy Holly became interested in his future as recording producer. The musical establishment incited a congressional investigation into the widespread practice of payola (paying DJs for playing specific records). They succeeded in steering the investigation exclusively to those involved in producing and playing rock and roll music. Their representatives convinced the congressional investigators that rock and roll subsisted on payola. They castigated the music as an “inciter of juvenile delinquency” and pointed to Alan Freed as the prime offender. —"Anti-Rock: The Opposition To Rock 'n' Roll" (1993)

Maria Elena Holly would state in an early 1959 issue of 16 magazine that she’d initially met Buddy in January 1958, according to Alan Mann’s A–Z of Buddy Holly (1996). Archivist Alan Clark reprinted the 16 article in 1989 in his booklet “A Farewell to Buddy Holly: The Young Bride of a Favorite Young Star Bids Him a Last Goodbye,” in which Maria Elena says that she had previously seen Buddy around Peer-Southern and begun to think he was so shy they’d “never get beyond the point” of greeting each other and kidding around. The article goes on to state, in Maria Elena’s voice, that they finally connected when she encountered him at Howard Johnson’s. Buddy invited her to sit down for lunch, grabbed her hand and said to the Crickets: ‘O.K., you guys, just cut it out, because I’ve got her now.’ Maria Elena said she need two hands to eat. Buddy replied, “Oh, that’s all right, I’ll help feed you’. After she’d left, Buddy turned to Norman Petty and told him, “You see that girl? I’m going to marry her.” Some months later, Buddy took her to a record session, followed by “a quiet dinner.” As he dropped her off in a taxi, the car made a sharp turn and threw them together. “Before either of us realized it, we were sharing our first kiss,” Maria Elena remembered. They continued to stay in touch by phone while Buddy was on the road until their 'marriage proposal' date in June 1958.

Norman Petty had been nagging Buddy Holly to jettison rock ’n’ roll and start cutting pop records. Petty advised that Buddy change his singing style and get accepted in a more durable market so his career wouldn’t vanish with the demise of rock ’n’ roll, which Petty warned was imminent. He envisaged Buddy as a Vegas nightclub act, crooning to drunks and gamblers, and cutting Sinatra-type lovers’ albums. “Naw,” Buddy said, “I don’t dig it.” After Buddy's death, Norman Petty’s downfall was slow and tortured. After scoring an enormous hit in 1963 with Jimmy Gilmer and the Fireballs’ “Sugar Shack,” Petty made the mistake of criticizing the Beatles and psychedelia in the presence of record-industry associates and afterward was dismissed as old hat. Suddenly no one would take his calls. “In his latter years people that he started in the business, who were now in powerful positions, began to reject his recordings,” Billy Stull, manager of the Clovis studios, recalled in 1992. Though his contribution as a pioneering record producer of the rock era rivaled that of Sam Phillips, there were few honors for Petty. Sam Phillips was one of the original inductees in the Rock-’n’-Roll Hall of Fame, but Petty was ignored, perhaps because he never succeeded in dispelling persistent rumors that he’d mistreated Buddy Holly and other musicians. “He died an unhappy man. He kept the hurt inside. He had plenty of money and fame, but he was unhappy. He died unfulfilled,” says Stull.

“We were paying nine hundred dollars a month,” recalls Maria Elena, which was an astronomically high rent, even in New York, in 1958. Jerry Allison was furious over the sullen, slovenly “asshole” that "The Buddy Holly Story" (1978) made him out to be, he later told Bill Griggs, especially in the scene where Don Stroud, playing Jerry (named Jesse in the film), makes sexist and racist cracks about Maria Elena, which “really irritated the shit” out of him. The insults had actually come from a recording engineer, Allison told Mason City Globe-Gazette's writer Jeremy Powers in 1989. The Buddy Holly Story, Allison added, “They loosely took it from John Goldrosen's book.” Members of Buddy’s family viewed the Gary Busey “biopic” for the first time at the Lubbock opening on May 20, 1978. Initially they seemed pleased. Though the family appreciated Buddy’s talent, they never expected him to become a world figure, Mrs. Holley had told Bill Griggs.

Located by the indefatigable Bill Griggs, publisher of Rockin’ 50s magazine, Echo McGuire asked “not to be interviewed as her memories of Buddy are too personal,” Griggs related in 1992. Love was another mystery for Buddy Holly who, as a young man, bore a smile that put to shame a San Antonio sunrise in May bluebonnet season. Key figures associated with the Winter Dance Party tour were reluctant to discuss Buddy Holly. GAC’s Irvin Feld didn’t answer letters, Griggs said. Early rock was stymied not only by the stark disaster at Clear Lake, but by forces that had been trying to destroy it from the beginning. Terrified by its message of freedom, the establishment marshaled formidable forces—including the press—to discourage the musicians and their audiences. Even the music industry seemed to turn against rock ’n’ roll in 1958, attempting to bury it in the payola scandal that ended the decade. Buddy Holly’s life was a story of exploitation, betrayal, and distortion—by his manager, by insensitive record business entrepreneurs, by tour packagers who sent him into the frozen North Woods... “The Devil killed him,” said Carl Bunch to Bill Griggs in 1981.

