In 1959, rock ‘n’ roll was still in its early days. The world was moving on from the Jazz Age and the soulful blues. They were moving from Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, and Billie Holiday to Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Buddy Holly. Rock ‘n’ roll was unlike anything anyone had ever heard at the time. It was a mix of the blues and something new. “Rocket ’88” by Jackie Brenston is known as the first song with distorted guitar, or the first rock ‘n’ roll song (produced by Sam Phillips at Sun Studio in Memphis).
When Buddy Holly was six years old, his parents forced him to take music lessons. He was an early disappointment, however, because he was not great at music. His parents were very disappointed and thought that he would never learn how to play music.
In 1949, at the age of thirteen, Holly showed that he really did have some musical talent. A home recording of him singing “My Two-Timin’ Woman” showcased his vocal talent. Holly lived in the “buckle” of the bible belt, so this new rock ‘n’ roll craze was disregarded and heavily frowned upon. But despite this, Holly’s parents showed so much support for his talent, they wrote to their local, very conservative, paper showing their support for the new teen craze.
After high school, Holly played country and western, (the norm. for a boy from Texas) with a band that he formed, on the radio regularly. He would open for huge acts that came through his town, and in 1955, he opened for Elvis Presley. Holly and his band members loved Elvis so much, they decided to change their music style completely. In a sense, they became Elvis clones. After this genera change, a record company talent scout saw Holly’s performance at a skating rink and signed him. This initial recording contract led to the spelling of “Holly” rather than the real spelling “Holley”.
In 1956, Holley began recording demos in Nashville under the name of Buddy Holly and the Three Tunes. But after several lineup changes, the name was changed to The Crickets. 1957 saw Buddy Holly’s breakthrough hit “That’ll be the Day”. In 1958, The Crickets released seven top 40 charting singles.
In 1958, Holly split from The Crickets to pursue a solo career. It was also this year the he proposed to his girlfriend on their first date; they were married several months later.
Holly reluctantly agreed to tour in 1959 with The Winter Dance Party. He was tired of taking a tour bus, that would frequently break down in freezing temperatures, so he decided to take a plane alongside Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper to his next gig in Minnesota.The plane could only carry three passengers, so Holly’s bass player gave up his seat. Holly joked, “I hope your ol’ bus freezes up,” to which his bass player responded, “Well, I hope your ol’ plane crashes.”
Two minutes after takeoff, the plane crashed, killing the 22 year old Buddy Holly, 17 year old Ritchie Valens, and The Big Bopper instantly.
At the time, Holly’s wife of six months was a few weeks pregnant with their child. The night after the plane crash, she suffered a miscarriage, resulting from emotional trauma.
In the spring of 1959, Holly’s famous black-rimmed glasses were found. They were sealed up in an envelope and forgotten about for 21 years. In 1980, they were rediscovered and sent to Holly’s widow. They now sit on display at the Buddy Holly Center in his hometown of Lubbock, Texas.
Buddy Holly’s career only lasted four years, yet he is known to be one of the most influential artists to ever grace the earth. He inspired bands and artists like The Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan.
This plane crash inspired Don McLean to write “American Pie”, penning the day of this crash, “the day the music died.”