Buddy Holly was a rock & roll legend and one of the first musicians to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Famous rock groups, such as the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, say that Holly inspired their music.
Buddy Holly was born Charles Harden Holley in Lubbock, Texas, in 1936. His father, Lawrence, was a tailor. His mother, Pauline, was a housewife. Holly was nicknamed Buddy by his mother. He had two brothers and a sister.
Holly’ parents often organized family sing-alongs. Holly learned to play the piano, guitar, and fiddle at very young age. He first appeared onstage with his brothers when he was only five years old.
Holly was an average student. He joined the school choir. At the age of 13, he and a friend, Bob Montgomery, formed a duo to play country music. By 1953, they had their own radio show in Lubbock.
A Budding Career
In 1954, Holly and Montgomery expanded their duo, adding a drummer, a fiddler, and a bass player. The group called itself the Western and Bop Band. It opened concerts for major musicians who came through town, such as Bill Haley & His Comets and Elvis Presley.
Holly greatly admired Presley. He later imitated Presley’s vocal style when he sang. This included the hiccup sound that later became one of Holly’s trademarks.
In 1956, Holly left the band and went to Nashville, Tennessee. He signed a contract with Decca, a recording company, as a country singer. A spelling mistake on the contract is why his last name changed from Holley to Holly.
Holly’s first records were not popular. Discouraged, he returned home. Holly began recording with record producer Norman Petty at a small studio in Clovis, New Mexico.
Success and Tragedy
Holly formed a new band he called the Crickets. In September 1957, the song That’ll Be the Day was a big hit for Buddy Holly and the Crickets. It topped the music charts in both the United States and Great Britain at the same time.
Holly and the Crickets went on to record one hit after another, including “Peggy Sue” and “Oh, Boy!” Altogether, the group had seven top-40 hits.
In 1958, Holly and his band broke up. Holly moved to New York to record some songs. While in New York, Holly met receptionist Maria Elena Santiago. They married in August 1958 at his family’s home in Lubbock.
In February 1959, Holly was on tour with singers Ritchie Valens and J. P. “the Big Bopper” Richardson when they were in a plane crash. The musicians and their pilot were killed. Holly was just 22 years old. Singer and songwriter Don McLean remembered their deaths in the song “American Pie” as “the day the music died.” Many of Holly’s New York recordings were released following his death.
In Buddy Holly’s Day
- 1945: World War II ends.
- 1950: Composer Richard Rodgers, lyricist Oscar Hammerstein, and writer Joshua Logan receive the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for the musical South Pacific.
- 1957: The television show American Bandstand debuts.
- 1959: Alaska becomes the 49th state in the United States.