After the Apartment Tapes hinted at a marked shift of Buddy Holly's musical progression, a strange myth attached to Buddy's figure was created around the existence of more mysterious demos that would surface or remain hidden in Scotch Magnetic Tapes, obscure masterpieces sealed inside some dusty box at his apartment or behind the doors of the Adelphi Sound Studios (Brill Building, 1650 Broadway). The speeded-up walla-walla-bing-bang nonsense of David Seville's “Witch Doctor” and Christmas 1958's hit “The Chipmunk Song” sounded far away from the collective memory with the beginning of the tumultuous Sixties. A different lifestyle (more technicized, commercialized and trend-oriented) would arise at the core of the rock industry and the American society at large.

The mistake of angling a determined era according with standards of the present also applies to the biographical approach that some writers have wrongly administered to Buddy Holly and other rock icons from the Fifties. Most songs Holly wrote and recorded at his New York apartment were about regret and lost love, but who knows what was going through his mind at the end of 1958? Holly fitted the nice guy archetype and the non-conformist archetype at once. This classic dichotomy (especially visible during the gender normative pervasive of the 50s) could have caused him a psychological split. Rock 'n' Roll, the same as uninhibited sexuality, was seen as close to pathology in those days. Holly suggested in his songs sex in the abstract, detached from its potentially disturbing reality, and elevated it to bear ironic symbolism.

In The Permissive Society: America, 1941-1965 Alan Petigny challenges our understanding of the 1950s as a time of staid tradition, showing a turbulent decade in which sexual mores, and assumptions of identity underwent profound, and sometimes destructive, change: “People didn’t start having sex because Elvis Presley was shaking his hips. The ‘40s and ‘50s experienced a dramatic increase in premarital pregnancies,” Petigny said: “more than doubling of illegitimacy among whites, more than tripling of all out-of-wedlock births.” Single motherhood rose from 7.1 to 21.6 newborns per 1,000 unwed women. The sexual revolution did not start in the free-loving 1960s as is commonly thought. “Between the beginning of World War II in 1939 and the inaugural issue of Playboy in 1953, the overall rate of single motherhood more than doubled,” Petigny added: “The silent generation may have been silent about what they were doing, but they weren’t all that complacent.”

Sources: —"The Riddles of Rock and Roll" (2003) by Leo d’Anjou, "This'll Be the Day: The Life and Legacy of Buddy Holly" (2009) by Maury Dean, and "Rockabilly: The Twang Heard 'Round the World: The Illustrated History" (2011) by Michael Dregni 

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Happy New Year 2017!

When choosing between two evils, I always like to try the one I've never tried before. -Mae West.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Miles Teller's Truck Accident, Traffic Law Attorney

We're told Miles Teller was driving in the San Fernando Valley late Thursday night when an Uber driver made a left turn in front of Teller, who was driving with his girlfriend. Miles' Bronco flipped over. He was not injured but enraged and got out of the truck screaming, "You f***** up my truck." 

We're told he was so angry people had to restrain him from attacking the Uber driver. Our law enforcement sources say the accident was not Miles' fault. It's clear from the photo the Uber driver made a left when it was unsafe. An ambulance came and took 2 passengers in the Uber to the hospital after they complained of minor injuries. An eyewitness says Miles appeared concerned about the 2 injured people. Law enforcement sources tell TMZ drugs or alcohol did not play a factor in the crash. We're told Teller put about $200k in the restoring his SUV over the years... ouch. It's interesting... Miles' 2 biggest movie roles -- "Whiplash" and "Bleed for This" feature his characters getting in a bad car accident. And, when he was 20, he got in a near-fatal car crash. Source:

Viewing the guilt of the aggressor as the basis for justification of private defence is the classic and most common theory in Anglo-American law, which provides us with a basic description of this viewpoint. The approach focuses on the rights of the aggressor. Its starting point is the general right to life that is granted to all human beings. The central argument of this approach is that the aggressor, by his guilty act, loses his right to life, or, at least, the right to claim this right. Nancy M. Omichinski illustrates this theory with the accepted description of ‘moral forfeiture of the right to life.’ She explains that even though the right to life is traditionally considered to be non-transferable, it is however normally considered as one, which can be lost—as noted by the philosopher John Locke, and the jurists Blackstone and Feinberg. This is the basic description of the theory—a description that it is easy to criticise. If the theory assumes that the aggressor—by his act—agrees that his life may be taken as a result of a defensive act, then this is a fiction, because the aggressor probably did not even think of this possibility. What is the dominant factor—the aggressor’s culpability, the very fact of his attack or both of these? In the legal literature there is sometimes mention of guilt alone, and sometimes of guilt connected to the ‘wrongful act’ of the aggressor. In the philosophical literature there is a dispute concerning this matter, which reaches its peak in the exchange of articles between Montague and Wasserman. The essence of this argument is that Montague based the rationale for private defence on the fact that the aggressor forces a choice between lives by the very fact of his attack, in conjunction with the aggressor’s guilt which, in his opinion, is the important factor. In the opinion of Wasserman, Montague emphasises the guilt of the aggressor far too heavily, and does not consider the tremendous importance of the very fact of the attack from a moral standpoint. The establishment of private defence and its justification will always require all of the three factors (the aggressor’s guilt, the autonomy of the person attacked and the social-legal order). Private defence is, simultaneously, a defence both of the autonomy of the person attacked and of the social-legal order, by means of essential and reasonable defensive force against the aggressor who is criminally responsible for his attack. There is an argument that the requirement of a mental element of any sort for the establishment of justification should be avoided due to utilitarian considerations. For the requirement of a mental element deters individuals from performing actions whose performance is actually desired by society. In American law also, as in English law, a mental element is required for the establishment of private defence. Moreover, the actor’s awareness of the justifying circumstances is usually insufficient, and a purpose of self-defence or protection is also required. In this matter, the Model Penal Code reflects the existing law. Robinson, for example, presents the following case: a large fire approaches a village and is liable to kill its residents. The way to stop it is to burn a private field that stands in its path. His argument is that if we demand a certain mental element in order to establish justification of the ‘lesser evil’, we shall deter the actor, who hates the field owner, from burning the field and thereby saving the population of the village.

