by Robert Wilkinson
Today would have been the 76th birthday of one of the pioneers of modern pop music, the legendary Buddy Holly. His music really does have the power to make you happy!
Today we have lots of links. I hope you will take the time to listen to even 5 or 10 of these, since his music really is timeless and universal! For those who weren't around in that long-gone era when rock and roll was in its infancy, here's a little backstory from previous tributes.
In the beginning of Rock and Roll, there were 5 major performers that set every seminal element into motion. I know other influences helped these performers both before and during the genesis of rock and roll, but these 5 took it wide and made it a universal force majure!
Bill Haley came first in 1954 with "Rock Around the Clock," after which a duo of black men arrived in 1955 who jump started everything. Chuck Berry gave the form its licks and some of its most memorable tunes, while Little Richard, piano wild man, dished out immortal tunes plus an overt sexuality.
Elvis arrived in a blaze of electric glory, the world's first superstar who brought rockabilly to white America and had them screaming and fainting in the aisles. Then there was Buddy Holly, who came out of West Texas and changed the face of popular music forever.
Today we wish him a very grateful Happy Birthday for being here such a short time and giving us so much forever. It is impossible to state the effect Buddy had on pop music.
He was the first major pop star to compose AND perform his own music, and was hugely prolific in his songwriting. He was a creative genius who with Norman Petty produced and arranged his own music, almost unheard of in those days. He expanded the scope and depth of rock's musical parameters in his compositions. The man who made the Stratocaster THE guitar to play if you were a rock and roller, it is part of pop history that when he went down in a plane crash at 22, it was "the day the music died."
On February 2, 1959, at Clear Lake Iowa, the legend of rock and rollers dying young was set into motion. His career only lasted from the Spring of 1957 to February 1959. Though he was only here for a short time, his tunes are still considered among the finest every written.
A brief list: "Peggy Sue," "Maybe Baby," "Not Fade Away," "It's So Easy," "Well Alright," "Words of Love," "Every Day," "Rave On," "True Love Ways," "Learning the Game," "Lookin' for Someone to Love," "You Know Love's Made A Fool of You," "That'll Be the Day," and many, many more. His songs have been done by dozens of the top artists in music history, including the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Grateful Dead, Linda Ronstadt, Blind Faith, and many others.
So today we revisit an era that is no more, but at times could be innocent, hopeful, passionate, and very tender despite the lack of human rights and cold war paranoia pervading the planet.
First, here's a treat! A live video clip of Buddy. For your enjoyment, Buddy Holly Live Performing "Peggy Sue" at the Paramount Theater Arthur Murray Dance Party in NYC, 29 Dec, 1957
We now go to 3 clips of Buddy performing on the Ed Sullivan show. Here's "That'll Be The Day" from The Ed Sullivan show on December 1, 1957. From the same show, here's "Peggy Sue." We close with a great clip, from the Ed Sullivan show of January 26, 1958, with Buddy doing an awesome performance of "Oh Boy." (Ed wanted him to do a different song, but Buddy insisted on doing this one. It made Ed so mad he made the sound man cut the volume on Buddy's guitar solo, which is why you can't hear anything even though Buddy is strumming furiously. After that Ed never invited him back. What short sighted pettiness!)
Here's a brief home movie of Buddy and the Crickets meet Elvis very early in both Buddy and Elvis' careers with voice over explaining how this historic moment came to be.
Unfortunate, back in the 50s we didn't have widespread video technology, so there are really aren't many videos out there. But there are quite a few rare sound recordings that have surfaced over the years, so I thought I'd give them to you here. Most are accompanied by pictures of Buddy and his various band mates, and some are done really well. Have a blast tripping through the past via pictures from another time and era in our world, the late 1950s. All of these songs were written by Buddy, so enjoy!
Here are studio versions of some of his best known songs with pictures:
Here's the studio version of "Oh Boy." (I still haven't figured out why it made Ed Sullivan so mad!)
