While Buddy Holly may have never had his singles at Number One in the US, he continues to hold a special place in the country’s music bands. Holly and The Crickets had made a name for themselves as a rock and roll music band. It composed its own songs and tried to bridge the gap between rock and country music. Did you know that the Beatles were inspired by them just as was Bob Dylan? Incidentally, Holly’s “Not Fade Away” was Rolling Stone’s first US release; this is why it makes sense to know who really Buddy Holly was.
Charles Hardin Holley, born in Texas in 1936, was a versatile musician, learning to play both the piano and violin deftly from a young age. He developed a penchant for guitar and together with his pal Bob Montgomery, started performing Western Bop and mainstream country songs at local clubs. After gaining popularity in Lubbock, they started their radio show; they would perform before singers like Marty Robbins and Elvis. Bill Haley’s booking agent was impressed with Buddy and he eventually landed up with his first recording gig.
Buddy continued to record many songs for Decca in 1956 but none sold well and he was asked to return to Lubbock. Now, upon his return, he created a new band with his friends called The Crickets. He was the vocalist and guitarist and was accompanied by Niki Sullivan (guitar), Jerry Allison (drums), and Joe Maudlin (Bass). He went on to make more records with producer Normal Petty in New Mexico. The year 1957 saw the release of “That’ll Be The Day” that once again caught the attention of Decca. This group now started working with Decca’s subsidiary; soon, the group managed to have the number one title in the country.
This band continued to deliver more successful tracks like “Oh Boy!”, “Maybe Baby”; both were done with assistance from The Picks. The Crickets then started touring all through UK, Australia, and the US. In December 1957, US audience was enthralled with their hits, “Peggy Sue” and “That’ll Be The Day”. Ed Sullivan interviewed Holly on air. Soon after, the band entered the arena of Rhythm and Blues that hitherto had been explored only by Black artists. Their song “Rave On” in 1958 failed to strike a chord with the audience and ranked low on the charts.
In August, Buddy wed Maria Santiago, after which relations between him and the band deteriorated. There were of course two more releases which made their way into America’s Top 40 in the summer but, internally, the band was facing a lot of tension. Holly soon severed ties with his producer Petty because he was confident they could produce their own music. But others did not agree and Holly left the group. In January 1959, Buddy went ahead with the tragic Winter Dance Party tour that ended in disaster. After a satisfactory gig at Iowa the band was supposed to take a flight to Moorhead, Minnesota. Their flight crashed in bad weather and the owner of the plane, Jim Dwyer, found the wreckage the next morning. Holly’s pregnant wife learned of this accident on the TV and his mother on the radio. The funeral was at the Tabernacle Baptist Church at Lubbock, Texas; his pallbearers were the band members Niki Sullivan, Jerry Allison, Joe Mauldin, and Bob Montgomery. After his death, Maudlin and Allison kept performing as The Crickets and Sonny Curtis became the new vocalist. During the seventies, this band relocated to Nashville and started a long innings with Waylon Jennings for the next two decades. The Crickets have continued to feature in movies and documentaries and popular TV shows.