Traffic Attorneys: Criminal Attorney in Phoenix
When fighting a traffic ticket in Arizona, it is important to hire a lawyer to get you the best possible results. You need an attorney who understands your traffic regulations and provides attentive and personalized representation for clients throughout Arizona. Whether you are facing a civil charge, or a DIU charge, you need an Arizona traffic violation attorney who will work to get you the best possible results. Each state punishes traffic violations differently. If you have received a criminal traffic violation or a civil traffic ticket in Arizona, you need an attorney who understands the consequences a violation may have on your license. You need an attorney who understands the court you are charged in. Arizona has serious laws for traffic violations. In Arizona, you can be charged with what is known as “Criminal Speeding” in two commons ways: Traveling over 20 miles an hour over the posted speed limit. Traveling any speed over 85 miles per hour, regardless of the posted speed limit. For example, if the posted speed limit is 75 miles per hour, traveling 86 miles per hour would be a violation of that law. So traveling 11 miles an hour over the posted speed limit is sufficient to be considered a criminal violation.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Buddy Holly and the Science of Music

Rave On - A Buddy Holly Biography (2001) documentary.

The evolution of popular music: USA 1960–2010: Between 1960 and 2009, the mean frequency of H1 declined by about 75%. H1 captures the use of dominant-seventh chords. Inherently dissonant (because of the tritone interval between the third and the minor-seventh), these chords are commonly used in Jazz to create tensions that are eventually resolved to consonant chords featured in tracks such as “I Feel So Bad” by Elvis Presley; songs tagged blues or jazz have a high frequency of H1; it is especially common in the songs of Blues artists such as B.B. King and Jazz artists such as Nat ‘King’ Cole. The decline of this topic, then, represents the lingering death of Jazz and Blues in the Hot 100 Billboard. Styles and genres represent populations of music that have evolved unique characters (topics), or combinations of characters, in partial geographical or cultural isolation, like country music in the Southern USA during the 1920s.

Music historians attribute this wholesale change of rock to the British Invasion of the early 1960s, when the Beatles and the Rolling Stones arrived in America and were followed by dozens of other Brit bands. Computer analysis paints a different picture. The signature features of this era — such as loud guitar, major chords with no changes and bright, energetic melodies — predated the arrival of Brit bands. This theme makes sense, said Ohio State University music professor David Huron: “When we think of styles, the prototypes are often not the earliest examples.” But even though the Beatles and the Rolling Stones didn’t initiate the revolution, both bands had 66 hits on the Hot-100 before 1968. The remaining H-topics capture the evolution of other musical styles. H3, for example, embraces minor-seventh chords used for harmonic colour in funk, disco and soul. Between 1967 and 1977, the mean frequency of H3 more than doubles. H6 combines several chord changes that are a mainstay in modal rock tunes. Its increase between 1978 and 1985, and subsequent decline in the early 1990s, marks the age of Arena Rock.

Of all H-topics, H5 shows the most striking change in frequency. This topic, which captures the absence of identifiable chord structure, barely features in the 1960s and 1970s when, a few spoken-word-music collages aside (e.g. those of Dickie Goodman), nearly all songs had clearly identifiable chords. H5 starts to become more frequent in the late 1980s and then rises rapidly to a peak in 1993.

Accordingly, T1 is over-represented in songs tagged dance, disco and new wave and artists such as The Pet Shop Boys. After 1990, the frequency of T1 declines: the reign of the drum machine was over. Source:

In 1959, at age thirteen, Dodie Stevens had the #1 hit, gold record  “Tan Shoes & Pink Shoe Laces”. She followed with “Yes, I'm Lonesome Tonight” and “Merry, Merry Christmas Baby”, which all hit the Billboard charts in the early 60's. She toured worldwide with Fabian, Frankie Avalon, Annette Funicello, Paul Anka, Bobby Rydell and many more teen idols from that era.  In February 2009, she joined her peers in Clear Lake, Iowa at the Surf Ballroom to perform in a 5-day memorial concert, “Fifty Winters Later” (in memory of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper). 

By the beginning of 1959 the rumour about Buddy Holly visiting Cookham on Saturday March 1st 1958 had mostly been forgotten. Buddy Holly was in London where he was playing that evening at the Elephant and Castle Trocadero. Bored with the noise and bustle of London, Buddy decided to go for a train ride. When the young waitress Mary Brown served Buddy his glass of lemonade at the teashop, she wasn’t sure if this man was Buddy Holly. However when she was handed the signed sketch, there was absolutely no doubt. They say that when we dream, what appears to us to be a full-length story, only in fact takes a few seconds to flash through our mind. Folklore would have us believe that during Buddy Holly’s final moments, it would have been his whole life that flashed before him. On the morning of February 3rd Mary Brown woke suddenly from a terrible nightmare.  She had been dreaming that the chest of drawers in her bedroom was ablaze. It was 7 am.  Four thousand miles away in Iowa USA, it was  1am - and the precise moment the plane carrying Buddy Holly hit the ground. Mary sat on the edge of the bed for several minutes. Her heart was pounding.