Some more studio versions of major hits, and when I could find them, videos or audios of other groups doing covers:"Every Day"
Another of my favorites! Here's "Love's Made A Fool of You"
"You're the One" This rare track from December 1958 features Buddy singing a song co-written by him and Waylon Jennings, who at the time was the bass player for the Crickets when he wasn't working for KLLL radio in Lubbock, Texas. Waylon was on the tour that killed Buddy, and only survived through a twist of fate. You can find more in the interview below. And according to the video link, you can find out more about Buddy and Waylon from Jimmy Rabbitt at kociradio.com.
More great songs, some hits, some obscure, some early, some late:
Here are two that are from the beginning of his career:
"I'm Gonna Put My Foot Down," recorded between February and April 1956.
Then we go to a Skiffle song written by his mom, Ella Holley, and recorded by Charles "Buddy" Holly (guitar): and J.I Allison (drums), in December 1955 in the Holley family garage of Lubbock, Texas. One of his earliest, "Holly Hop"
This one is one of my favorites from long ago. "Umm Oh Yeah (Dearest)" (which doesn't have a clear songwriting credit, but seems to have much in common with the 1957 Mickey and Sylvia hit "Love Is Strange"). For your comparison, here's Buddy doing "Love is Strange." Not the same song, but.....
Here is another Buddy Holly composition, and it sounds a lot like he wrote this and "Words of Love" around the same time. A beautiful song, here's "Listen To Me"
Two songs performed by Buddy that were written by him and Jerry Allison of the Crickets:
A little more backstory: "Peggy Sue" and "That'll Be The Day" were also co-written by these two. Even though Norman Petty attached his name to most of the compositions for royalty purposes, he basically had nothing to do with writing them.
I found some real treats of the original undubbed recordings from December 1958 in his NYC apartment just before he left for the fated Winter tour that took his life just a few weeks later. These were the tracks that Norman Petty did extensive overdubbing on (using the Fireballs) to create the stream of Buddy Holly hits released after his death.
Here's the original undubbed acoustic recording of "Dearest." We follow it with "What To Do," and then with "Peggy Sue Got Married." We close this set of 6 original recordings with three more great ones, "Crying, Waiting,Hoping," followed by "That Makes It Tough," and finally "Learning the Game." For dessert, here's a short instrumental clip with Buddy noodling around with reverb called "Buddy's Guitar," which no doubt would have become a song had he not died so soon after.
We close this section with a rare unreleased song, "Ah Ha" We are told this was done at the Brill Building under some mysterious circumstances.
Here is Buddy performing some songs he didn't write. These were all rock and roll standards done by many in those days.
I found two more interesting performances of the song. Here's a 12 minute clip from December 4, 1956 at Sun Records, where "Brown Eyed Handsome Man" is done by "The Million Dollar Quartet" of Elvis, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis and Johnny Cash. as part of a jam session. Then we finish with a great performance of this amazing song by the Master himself, Mister Chuck Berry along with Robert Cray doing "Brown Eyed Handsome Man" live!
