Stan Put Buddy Holly on Homemade 'Radio'

By David Wecker, Cincinnati Post staff reporter - January 22, 2005
           In case you didn't know, Feb. 3 will be the 46th anniversary of the death of Buddy Holly. I would have missed it if Stan Hertzman hadn't reminded me.
           Stan has all these dates in his head. For instance, he remembers that it was on Feb. 9 that he first saw the Beatles on Ed Sullivan's show.
           "It was the week after Buddy Holly was killed, calendar-wise - although Buddy Holly died in 1959, and the Beatles were on Sullivan in '64," he says.
           Stan is a music publisher/manager/agent, a high-energy 60-year-old who says his mother never quite understood what he does for a living. One top-shelf but very private musician in town described him to me as a "general tour guide through the music jungle for me and several other musicians, most notably Adrian Belew and Roger Troutman."
           Stan says that when Buddy Holly came along, he got interested in music. To the extent that Stan's fingerprints are on a good deal of the best music that's been created in these parts in the past few decades, we might all be grateful Buddy Holly came along.
           Stan was an eighth-grader at Walnut Hills High when he hooked up with Buddy Holly, just a few months before the plane crash that killed him, along with Ritchie Valens and J.P. Richardson, aka the Big Bopper.
           Stan and a couple neighbor boys in Paddock Hills established their own radio station by running wires between their houses and somehow connecting them to tape recorders.
           "We were the rage of the neighborhood," Stan says. "We'd broadcast until 2 a.m. to an audience of three. It got me into looking for content. I might have to tune to WOWO in Fort Wayne to find the newest Coasters tune, but I'd have it before anyone else."
           One of the places Stan would go for songs nobody knew about yet was WNOP. It was mostly a hillbilly station in those days -- but from 3 to 5 p.m., a guy named Dick Pike would play rock 'n' roll, which meant rockabilly back then. Stan was listening to the Dick Pike show one afternoon late in 1958 when the DJ announced Buddy Holly would be dropping by the studio the next day.
           Stan had already seen Buddy Holly perform twice - once with the Dick Clark Caravan of Stars and again with Alan Freed's Big Beat, shows with a dozen or more acts that would tour the country playing places like Cincinnati Gardens. Stan remembers it this way:
           "He wasn't even the headliner. Paul Anka and the Everly Brothers were the headliners - Chuck Berry was there, too. But Buddy Holly was the only guy who "killed."
           "He had 5,000 people standing on their seats, just screaming. He did 'Peggy Sue,' 'Every Day,' 'Oh Boy' and I think 'That'll Be the Day.' Those people wanted an encore badly, so he came back and did Little Richard's 'Long Tall Sally.'"
           The people inside Cincinnati Gardens went absolutely berserk, Stan says. It was total rock-and-roll fever, he  says.
           "I mean, it was just a haircut. He had an urgency in his delivery - as if, at the end of the song, the world could end."
           On the day that Buddy Holly was going to be on Dick Pike's show, Stan says he told his parents he couldn't go to school because he had a sore throat.
           "My mom was going downtown that day, so I decided I'm going to see if I can find Buddy Holly," Stan says.
           He got on the phone and started calling hotels. A Mister Buddy Holly was registered at the old Gibson Hotel, which used to be on Fifth Street, on the south side of Fountain Square. The operator put him through.
           "He says, 'Hello,' and I almost froze. It was like fishing for sharks. You're all excited when you head out, but when you actually have the shark on the line, it's scary. Fortunately, he was a nice guy.
           "I told him who I was and started asking him questions. Immediately after I thanked him and hung up, I thought of some more questions. So I called him again.
           "After that, there was no way I was going to be in anything but the music business."
           Stan could have written a story for the school newspaper, but he didn't. A few months later, he comes home from school and the cleaning lady - a woman named Ann Wilson, not to be confused with the singer from Heart - told him she'd heard on the radio that a friend of his had been killed.
           "I'm thinking, 'Eddie Goldstein is dead,'" Stan says. "Then she told me about the plane crashing. Years later, in his song 'American Pie,' Don McClean would call it the day the music died.
           "I don't know about that. But it sure did have an impact on me."
           We're sitting in Stan's studio in Hyde Park. The place is a Fort Knox of collectible guitars. Just as I'm about to ask Stan if I can hear the tape of the Buddy Holly interview, he heads me off at the pass.
           "The last time I played that tape was on Buddy Holly's 60th birthday eight years ago," he says. "I only take it out on very special occasions."

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