Mary slowly opened the drawer.  This was the first time Mary had looked at the sketch since she'd put it away. Mary was rooted to the spot - shocked by her sister's sudden appearance. "He was at the tea shop," Elizabeth said venomously: "Give me the drawing." "No," Mary replied, turning to face her sister: "He gave it to me." Elizabeth grabbed the edge of the paper, to pull the sketch away from Mary. The paper ripped and Elizabeth ended up with a small corner of it in her hand. Without hesitating Mary tore the sketch in two. Then into four.  And she kept on tearing the page into smaller and smaller pieces until she reached the point that she couldn’t tear it any more.  Then she threw the pieces towards her sister - and these fluttered to the floor like snow flakes. Four thousand miles away in Iowa, the body of Buddy Holly was lying on the frozen ground not far from the mangled wreckage of the plane. Snow was gently falling from out of a pitch-black sky.  There were no stars showing.  And everything was absolutely silent. —The Last Dream of Buddy Holly (2016) by James Chalmers 

"Music transmitted from generation to generation shapes autobiographical memories, preferences, and emotional responses, a phenomenon we call cascading 'reminiscence bumps,'" explains psychological scientist and lead researcher Carol Lynne Krumhansl of Cornell University. To explore the connection between autobiographical memories and musical memories, Krumhansl and Justin Zupnick of the University of California, Santa Cruz asked 62 college-age participants to listen to two top Billboard hits per year from 1955 to 2009. And there was a 'reminiscence bump' for the music of the 1960s -- more than two decades before the participants were born. Krumhansl and Zupnick speculate that reminiscence for this music could have been transmitted from the participants' grandparents, who would have been in their 20s or 30s in the 1960s. Another possibility -- one that might be favored by those of the Baby Boomer generation -- is that the music of the 1960s is truly of higher quality. Source:

Music brings memories back to the injured brain: In their study, A. Baird and S. Samson played extracts from 'Billboard Hot 100' number-one songs in random order to five patients. The songs, taken from the whole of the patient's lifespan from age five, were also played to five control subjects with no brain injury. All were asked to record how familiar they were with a given song, whether they liked it, and what memories it invoked." The findings suggest that music is an effective stimulus for eliciting autobiographical memories and may be beneficial in the rehabilitation of autobiographical amnesia, but only in patients without a fundamental deficit in autobiographical recall memory and intact pitch perception." The authors hope to learn more about the clear relationship between memory, music and emotion; they hope that one day we might truly "understand the mechanisms underlying the unique memory enhancing effect of music." Source:

As a kid, Buddy Holly showed a quick aptitude for music, taking violin and piano lessons, and later steel guitar lessons. It wasn't until his older brother Travis Holley returned from the Marine Corps with a $15 pawnshop Harmony that Buddy took up guitar. "I taught him a few basic chords - - G,C,D,A,E," recalls Travis, "and before long he was telling me, 'No, Travis, you're playing it wrong, it should go like this.'" Buddy was very quick to learn.  -Larry Holley (The Buddy I Knew)

Peggy Sue Gerron had a crush on Buddy Holly since the day she had tripped over him in the halls of Lubbock High School. He reportedly complimented her as 'pretty' and she considered him 'attractive, not nerdy.' “Lubbock, Texas, in 1954 and 1955 was very, very provincial,” says Harold Womack, who was one year behind Holly at Lubbock High School. Another classmate, James Pritchard, says: “Buddy was pretty much of a loner, too. It was pretty hard on him around here for a while. A lot of people would laugh at some of the stuff he’d do.” “We called Buddy ‘Four Eyes’ because he was farsighted and wore glasses. Buddy was not popular in school. It was Buddy that impressed Elvis back stage after the concert at Fair Park Coliseum in 1955. Buddy showed Elvis how to play slide guitar when he was playing ‘Big Boss Man.’ Also, it was Larry Welborn that showed Bill Black, Elvis’s bass player, how to slap the bass by loosening the E string... They called us all rock hillbillies, then it was changed to rockabilly and Alan Freed started to call it rock-n-roll.” —Tinker Carlen interviewed by Dick Stewart for The Lance Monthly, May 2008 issue.

The essence of rock and roll genius is synthesis. Buddy Holly was the most innovative performer of the 1950s, the single most important rocker in the aftermath of Elvis, a Do-It-Yourself idol in an era of stars manipulated and puppeteered by backstage deals and big-bucks payola. Chuck Berry poeticized the 1950s teenage America, but his chord structures and melodic harmonies lacked Holly's classical sophistication. Jerry Lee Lewis played a great rock piano, but he didn't have Holly's versatility. Eddie Cochran, who was often described as 'James Dean with a guitar,' pioneered punk-rock. Holly was the most original, creating new progressions to the time-worn 12-Bar blues style. Elvis had a burning stage charisma and a panther strut, but Buddy Holly could ram raw rock and roll, coo croony ballads, wax weird comedy tunes, and slash a fiery Fender vibrato guitar. "Peggy Sue" showed Holly's genius in altering regular rock and roll to cult status: it glides in the guitar-friendly key of A major. On the third verse, Holly suddenly steeplechases into a weird, wild Polynesian F major chord. "Oh Boy" leads off on a traditional 12-bar Blues double verse, stomps off into a booming bridge on the downbeat dominant seventh chord E-7, throttling his way into rock and roll destiny. 