We close this section with the beautiful "Raining In My Heart "
Let's turn to Buddy doing Rockabilly, R&B, and Rock and Roll! For your enjoyment,
Buddy Holly's first single, released 1956 on Decca, "Blue Days & Black Nights"
Here's the b-side of "That'll be the day." This is the first "sax version" of "Ollie Vee," released in 1957. "Rock around with Ollie Vee"
A Bobby Darin composition done by Buddy, "Early In The Morning"
Here's Buddy doing different versions of a great Little Richard song. The first one is the one that was released (set to a live performance that isn’t this song!) “Slippin' and Slidin.'" However, there are also slow versions. Here's Buddy doing a slo-mo heavily reverbed acoustic version of "Slippin' and Slidin' with another slo-mo, clearer version of "Slippin' and Slidin" from "the Apartment Tapes" sessions. Here's another solo acoustic version from "the Apartment Tapes" of "Slippin' and Slidin'." Here's the original recording by the Man who set the rock and roll world on fire, Little Richard doing "Slippin' and Slidin'"
This one was a standard for rock and rollers in the mid-50s! (I have a great live version by Elvis at his birthday tribute where he maxes out the microphone diaphragm!) Buddy’s is slightly more subdued but still cooks! "Good Rockin' Tonight"
From the link, we are told this Early demo version of "Baby Won´t You Come Out Tonight" is one of four songs recorded by Buddy Holly at the Petty Studio in the Jan-Apr 1956 sessions. The song was written by Don Guess. Buddy's on rhythm guitar and vocals, Sonny Curtis plays lead, Don Guess is on slap-bass and J.I Allison is the drummer. They tried to use the echo effect to get the same sound as Elvis' Sun Records. The poster feels this song was actually a cross between "Good Rockin' Tonight" and "Baby Let's Play House."
The B-side of Buddy's first Coral record "Words of love," "Mailman bring me no more blues"
Buddy's fourth single on Decca, "Love Me"
On a related note or two, here are the guys that went down with him.
Here's a video of The Big Bopper live lip synching "Chantilly Lace" on American Bandstand in 1958.
Here's the original studio version of Richie Valens doing "La Bamba"And here's a rare live audio clip of Richie doing his monster hit, "Oh Donna." Here's the studio version of another major hit, "Come On Let's Go."
In a interview that runs almost 7 minutes, Tommy Allsup tells of the coin flip with Ritchie Valens. Tommy was Buddy's guitar player in that phase of his career, and on the Winter tour that killed Buddy. His is the classic solo on "It's So Easy." Waylon Jennings (yes, THAT Waylon!) was the bass player, and as per the legend he had given up his seat on the plane to the Big Bopper, who had the flu. What is not so known is that Tommy had the 3rd passenger seat. Richie was not supposed to be on the plane. How did Richie Valens become part of history? Check out the clip.
Here's a Radio interview with Buddy by Alan Freed. A legend in his time, he was the New York DJ that made sure that Rock and Roll would never die.
Here are a few video performances of Buddy's music by other stars:
Here's a montage of The Bobby Fuller 4 doing a live performance of "You Know Love's Made A Fool of You" on Hullabaloo, complete with the Hullabaloo go-go dancers! For an extra treat, here they are doing their biggest hit, "I Fought the Law," written by Cricket Sonny Curtis. Here's Sonny and The Crickets doing their version of "I Fought The Law" live at the RCA studios.
Speaking of Sonny Curtis, here's a live acoustic version of him doing "The Real Buddy Holly Story" in Clear Lake, IA on 2/1/09. As already noted, Clear Lake was where the plane crashed all those years ago.
On a related theme, here's Don McLean in a live performance of his ode to Buddy and "the day the music died," "American Pie."
Buddy's big fan Paul McCartney doing a video acoustic solo of "Words of Love."
Paul McCartney doing a video acoustic solo of "Peggy Sue"
Here's a live performance (audio only) by Blind Faith (Eric Clapton, Stevie Winwood, Rick Gretch, and Ginger Baker) in 1969 of Buddy's "Well All Right" If you want the entire 1 hour live performance, here's 1969 Blind Faith Hyde Park Concert.
An MTV Linda Ronstadt live performance of "It's So Easy."
Paul McCartney live in Dallas doing "It's So Easy" (Video isn't great, but it's the only time he performed the song on that tour.) Another video of that same performance. The sound's a little better. Paul McCartney doing "It's So Easy."
We close today's birthday celebration of this Master of his craft with The Beatles doing "Cryin' Waitin' Hopin' in the "Live At the BBC" sessions.
Here's to you, Buddy. You are one of the immortals, and your music will live forever. You inspired about a hundred songs I wrote, and no doubt thousands written by others. RIP and Happy Birthday.
Copyright © 2012 Robert Wilkinson