Philosophically, "It doesn't matter anymore" (a pioneer violin strings experiment) presages a glum world view, the grunge music (Kurt Cobain, Wilco) and musically is cutting-edge for 1959, rivaling "Everyday" as a profound music minuet. "It doesn't matter anymore" offers a voluptuous variation of the archetypical blues riff, sliding through the tonic notes, sensuously shuffling the root C and the G-A-Bb-A-G pyramid, blending a slide guitar with an unheard-of classical major seventh interval. Of all the 50's rock and roll giants, including Elvis Presley and Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly was the most selfless, the most talented and the most likable. He loved his music, his wife, and his fans. "Rock N Roll Gold Rush" (2003) by Maury Dean

"Most of the time Buddy Holly spent in Lubbock was dedicated to perfecting that art form, rock-n-roll, which he would bring to the misfit youth of America and the world. Buddy's dream changed the world. While Elvis will always be the King of Rock-n-Roll, Buddy Holly is most certainly its George Washington. Buddy brought Rock-n-Roll to the people who truly needed it. Buddy Holly gave hope to all the outcasts, misfits, artists, dreamers, shakers, wailers & moaners of the world."—"Buddy Holly: Master Dreamcrafter" (2000)  essay by Chris Oblesgy

Norman Petty (chief of Nor-Va-Jak record label) alleged to John Goldrosen that Maria Elena Holly announced she and Buddy could “do better” and felt Petty was “not fit” to manage the Crickets. In 1993, Maria Elena revealed that Vi Petty and Norman Jean Berry started making fun of her Spanish accent. Then Buddy leaped into the fray. “He got mad and told Vi and Norma Jean where to get off.” Buddy’s father looked on Maria Elena as his daughter, he later told Goldrosen. L. O. Holley heaped extravagant praise on her, telling her that her marriage to his son was the most beneficial thing that had ever occurred in Buddy’s life: She had unleashed Buddy from Norman Petty’s strings, and marriage was transforming Buddy into a real “man.”  In 1993 Maria Elena recalls his farewell words to her before joining the Winter Dance Party tour in the late January 1959: “Buddy said, ‘I want you to take care of yourself and my baby.” In all likelihood, the last thing Buddy Holly saw was the face of Maria Elena and that of their unborn child. —"The Day Music Died: The Last Tour of Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper, and Ritchie Valens" (2003) by Larry Lehmer

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Merry Christmas (Vintage Rock & Roll)

Christmas Songs from the 50's: (Everybody's Waitin' For) the Man with the Bag by Kay Starr 1950, Santa's Surprise 1947, It's Christmas Time again by Peggy Lee & Victor Young 1953, Pluto's Christmas Tree 1952, December by Kay Starr, Santa Baby by Eartha Kitt 1953, Cool Yule by Louis Armstrong 1953, Rudolf the rednosed reindeer 1948, The Christmas Blues by Dean Martin 1953, Dig that crazy Santa Claus by Oscar McCollie & His Honeyjumpers 1954, Judy Garland - Christmas Special 1963, Mrs. Santa Claus by Nat King Cole, I've Got My Love To Keep Me Warm by Louis Armstrong & Ella Fitzgerald 1957, Christmas In Connecticut 1945, This time of year by Brook Benton 1959, The Bishop's Wife 1947, Santa bring my baby back to me by Elvis Presley 1957, What Are You Doing New Year's Eve by Ella Fitzgerald 1960.


La Bamba Cola, on-line video games and limited-edition guitars are some of the products planned to bring revive the popularity of Ritchie Valens. The new licensing and merchandising deal by Southern California-based C3 Entertainment marks the first time that the image of the teenage Latino rock pioneer -- who died with Buddy Holly in a 1959 plane crash -- will be promoted through an official licensing initiative sanctioned by Valens’ family. Ani Khachoian, C3’s Executive Vice President of Licensing, Merchandising and Distribution, told Billboard: “We want to make sure every fan has the opportunity to rediscover this rock ’n’ roll icon, and that we introduce Valens to new audiences. He was a talented, positive young man, who worked hard. It’s a wonderful legacy for young people.”

C3 also represents the legacy of The Big Bopper, who died in the snowy crash with Valens and Holly while on their Winter Dance Party tour. In addition, C3 created the licensing program for John Mueller’s Winter Dance Party, a current touring tribute show featuring Mueller performing as Holly, with other artists paying homage to Valens and the Big Bopper.

Ritchie Valens, best known for his hit “La Bamba,” signed to Del-Fi Records in 1958 and recorded two albums, releasing singles that included “Donna,” which reached no. 2 on the Billboard pop chart. The 1978 movie La Bamba, starring Lou Diamond Phillips with music performed by Los Lobos, brought Valens’ story to new audiences; the soundtrack album sold 2 million copies in the United States. C3’s Khachoian says that a La Bamba Cola beverage is set to be manufactured and distributed by the Rocket Fizz Soda Pop & Candy Shops chain. Source:

Limited edition (1997) of the Buddy Holly commemorative Coca-Cola bottle. In September 1997 the Lubbock Music Festival in Texas celebrated what would have been the founder of Rock & Roll's 61st birthday, whose birth date was September 7, 1936. In his memory, the Coca-Cola Company made 5,000 Special Commemorative  Buddy Holly Coke bottles. Source:

In early December 1957, the Crickets flew back to Texas, their first visit home since becoming international recording stars. As if it had undergone a mass lobotomy, Lubbock took no official notice of their homecoming, though Buddy Holly was the only famous person the city had ever produced. As if to prove he was a star, he rented a limousine from the airport to his parents’ humble dwelling. Gazing out the limo window, he saw that nothing had changed in Lubbock. He was disappointed when he arrived home and found no one there, his mother later told Bill Griggs. During the 1957 Christmas holidays the first royalty check, $192,000, arrived from Coral/Brunswick. Where, they wondered, were their $50,000 songwriting royalties for “That’ll Be the Day,” which should have been split three ways between Buddy, the Crickets, and Norman Petty? and [where were] their Broadcast Music Incorporated earnings (fees collected for each air play on radio and television)? When pressed, Petty offered no records to prove his contention. Hi Pockets Duncan revealed in a radio special on Buddy Holly that Petty had been siphoning 90 percent of their earnings.

Christmas 1957 found the Crickets on the rising platform stage of the nation’s No. 1 showplace in the heart of Times Square. Their co-stars on Alan Freed’s “Holiday of Stars Twelve Days of Christmas Show” were Fats Domino, Jerry Lee Lewis, and the Everly Brothers. Many of the performers on the Paramount bill, including the Crickets, regarded the Paramount show as the culmination of the their careers. All his life Joe B. had been told he’d never amount to more than “a cotton farmer from Lubbock, Texas,” he related to Bill Griggs, but now “we were on Times Square in New York and it was Christmastime.” Nowhere is Christmas observed with more panache than in Manhattan, where, in Rockefeller Center, a block-long row of silver angels trumpets their welcome all the way from Sak’s Fifth Avenue to the huge Christmas tree in the skating rink underneath the RCA Building. In the windows at Lord & Taylor’s department store, animated puppets re-create familiar fairy tales and Yuletide stories. —Buddy Holly: A Biography (1995) 

Monday, December 19, 2016

Buddy Holly: playing for the fans of the future

It wasn’t just Decca’s continuing insensitivity to his talent and total mismanagement of his career. Buddy Holly was unable to pay his musicians. Sonny Curtis did not come to Nashville this time, nor did Jerry Allison. Only Don Guess accompanied him when he went into Bradley’s Barn on November 15, 1956, to record “Modern Don Juan” and “You Are My One Desire.” No hits emerged from this session, but both songs contained glimmers of Buddy’s genius. “Modern Don Juan” is the story of a virile teenager who is a victim of his own promiscuity. With half the girls in his neighborhood gossiping about what a stud he is, the one girl he really cares about is unimpressed when he says he’s fallen in love with her. 

Buddy Holly and Hutchinson Jr. High pal Bob Montgomery had done a Lubbock ‘Hayride’ live gig on KDAV radio at tender age 15 or so, with help from Amarillo DJ guru Hi-Pockets Duncan. Somehow Holly scored a contract with Decca, but they ditched Montgomery. Buddy and the Three Tunes cut his first Nashville record with country producer Owen Bradley—“Love Me” on January 26, 1956. It didn’t vault to the top, but did shimmer with hot licks of star guitar guys Sonny Curtis on lead and Grady Martin on rhythm. Famous session guy Martin sparks Elvis tunes, and picks Marty Robbins’ Tex-Mex riffs on #1, ‘59 “El Paso.” Buddy’s road to the big time, however, screeched to a dismal detour, for 1956 made Elvis, not Buddy, a superstar.

Sonny James, whose ballad “Young Love” hit #1 in 1956, and Hank Thompson knew young (19 years old) Buddy Holly had a one-in-a-million voice. They signed him up to open for country stars Faron Young and young George Jones. Buddy’s original session in Nashville, with great guitars and steady stand-up bass musings of Don Guess, omitted one key component—a drummer (Doug Kirkham is listed on ‘percussion’). By October ‘56, a mysterious Thompson tour coalesced somewhere—gig dates are lost in the swirls of yestergone bye-bye Miss American Pie.

In this magical mystery tour, they brought the 2nd genius, 16-year-old drumstick wizard and Lubbock High pal Jerry Allison, to boost the beat of Don Guess’s big bull fiddle, with Buddy’s hot licks on guitar. Thompson was so impressed with his opening band of kids juiced with sizzly Texan energy, that he signed them up for a January 1957 winter tour of Little Rock, Arkansas, plus 14 other dates at burgs like New Orleans, Jacksonville, Florida, Savannah, Georgia, and Charleston, South Carolina. 

The first, innovative stage of rock ’n’ roll approached its concluding days. The aftershocks of the police riot during Alan Freed's "Big Beat” show at the Boston Arena on May, 3, 1958 were extremely damaging to the way rock ’n’ roll was viewed around the world. According to the FBI and J. Edgar Hoover,  rock ’n’ roll was now subversive.  The establishment had reacted by branding rockers as subversives and revolutionaries and would set out to destroy the rock movement. The sensitive, usually well-behaved and law-abiding young rock singers were astonished that the music they’d invented for their own amusement in Texas garages and on Bronx street corners was now regarded as seditious or they could be prosecuted for treason.

Buddy Holly’s relations with the Crickets remained tenuous. The Crickets had lost all interest in performing. According to Jerry, they started “shucking it.” Buddy threatened to fire them if they persisted in goofing off. Anyone who expected to be in his band, he warned, had better demonstrate more enthusiasm and interest.  They did not perform with him during the October 21 Pythian Temple “string session” in New York that produced, in three and a half hours, what writer Mark Steuer has called “the most inventive music of 1950’s rock”: “True Love Ways” and “It Doesn’t Matter Anymore.” After recording “Raining in My Heart” and “Moondreams,” Buddy expressed his worries about how the rock market would greet his experiment with violins. Obviously Holly valued his integrity and sense of responsibility toward his talent and career above money.

Buddy Holly managed to have Maria Elena Santiago invited to a luncheon at Howard Johnson's, thanks to Murray Deutch's secretary at Peer-Southern, Jo Harper. Holly asked Maria Elena to have dinner with him at P. J. Clarke's. Holly proposed marriage to her that night. "While we were having dinner, he got up and came back with his hands behind his back. He brought out a red rose and said, 'This is for you. Would you marry me?' Within the beautiful red rose, there was a ring. I melted." Holly went to her house the next morning and Maria jumped into his arms, which was a sign to him that it was a "yes". They married in Lubbock on August 15, 1958, less than two months later, she told the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal on what would have been their 50th wedding anniversary.

Holly’s parents, Lawrence and Ella, flew to New York to meet Maria Elena. They went out to dinner and later went to the cinema, watching Mr. Roberts starring Henry Fonda and Betsy Palmer. “Buddy’s parents liked me; they said I was like a little doll.” Music historians have reported that Holly was planning to build a new home and recording studio in his hometown, but Maria had told Buddy that she never would feel comfortable living in Lubbock. He assured her that the home would be occupied only by his parents, she said. Source:

Actually, Buddy Holly first took Maria Elena to lunch in Manhattan at Howard Johnson's. After lunch, Buddy & Maria Elena shopped awhile by Tiffany’s; he bought a few guitar picks and Maria some jewelry. Later he took her to P.J. Clarke’s Pub nearby. Then the impetuous and starry-eyed idol asked her if she’d like to spend the rest of her life with him. After catching her breath, requisite I-love-yous were exchanged, and they launched into their happily ever after. Sadly, their happily-ever-after only lasted a half year. Maria Elena was worldly, tempestuous, and not the slightest bit domestic. “My aunt and I always ate out,” Maria Elena said: “We never cooked!” That was okay: He wasn’t looking for his mother or another Echo McGuire. Buddy gave Maria Elena a check to buy a wedding dress in Lubbock. Another cheque drawn on the Buddy Holly and the Crickets account and signed by Norman Petty, reads, ‘To: Gift Mart Jlrs Inc. $515 For: Ring – engagement.’

Matt McClure as Buddy Holly with Ariella Corinne Pizarro as his wife Maria Elena, in the Venice Theatre's production of "The Buddy Holly Story" (2015), Sarasota, Florida.

The rock package shows of the fifties were largely Irvin Feld’s innovation; their all-rock-star rosters distinguished them from their British counterparts. In England, rock tours were made up of traditional music-hall variety acts with perhaps a single rock attraction on the bill. Nevertheless GAC would come in for severe criticism for its treatment of rock ’n’ roll performers. “The executives of the company didn’t like rock music,” Frank Barcelona, a former GAC agent, revealed in Robert Stephen Spitz’s Artists and Executives of the Rock Music Business: “The way the agency treated rock performers was a crime.… They didn’t like rock performers, knew nothing about the music, couldn’t relate to the audiences.” Shivering and miserable, the performers realized too late that the Winter Dance Party tour was a “third-class operation,” Dion recalled. Discredited by riots and controversy,  the artists were abandoned to abominable conditions in far-flung territories like the upper Midwest. 

The bus’s worn-out engine frequently stalled, usually when they were thirty miles from the closest service station. To ease the tension, Buddy and Dion played “dueling guitars,” wagering to see who could make his Fender Stratocaster ring the longest. Dion’s Fender was solid white, Buddy’s had a sunburst. Ritchie Valens joined the fun, strumming his acoustic and singing songs like “Mama Long,” which he’d made the rage of Pacoima Junior High. During the long ride over icy roads, Ritchie sat with Buddy and rapped about the notorious “girl” songs they’d both been having so much success with. Buddy had virtually invented the genre with “Peggy Sue,” while Ritchie was now scoring the hit of the year with “Donna.” Peggy Sue had already entered the vernacular; Ritchie had mentioned her in “Ooh My Head,” a song he performed in Alan Freed’s movie Go, Johnny, Go! (1959)

They began the 330-mile trip to Appleton, Wisconsin, rumbling along the shores of Lake Superior, where ice floes were colliding like battering rams, entering the North Woods. The heater was no match for icy blasts from the lake, but it was all that stood between them and cruel exposure. Somewhere around Ashland, Wisconsin, the heater heaved its last puny puffs and died. The loose, rattling windows let in the cold and frost. Fifteen miles out of Hurley, disaster struck. They were going up a hill when the engine froze and stopped. “The bus finally broke down, out there in the middle of the wilderness,” Carl Bunch later told Bill Griggs. They were stalled on the highway, in a bus with no heater. The tour party was on U.S. 51, a mile north of Pine Lake, Wisconsin, in the rugged North Woods, not a place where anyone would want to be stranded at one-thirty A.M. on February 1, 1959, during the coldest weather in memory. The bus driver peered into the woods beside the highway; he could “feel” bears out there, he reported in Voyageur: Northeast Wisconsin’s Historical Review. At least the musicians had the protection of the bus, but even that would soon be denied them. When they ran out of newspapers to burn and began to freeze, they were forced to go outside, hoping to hail down a car. They stood in the middle of the highway, where the wind keening down from the north was as sharp as splintered glass.

The surrounding forest and the Great Lake beyond the trees seemed full of menace. In the early morning hours, traffic in these North Woods was all but nonexistent. The tour party was far less prepared to survive this wilderness than the French explorers who’d discovered it in the 1600s. “We didn’t know enough to be afraid, or what a mid-winter night by the side of the road really meant,” Dion wrote in The Wanderer. It was an hour, Tommy Allsup later told, before a big semi-truck came thundering through the snow. They all started waving frantically. Obviously the driver had no intention of stopping “and tried to get around us,” Tommy added. As the truck disappeared into the enveloping snow, they trudged back to the bus. “We just sat there and froze,” Tommy recalled. Freezing is indeed one of the more gruesome ways to die. Human tissue deteriorates at temperatures below 32 degrees. By now the temperature in the bus was 40 below. The Riverside Ballroom’s dance floor was packed with two thousand teenagers boogying under a gigantic sunburst ceiling.

Some of the girls wore ballet slippers and skintight “stem” skirts; others had on balloon layers of petticoats. Bouffant hair stylings were popular, though many girls looked pert in ponytails and Peter Pan collars. The boys wore their hair crew-cut and preferred dirty white bucks or Florsheim loafers. One fan, Sandy Stone Blaney of Ashwaubenon, Wisconsin, later told writer Mark Steuer how she edged her way to the front of the stage and reached up to Buddy, who “held my hand and sang a song to me,” she said. “And Dion held Sharon Larscheid’s hand and sang a song to her.” When Buddy discovered that GAC had greedily filled their one open date, he was distraught. As the tour manager Carroll Anderson would later observe, Buddy by this point was “just a high-class bum being kicked around on the road.” Buddy felt responsible for the morale of his band, which was at an all-time low after its ordeal in the North Woods. Bob Hale, a radio DJ who emceed the Winter Dance Party at the Surf that night, recalls Holly asked if he could touch Hale's pregnant wife's belly. They talked about Iowa's tough winters, and Holly promised he'd come back in the spring.

In “Not Fade Away” Holly asks his girl to make love to him, promising she’ll get something bigger than a Cadillac. The relationship of the couple in the song follows the same up-and-down, off-and-on course: the singer chastizes his girl for rejecting him, but by the final verse, he’s regained his confidence and is able to assert that the only love that doesn’t die is one grounded in honesty and trust. In rock critic Jonathan Cott’s words, “Holly’s deepest, wisest, and seemingly least complicated songs express the unadorned confrontation of beauty and love with time.” Even though the Big Bopper was six years his senior, Buddy seemed the elder statesmen of the tour in his chunky new Faiosa spectacle-frames and fur-collared coat. He was a self-controlled, abstemious figure who preferred to be alone in his hotel-room (when there was an hotel-room) rather than joining the others to ‘shoot the bull’ down in the bar or coffee-shop. His brother Larry Holley: "My feelings about Buddy: His desire was to be the best. I personally think he would have reached the very pinnacle of the music world if he had got to live longer. Norman Petty cheated Buddy out of millions of dollars by putting his name on every song that Buddy wrote. Also, it's my opinion that The Crickets (Jerry Allison and Joe B.) both deserted Buddy, but they keep riding on his shirttail. They can't write good songs, but just like Norman, they have got their name on songs they could never have written." Sources: —"This'll Be the Day: The Life and Legacy of Buddy Holly" (2009) by Maury Dean, —"Rave On: The Biography of Buddy Holly" (2011) by Philip Norman

"Damn Cold in February: Buddy Holly, View-Master, and the Atomic Bomb" (2015) by Joni Tevis: Buddy Holly giving it everything he's got... If you knew Peggy Sue, then you'd know why I feel blue, and as he moves into the second verse, the camera on Stage Right goes live, and he pivots smoothly. His fingers are a blur, but he doesn't make mistakes, and that tamped-down sex—how had I missed it?—burns in his eyes. And there's something about the way he stares at the camera that sets him apart from his contemporaries. Elvis, the Big Bopper, Johnny Cash, all play to the audiences at the time mugging for the camera. But watching Buddy, he's playing to the fans of the future. Maybe Holly savors these giddy minutes of getting ready in a strange place, cement-floored dressing rooms with chipped green paint, hand-me-down dressers, and mirrors fastened to the wall with daisy-shaped rivets. He carries with him guitar strings, fuses, safety pins, nail file... And outside, the scurf of people talking, waiting for the show. Waiting for him, Maria Elena, back in their little apartment, lighting the pilot on the stove. The honeymoon in Acapulco. The property in Bobalet Heights: all of these cost money. He's playing the first chords of "Peggy Sue" without even realizing it, diving deep into a pool. Feels the crowd stomping through the soles of his feet, and between songs he has to take off his glasses and wipe the sweat from his eyes. Slides the glasses on. Looks back. When you're with me, the world can see. That you were meant for me. "A studious-looking young man who totes his electric guitar like a sawn-off shot-gun." —Review of Buddy Holly performance, Birmingham, England, March 11, 1958.